Sunday August 13, 2017

Bee Nation upends stereotypes about life on First Nations reserves

William Kaysaywaysemat III competing in the 2016 Spelling Bee of Canada competition

William Kaysaywaysemat III competing in the 2016 Spelling Bee of Canada competition (Photo - still from Bee Nation)

Listen 20:10

Sometimes it seems we are living in an age when no one much cares about spelling. So it is heartening to be reminded that the spelling bee is very much alive and well in schools across the country. 

However, until recently, one group of students has never taken part: those who live on reserves. That has changed. 

Last year, the first-ever First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee took place in Saskatchewan. It was the first—and so far the only—province to offer top-scoring students from reserves a chance to compete in Toronto, at the national championships of the Spelling Bee of Canada.

Lana Šlezić and her film crew followed several First Nations students as they practiced, agonized and took to the stage. Her film is called Bee Nation and it was the opening feature for Canada's annual documentary film festival, HotDocs.

William Kaysaywaysemat III

William Kaysaywaysemat III

One of the students featured in the film is William Kaysaywaysemat III. William is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation in Saskatchewan. He is nine years old and he won in the youngest age category at the provincial level.

Michael spoke to Lana Šlezić, along with William Kaysaywaysemat III and his father William II.

 William Kaysaywaysemat III

William Kaysaywaysemat III along with his family and film director Lana Šlezić (on the right) in our studios. (Photo by Talin Vartanian)

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.