Guardians of Eternity is a documentary film produced by Shebafilms as part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funded project called Toxic Legacies. The project was led by John Sandlos and Arn Keeling of Memorial University. They teamed up with Ron Harpelle to produce the film. Toxic Legacies examines the history of arsenic contamination at Giant Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It involved a partnership among researchers at Memorial University, Lakehead University, the Goyatiko Language Society (a Yellowknives Dene First Nation non-profit), and Alternatives North (a Yellowknife environmental and social justice coalition).
The film is available on the Guardians of Eternity website where you will more information and suggestions on using the film in the classroom.
Situated in canada’s far north, Yellowknife’s Giant Mine produced 7 million ounces of gold between 1948 and 1999. They took the gold away and left 237,000 tonnes of arsenic behind, enough to poison the entire planet several times over. Mary Rose, an aboriginal woman of the Dene people, lives in a community next to the abandoned mine. Originally the site of the mine was a traditional hunting ground where the abundance of nature flourished – now it is a toxic site for all time. Her people have become the guardians of eternity since the only way scientists believe we can manage the arsenic is to freeze it and filter water from the mine – in perpetuity. Realizing the enormity of the problem, Mary Rose sounds the alarm to her people: how will they communicate this grave danger to generations that will follow in 1000 years, in 100,000 years that there is a poison hidden under the mine? What language will our future ancestors even speak? How will we transmit the hidden danger? Build pyramids? Carve petroglyphs? She and her community need to arm themselves first with knowledge, then pass on that knowledge to future generations. She is determined to learn what she can from other aboriginal peoples that have dealt with environmental disasters, and scientists who are experts on arsenic and nuclear wastes. Her people have transmitted knowledge since time immemorial via legends. Perhaps Mary Rose needs to create a new legend about the monster that lurks beneath the Giant mine, a legend that can be transmitted from generation to generation to save the lives of her future great grand-children.
France Benoit has lived in Yellowknife for 23 ans. She has been directing films for 10 years in both French and English. Her film “Un pied dans la main / Hand to Toe “ was selected for Hot Docs in 2011, the first filmmaker from the Northwest Territories to have a film selected.