Courtney Montour listening to filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin’s 1984 recordings of Mary. | Credit NFB
Mary Two-Axe Earley is an iconic Indigenous woman warrior who took on the Canadian government to fight for the rights of Indigenous women. There was a time in Canadian history that if an Indigenous woman married a non-Indigenous man she would lose her status as an Indigenous person. This sexist and misogynistic law was eventually abolished thanks to the movement she led.
Kanien’kehá:ka filmmaker, Courtney Montour, honours and pays tribute to Two-Axe Earley by giving us an intimate look into her life and tireless journey. As the film opens we are introduced to Mary through archival recordings being listened to by Montour. She reflects on her personal connections to Mary Two-Axe Earley as they are from the same community of Kahnawake. Montour pieces together archival footage, and recent interviews with activists who describe the fearless actions of Mary and Indigenous women from that historical movement.
Montour is known for helming projects that examine what it means to be Indigenous. From her first documentary Sex Spirit Strength, about reclaiming Indigenous sexual health and gender identity, to working with Alanis Obomsawin on Flat Rocks, which revealed the effects that the development of the St.Lawrence Seaway had on her home community- Kahnawake.
During the 2021 Hot Docs Canadian Film Festival, I got to talk with Courtney about the importance of her film Mary Two-Axe Earley: I am Indian Again and how the actions of the past still affect the lives of Indigenous women today.