Pikutiskwaau (Mother Earth)

Director: Shirley Cheechoo

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Generations of Cree people have honored the oral tradition by passing on knowledge based in their language. As with many indigenous philosophies and cosmologies, there is detail in the language's metaphors. The Cree have oral traditions that elaborately recount core narratives in many different ways so as to best honor the sanctity and complexity of the knowledge contained within them.

James Bay Cree filmmaker Shirley Cheechoo captures both stories and knowledge conveyed by her elders in a documentary intended for their future ancestors. Following up on her award-winning 2000 feature film debut Bearwalker, Cheechoo further exhibits her cinematic versatility and Cree language skills with Pikutiskaau (Mother Earth).

In this film and within Cree beliefs, the earth is personified as the most powerful element of the people: a Mother. Offering layered images of Cree territory and nonlinear philosophical musings in Cree language, we learn that life lessons should all occur through the guidance of the Earth/Mother. The Cree children are fortunate to have Cheechoo and these elders sharing their knowledge so that their traditions and people may continue. Pikutiskaau is an offering from the elders, whose desire is to "do something for the children as our ancestors did for us."

— Bird Runningwater

Screening Details

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