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New Heritage Minute spotlights First Nations warriors

Categories: Canada, Community

Actors Billy Merasty, right, playing John Norton, and Greg Odjig, centre, learn of General Brock's death in the new Queenston Heights Heritage Minute. (Historica-Dominion Institute)

A little-known story about a group of First Nations warriors who were instrumental in the Battle of Queenston Heights, a crucial fight in the War of 1812, has been released to mark National Aboriginal History Month.

The Historica-Dominion Institute launched its new Heritage Minute, only the second in nearly a decade, at Six Nations Polytechnic in Ohsweken, Ont., on Wednesday.

The short historical film spotlights the story of Mohawk Chief John Norton and a small group of roughly 100 Six Nations warriors who, despite being vastly outnumbered, managed to ward off invading American forces for several hours until reinforcements arrived to take back Queenston Heights.

"We want to promote Canadian history in our communities and get people excited and actively involved in learning about our country's history, and aboriginal people have a huge role in that," Historica-Dominion Institute spokesperson Fadia Otariste told CBC News in an email.

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Otariste added that the institute created the Heritage Minute last summer, but held off on its release in order to celebrate National Aboriginal History Month and National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

A part of our history

Many Canadians can remember scenes and phrases from the original spots, including Laura Secord's run through the forest ("Take me to FitzGibbon") and Dr. Wilder Penfield's hunt for the causes of epilepsy. ("I can smell burnt toast!")

The dramatic re-enactments became their own cultural phenomenon in the 1990s when they first began to run on television and in movie theatres.

(For a quick refresher on the Heritage Minutes, as well as an interview with an actor from one of the most well-known spots, watch Duncan McCue's piece that aired on CBC-TV's The National below)

Now the federal government has stepped in to help the institute, which is the largest independent organization dedicated to history and citizenship in Canada, find the funds to create the next generation of Heritage Minutes.

The institute plans to come out with two every year until Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. The next Heritage Minutes scheduled for release are about John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier.

Do you remember the original Heritage Minutes and, if so, do you have a favourite?

Do you think the 21st century Heritage Minutes will be able to compete in our crowded media landscape and become as popular as their 20th century forerunners?


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