Toronto Film Festival Thanked Native Tribes for Use of ‘Their Land’ at Every Gala Screening This Year

“We’re in the middle of a long learning process,” TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey told TheWrap

The indigenous peoples of Canada were thanked at every gala screening to play the Toronto International Film Festival this year.

Gala screenings are starry affairs with long red carpets, held at Toronto venues like Roy Thompson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theater. This year, before audiences got to see names like Margot Robbie or Jake Gyllenhaal introduce their movies, festival executives read the following statement:

“To begin, we would like to acknowledge the Mississaugas of New Credit, the Haudenosaunee and the Huron-Wendat, the original keepers of this land, for hosting us today and for hosting TIFF on their land every day.” 

The remarks were previously included at opening and closing night ceremonies in 2016, but have now been inserted at the top of every gala.

“We’re in the middle of a long learning process,” TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey told TheWrap about the decision to include the shout-out.

“That’s meant talking about the history and culture of Indigenous people in Canada, and what we can do to help decolonize. One small step is to acknowledge that we live and work on land that Indigenous nations have taken care of for countless generations. It’s a simple sign of respect.”

The Mississauga are an Anishinaabe-speaking tribe hailing from Southern Ontario.The Haudenosaunee, commonly referred to as Iroquois, held a long-running confederacy and settled in upstate New York and Canada.

The Huron-Wendat were earlier settlers who dispersed around 1650, according to one Canadian historical publication. Those descendants now live mostly on Wendake Reserve near Canada’s Québec City.

Among the gala screenings that carried the message was “Woman Walks Ahead,” the story of Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes) and his relationship with non-native activist Caroline Weldon (Jessica Chastain).

Read more about this year’s film line up from TheWrap’s mid-fest assessment here.