We Were Children is a made in Manitoba docudrama that examines the
experiences of two
Residential School students.
The executive producer of We Were the Children is Lisa Meeches,
an award winning Aboriginal filmmaker whose story is one being featured this week on Trailbreakers (airing February 2 at 1 p.m. on Radio One)
CBC Manitoba reporter Sheila North Wilson was invited to assist in the production of We Were Children, being assigned the challenging task of translating material in the script from
English to Cree.
Here she describes the experience:
One of the words I had a hard time translating from English into Cree.
I was contacted by a producer for We Were Children to translate some lines in the docudrama for a few of the actors.
of the lines were for two particular children: A four-year-old girl who
played the young Lyna Hart, one of the main characters in We Were Children,
and a teenage boy who played an alter boy. I was simply to translate
the words so the actors could use them on set. I was also invited on set
to coach the kids too.
I was pretty excited to be asked in the
first place, but as soon as I got the script and began trying to
formulate the English words into Cree, my excitement turned to grief.
Emotional grief. Gradual grief.
It became heavier and heavier with every word -- especially when I came across words like "savage," "dirty," and "evil ways."
Since there are no Cree words for these, I had to dig deep into their meaning and come up with descriptive terms. For example, for "savage" I wrote, "muh-cha-tis" -- the literal Cree translation being, "someone who is not living right, or someone living an evil existence."
(Sheila North Wilson)
But before I could even teach the actors to say words like "savage," I had to figure out a way to say them, so I tried to imagine how I would speak to my late grandparents. I called my parents for help, but even they had a hard time defining the concepts behind some of the words.
When I finally finished translating the lines and coached the actors how to say them, hearing them back was interesting. The impact of the words really hit me when I got home and thought about what I heard. Powerful, painful words to hear, especially in your own language.
Weeks went by and I thought I was done with We Were Children
, but then another producer called and asked me to coach the actors in post-production, so I did.
Once that was done I was asked to take the whole script, translate it all into Cree, and then voice it. This is where the work got extremely heavy for me. The few lines that I had a hard time with before were now magnified into nearly 40 pages of script. Again I struggled with some of the words, but thanks to my parents and siblings, I got through it.
Where I hit the wall and felt the most stress was translating Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology
into Cree. To kill the Indian in the child' was by far the hardest part of the
speech to say, the phrase just hit the deepest part of my emotions. I
think it just helped me realize how close our people came to being wiped
Sitting in the sound booth by myself and formulating the ideas in my head brought back images and feelings for Residential School victims like my mother and aunts. I felt so sorry for them, it broke my heart to imagine how they must have felt.
I broke down, cried silently. It took every ounce of strength I had to gain my composure and finish the words. The producer, the sound guy, and my sister were sitting on the other side of the glass, unaware of how hard that day actually was for me. Their hugs immediately after helped, but the pain of the words affected me for weeks. Physical pain formed on my hands, my arms, and shoulders. It wasn't until I prayed over and over again did the pain finally leave.We Were Children
is an important project and I'm very proud that I was a involved in a very small way.
Sheila North Wilson, CBC Reporter (CBC)