2022| 69 min 05 s

Review by Shēetdāxda.u / Rita Louie.


This year the Columbia Journal is privileged and proud to sponsor  The Klabona Keepers  for the Vancouver International Film Festival. The movie promises  an in-close, real-time  view into the growing struggle between the struggles of indigenous people’s territorial and environmental claims in  the face of encroaching corporate forces of development.


Tl’abane (pronounced -kla-bo-na) The traditional name for the headwaters of the Skeena, Naas, Stikine and Iskut watersheds, in British Columbia, Canada.

Two non-Indigenous filmmakers, Tamo Campos and Jasper Snow-Rosen happen to stop at the Iskut gas station in 2013. What was meant to be a pit-stop turned into a conversation, then an invitation and finally being asked by the community to film their action. The Klabana Keepers were in the midst of mounting active blockades against Fortune Minerals in the Klappan area. The two filmmakers used their cameras and gear to upload footage of the blockades, allowing the community to gain crucial media attention by shining a spotlight on what was happening. Their quick dip into Iskut turned into seven weeks on the blockade, and their lives turned upside down by the courageous stand of the Iskut elders. Inspired by the strength and purpose of the Klabana Keepers, the two friends began to come to the region for months every year to connect with the community, whether filming blockades, supporting youth outdoor trips, or simply nurturing friendships. In 2016, they began working on a feature film. Created in a spirit of constant collaboration and with direction from the elders, The Klabona Keepers is a love letter to the community that changed their lives. Its ambition is to capture the beauty, resilience, and intricacies of a long fight in hopes of inspiring a better future. The community changed these filmmakers’ lives, revealing a unique lens into a worldview where health and healing depend on the land. The filmmakers volunteered to make the documentary as a gift to the elders; it is meant to share the story of their powerful motivation with the next generation now growing up in Iskut, and beyond.

The Klabona Keepers is an intimate portrait of the dynamic Indigenous community that succeeded in protecting the Sacred Headwaters, known as the Klabona, northwest British Columbia, from industrial activities. Spanning 15 years of matriarch-led resistance ,the film follows a small group of determined elders in the village of Iskut as they heal from colonial wounds to push back against law enforcement, the government, and some of the world’s largest multinational companies. Nestled between scenes of stand-offs and blockades, land defenders reflect on how their history of forced displacement, residential schools, and trauma strengthened their resolve to protect the very land that was so essential to their healing journey.

“Our minds are in every mountain and our sorrow in every river that flows. This is where we belong” -Rita Louie, Klabona Keeper elder 

Klabona Keepers imageIn the small village of Iskut and its surroundings,we meet Rhoda and Peter, a couple in the midst of raising their four young children. Peter, a heavy equipment operator at the mining camps, struggles with the need to provide work to support his family, but draws the line when he finds out that the very machines he’s driving are slated to destroy community hunting camps. The couple and their kids soon find themselves tossed into a journey that would change all their lives. Calling on members of the community to come and support, we see the birth of the Klabona Keepers -elders who understand firsthand the connection between colonialism and its impact on the land and the people. We witness elders like Rita, John, Jimmy, Mary, & Bertha directing a movement dedicated to preventing global resource companies from destroying the heart of the Sacred Headwaters. Whether it’s speaking out at consultation meetings, preventing drill equipment from moving into the area, or supporting each other, they show up. Through their stories, their resilience and their good humor these elders remind us of the power of collective action to serve future generations. As Klabona Keeper Rhoda Quock explains, ““They used to take the children away from the land. Now they take the land from the children. When our fight for the Klabona began we didn’t know how we were going to win. We just knew we weren’t going to lose.”

AdResponses and reactions to “ KLABONA KEEPERS”:

Brooks Arcand-Paul -Vice President, Indigenous Bar Association: "Watched last night and was genuinely blown away. One of the most unique, true, and important docs I’ve ever seen. Amazing work. The collaborative, community-based filmmaking process shines through in every moment and is remarkably powerful. I hope The Klabona Keepers is seen by thousands around the world, serving as a beacon of strength and hope and a strong warning.”

Jackie Garrow - Ring 5 Impact Docs:  "Klabona Keepers is a beautiful and moving film. It reflects the realities and challenges that too many Indigenous Peoples across Canada still face today. I hope it is seen by a broad audience because anyone living in Canada should have a chance to learn from this eye-opening testimonial. Nia:wen for your courage and inspiration!"

Kateri Cree - Lawyer, advocate & Justice Development Technician at Mohawk Council of Kahnawake:  “The film Klabonna Keepers is an incredible gift to the world. It is an inspiring story of resistance, resilience and determination. I am so honored to have been able to watch this film. I was deeply moved by the spirit, determination and conviction to what is right and true that the folks in this film emanate. This film showcases the immense power that people hold to create positive, systemic change.”
Avis O'Brian - N'alag̱a Consulting:  “Thank you for such a wonderful opening night reception & screening at our festival. We could not have produced such a meaningful evening without your amazing help, collaboration, and thoughtfulness. You were a true partner in every sense of the word. The care in which you treat this story, the community is incredibly moving, and we are glad to have been a part of it.”



My traditional name is & Rita Louie is my English name.My parents are Nelson & Nellie Quock, I am from the Ch’iyōne clan. I was born in Shesley & raised in Telegraph & now I reside in Iskut BC. My parents taught me a lot about living off the land, it was our teaching grounds. I carry the same teachings on in my children & grandchildren, by taking them camping & living off the land. This is what I fight for, the teachings & love that the land brings for the many next generations to come.

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