Residential School Warrior Empowers Indigenous Youth


Dr. Shirley Cheechoo C.M., is a Residential School Warrior and has dedicated her life’s pain to constructive and positive change for young people.

Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) is one of Canada’s most expressive and meaningful centres of learning.

The goal – to inspire Indigenous and diverse youth by integrating creative and life skills.

This flagship, non-profit centre will educate, preserve and celebrate identities across Turtle Island by fostering new voices. The new Weengushk Film Institute, located on beautiful Manitoulin Island, will undoubtedly empower Indigenous Youth.

“Now approaching its 20-year anniversary, Weengushk Film Institute is looking forward to building its new centre-for-learning on Manitoulin Island, designed by architects ELASTICOFarm, led by Stefano Pujatti. The centre will honour and empower indigenous and diverse youth by developing their creative voices. The building shape will be reminiscent of a turtle floating above the earth, an important motif in Indigenous cultures.”

Utilizing natural surroundings and elements such as timber and stone distinctive to Manitoulin, the design boasts Ice, commonly used as an insulator by Indigenous peoples

“The mass of the building will float above the landscape on columns designed for the building to carry itself while allowing the structure the ability to minimize its impact on its surrounding environment and providing an outdoor space underneath for programming and public events. Inside, learners will benefit immensely through the expanded program offerings that the Turtle Island Projects’ state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and performance spaces will house for Weengushk Film Institute.”


“I wanted the new Weengushk Film Institute’s training center to be shaped like a turtle as I have been taught that the turtle supports the world,” says Dr. Cheechoo. “It’s an icon of life itself.”

Dr. Cheechoo is an extraordinary woman who exemplifies strength. She exemplifies the power to stand up and stare adversity in the eyes, with bravado and grace she is committed to creating the difference she wishes to see in the world.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Dr. Cheechoo adds. “There’s a lot of change that needs to happen and together we can make change.”

As a Journalist and Canadian, interviewing Dr. Cheechoo, a recipient of the Order of Canada, was an eye-opener. Speaking with an empowering woman who exudes such determination and strength combined with the ability to create positive change from a dark and tumultuous time, has altered my path and the journey of the many lives.

About Weengushk Film Institute

Established in 2002, Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) is a non-profit, artist-focused film and television training centre, dedicated to unlocking the creative potential of Indigenous youth. The first of its kind, this non-profit centre educates and inspires Indigenous and diverse youth with its logistical programming that integrates creative and life skills.  While celebrating and sharing their voices, these emerging Indigenous artists learn market-leading and life skills, as they begin their path towards inspired and sustainable futures. Through an understanding of tradition, culture, and identity, WFI envisions the collection, preservation, and representation of new creative voices. The development and recognition of Indigenous youth at WFI supports the important contribution of Indigenous stories to the Canadian arts’ landscape. WFI is the first program of its kind to be accredited by a Canadian University, and is proud of its partnership with Brock University.

WFI supports the Weengushk International Film Festival (WIFF), in which thousands descend on Manitoulin Island to celebrate storytelling through film and television; a celebration of indigenous and diverse voices bringing together industry veterans, new and emerging independent filmmakers, including a unique WFI student film showcase.

WFI’s 20 year anniversary will be celebrated at the 2022 Weengushk International Film Festival event focused on celebrating Women entitled “Right From The Womb”.

About Dr. Shirley Cheechoo C.M.

Shirley Cheechoo (Cree) is the Founder and Artistic Director of Weengushk Film Institute. She is an accomplished artist, actor, and filmmaker, and has been working in the Indigenous community for over 30 years. This multi-award-winning filmmaker is the first person from a First Nation to write, produce, direct and act in a feature-length dramatic film in Canada, entitled Bearwalker (aka Backroads), which debuted at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and had a market screening at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Shirley began directing films in 1998, after working as a playwright, actor and director of notable plays. Her directorial debut, the award-winning short film Silent Tears, was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and was also awarded the Telefilm Canada and Northern Canada Award for Best Canadian Aboriginal Language Program.

Weengushk Film Institute Official Website

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Concept design of new Weengushk Film Institute by architects ELASTICOFarm led by Stefano Pujatti.
© Lisa Pujatti and Leonardo Dubois.






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Colette Linden is a graduate of the three-year Broadcast Journalism and Communications Media program from Mohawk College before heading to McMaster University to obtain her degree in Public Relations. In addition, Colette has a certificate in Writing for Publication and a certificate of Competency in the French Language, . A recent resident of Sault Ste Marie, this Hamilton native gained experience working at TSN, the Ontario Medical Association and spent 14-years with the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) as the Communications Manager. A Mother of two amazing boys, Connor & Dante, Colette is a die-hard sports fan with a passion for government affairs and hopes to one day represent this City on Council. Focusing on Politics, Indigenous Affairs and Local News, Colette also reports the latest in Sports both locally and professionally. Colette joined the Superior Media Team in September of 2019 and is thankful to finish out her career with such a family-oriented and community-oriented team.