Glenn Gould Prize winner Alanis Obomsawin strikes tone of hope for Indigenous future


TORONTO — Alanis Obomsawin shared hope for the future of Indigenous Peoples as she accepted the Glenn Gould Prize on Monday for her lifetime contribution to the arts.

Nearly one year after the 89-year-old documentary filmmaker was named by an international jury of her peers, she appeared at an in-person ceremony to accept the $100,000 honour.

Obomsawin, a member of the Abenaki Nation, was recognized for her dedication to chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people for decades.

Her work includes documentaries that shed light on the 1990 Oka Crisis and police raids on the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in 1981.

The filmmaker says her feelings for the future are “more profound than hope.”

And she says she’s driven by a noticeable change in how Canadians view Indigenous people.

“Contrary to 20 years ago, even up to 10 years ago, whenever there was a showing of injustice … it was a bother for most Canadians,” she said in an acceptance speech that was streamed online.

“Now I see, we’re in 2021, people are caring. They want to hear. They want to see justice to our people.”

Established in 1987, the Glenn Gould Prize is named after the acclaimed Canadian piano virtuoso who died in 1982 at age 50 after suffering a stroke.

The prize, which is handed out every other year, has been awarded to late U.S. opera singer Jessye Norman, U.S. composer Philip Glass, Canadian theatre icon Robert Lepage and late Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Grammy-winning musician and U.S. visual artist Laurie Anderson was the chairwoman of this year’s international jury.

David Friend, The Canadian Press