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Chief Dan George exhibit in North Vancouver to close with free online documentary screening

The 1998 documentary film Today is a Good Day: Remembering Chief Dan George will be shown free online on Thursday, (Sep. 2)
Chief Dan George
The Chief Dan George: Actor and Activist Exhibit is open at Maplewood Flats Thursday through Sunday to Sept. 6, 2021.

The Wild Bird Trust of B.C. is inviting the community to tune in to a free online screening of a documentary film about the late Səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation Chief Dan George (Tśētsawanexw and Stalaston).

The screening of the 1998 documentary film Today is a Good Day: Remembering Chief Dan George on Thursday, (Sept. 2) is being shown as part of the closing week of events for the touring exhibition from MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver, The Chief Dan George Exhibit: Actor and Activist.

The event will be hosted by Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish filmmaker and great-granddaughter of George, Rachelle George, and will feature a live interview and Q&A with the film’s director, Lorretta Todd. Todd is a Metis and Cree filmmaker and is an internationally acclaimed director, writer, and producer known for her powerful, visual storytelling.

The 44-minute documentary is described as a “warmly personal” and “emotionally uplifting film that goes to the very soul of the late Chief Dan George,” using a combination of family stories, interviews with fellow actors and directors, film clips and poignant recreations. The film explores George’s life from his early days as a longshoreman, logger and country entertainer to his later career in acting.

The exhibit, which has been on show at the Nature House at Maplewood Flats since late May and will be open until Sept. 6, also explores the life and legacy of George, 1899 to 1981, focusing on his influence as an advocate for the rights of First Nations Peoples in Canada and beyond and his career as a television and film actor.

George began his acting career in 1960 with a role in the CBC-TV series Cariboo Country and would later become well known for his role in the 1970 Hollywood movie Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. 

But, he was much more than a film star, he was a voice for his people and while the sun has set on his time on Earth, there's still much we can learn from him says Irwin Oostindie, president of The Wild Bird Trust of B.C., which manages the conservation area. 

“Canadians are again being confronted with Canada’s genocidal actions against Indigenous peoples,” he said. 

“We are all eager for direction on movements for justice and reconciliation, and Chief Dan George provided decades of inspiration, hard truths, and guidance to all of us."

The exhibit on George features stories and artifacts, including paintings, photographs and memorabilia, and was developed by MONOVA in close collaboration with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the George family. 

Oostindie added that having the exhibit at Maplewood Flats had been “a homecoming.”

“Bringing the stories of Chief Dan George to his home has allowed Tsleil-Waututh community members to walk into the exhibit and connect with their ancestor and bring meaning to today,” Oostindie said in a release.

“For settlers, it provides timely education on the true history of Canada’s genocide against Indigenous Peoples and invites us to walk the path of truth and reconciliation.”

It also considers other significant figures, events, and milestones in the First Nations rights movement in B.C. and Canada and touches on the wider history and portrayal of Indigenous people in film and television.

As well as the online screening, Tsleil-Waututh elders and their families are exclusively invited for a performance by the Tsleil-Waututh dance group Children of Takaya in the Nature House at Maplewood Flats on Labour Day Monday, (Sep. 6) at 11 a.m.

The public is invited from noon to 2 p.m. for the final hours of the exhibition, with complimentary Coast Salish tea and bannock served all day.

Today is a Good Day: Remembering Chief Dan George will be screened online from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Sep. 2. To register for the online film screening, visit the Wild Bird Trust of B.C. Eventbrite page.

Visit the WBT website for more details about the exhibit or to book an appointment. The Nature House will be open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m on a first come first serve basis. WBT will be running 60-minute safely distanced bubble groups to view the exhibition on Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. 4 p.m.

Maplewood Flats is on the traditional lands of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation at 2649 Dollarton Highway, North Vancouver.  

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.