Queen's University

Nass River Indians

Nass River Indians

Nass River Indians (Reconstruction), 35 mm reconstruction of the lost 1928 film, in collaboration with Library and Archives Canada, 23 min. Concept, research and sequencing by Lynda Jessup; intertitle scans and digital reconstruction by Dale Gervais, 2001. Introductory intertitles to the reconstructed film written by Lynda Jessup, Dale Gervais, and the Nisga’a Lisims Government.

Sparked by my interest in the National Gallery of Canada’s 1927 exhibition, “Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern,” for which the silent movie, Nass River Indians, was made, and based on both extensive archival work and field trips to the Nass River, this research project has resulted in reconstruction of Nass River Indians from archival remnants as a scholarly edition, a project I undertook in collaboration with film conservator Dale Gervais at Library and Archives Canada. Featuring additional intertitles designed to reposition the original film for contemporary audiences, Nass River Indians has subsequently toured internationally as part of the Anthology Film Archives and Deutsches Filmmuseum exhibition, “Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893-1941.” (I also contributed an essay to the show’s catalogue that dealt with the film’s hitherto unknown importance as the first effort of US-American experimental filmmaker James Sibley Watson, who shot the film’s footage for National Museum of Canada ethnologist Marius Barbeau.) I have also developed this research in screenings, conference presentations, invited papers and, in conjunction with these, four articles dealing with various aspects of the film and ethnographic cinema in Canada. In these, I have embedded close textual readings of the lost Nass River Indians and related ethnographic films in extensive discussion of the historical, political, cultural and exhibitionary contexts within which they were understood.

Watch video here.

Related Articles and Book Chapters:

“Tin Cans and Machinery: Saving the Sagas and Other Stuff,” Visual Anthropology, 12 (1999): 49-86.

“James Sibley Watson’s Nass River Indians,” in Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893-1941, ed. Bruce Posner (New York: Black Thistle Press/Anthology Film Archives, 2001), 116-20.

“Moving Pictures and Costume Songs at the 1927 ‘Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern,’” Canadian Journal of Film Studies 11.1 (Spring 2002): 2-39. “Moving Pictures and Costume Songs at the 1927 ‘Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern,’” Canadian Journal of Film Studies 11.1 (Spring 2002): 2-39.

“Marius Barbeau and Early Ethnographic Cinema,” in Around and About Marius Barbeau: Writings on the Politics of Twentieth-Century Canadian Culture, co-edited with Andrew Nurse and Gordon Smith (Gatineau: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2008), 269-304.