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"Inside Anna’s Classroom" documentary debuts

By Lailani Upham

(L to R) Film producer Julie Cajune and Arlee High School teacher Anna Baldwin address audience questions along with Baldwin’s students: Al Plant, Stevi Seidel, Carlena Maestas, Nakeya Senecal, Tiffany O’Neill, Tayla Desjarlais, Austin Rubel and Lane Wilson. (Lailani Upham photo) (L to R) Film producer Julie Cajune and Arlee High School teacher Anna Baldwin address audience questions along with Baldwin’s students: Al Plant, Stevi Seidel, Carlena Maestas, Nakeya Senecal, Tiffany O’Neill, Tayla Desjarlais, Austin Rubel and Lane Wilson. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — Two years ago, Julie Cajune, Salish educator was awarded a $1.4 million grant to preserve indigenous cultures efforts to focus on not only preserving, but bringing Indian history and culture alive in classrooms on the Flathead Reservation and across the state.

The grant was awarded through the Kellogg Foundation in 2010.

The project called, HeartLines, premiered the documentary film called, “Inside Anna’s classroom” at the Salish Kootenai College Johnny Arlee/Victor Charlo Theatre last Thursday morning, which was produced by Cajune.

This film looks inside a local high school classroom as they grapple with the 1855 Treaty of Hell Gate, the US Constitution, the Flathead Allotment Act, homesteading and the irrigation project.

The film tracks Anna Baldwin, an Arlee High School English teacher using a strategy with her class that weaves a story through the novel “Wind From an Enemy Sky” by author D’Arcy McNickle mirroring history of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai tribes and Baldwin facilitates the story into real life experience through the student’s own community.

Videographer Krist Hager filmed the documentary in the classroom last school year, says Cajune. “He did an excellent job capturing and demonstrating what was done in the classroom,” Cajune added.

“This film was not scripted or rehearsed. It is the real deal in real time, showing how young students under the guidance of a master teacher can explore complex concepts and intimate local history with critical thinking and tons of respect and integrity. SKC’s own Bill Swaney is featured in a portion of the film,” stated Cajune.

The major component of the grant were to include making a film focused on cultural sovereignty of Indian peoples as well as each tribes’ political sovereignty; and the other aspect is a project that discusses American Indian historical events and contributions through a timeline.

For the film debut last week Baldwin and her class were present to watch the film for the first time.

According to a book review on Amazon, “Wind From an Enemy Sky” tells a story of the a fictional tribe, the “Little Elk People, through the eyes of character named Antoine, a grandson of a tribal leader.

The review tells “that in the book a picture is painted through literature of the tribe’s attempt to overcome their demoralization brought on by white civilization. In the story, the Indians respond to the building of a dam by trying to gain the return of a sacred medicine bundle. McNickle depicts psychologically complex characters of both races, such as Bull, the aging leader of the Little Elk, and Rafferty, the Indian Agency Superintendent. McNickle’s story leads the reader to hope that tragedy can be averted. At the same time, McNickle provides a sensitive portrait of the religious depth and human warmth of Indian culture. McNickle is able to show whites and Indians growing in their understanding of one another, however the mistakes of the past compound to bring about a violent final confrontation.”

Baldwin demonstrates the art of teaching through the use of McNickle’s novel in her English classroom. The approach encourages students to think on their own through critical literacy activities.

Students question, explore, discuss, debate, analyze summarize, and synthesize everything from text to maps, photographs and eventually going to key locations on the Reservation to make the story come alive, says the film.

After the film the floor was opened to questions with a chance for the students to share their experience and what they gained from the class project.

A couple of the students shared that the experience of going to the dam brought history to life and invoked emotions. Many students added that the approach in the classroom gave them an open mind and view of history.

Students featured in the film were: Karleigh Bolin, Tayla Desjarlais, Tomas Heredia, Samantha Leonard, Carlena Maestas, Tiffany O’Neill, Al Plant, Austin Rubel, Stevi Seidel, Nakeya Senecal, Ashley Steward, and Lane Wilson.

Cajune and team are working on the next film in a classroom at Browning High School and the film is due to be done in May.

For more information on the HeartLine Project contact Julie Cajune, at Salish Kootenai College at (406) 275-4794.

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