12 August 2022

Mary Two-Axe Earley: I am Indian Again

Mary Two-Axe Earley

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY COURTNEY MONTOUR
REVIEW BY DEBORAH OSTROVSKY
When Mary Two-Axe Earley of Kahnawà:ke (Mohawk First Nation) wed an Irish American in 1938, she was forced, under the Indian Act, to relinquish her Indian (First Nations) status. “A policeman brought our eviction,” she explains in unearthed tape recordings that are featured in the beautiful new documentary, Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again. “A policeman would knock on your door. Like you’ve committed such a crime!”
It was a time when, for a small fee, white settlers could bury their dogs near Kahnawà:ke. But the Indian Act forbade
Mohawk women like Two-Axe Earley who “married out” to be buried with their own people. Before amendments like Bill C-31, which were a direct result of work by Indigenous women activists, the Indian Act punished and oppressed Indigenous women and children, even from beyond the grave.
Kahnawa’kehró:non film director Courtney Montour was just a teenager growing up in Kahnawà:ke when Mary Two-Axe Earley died in 1996. Montour lived only two streets away without fully being aware of Two-Axe Earley’s impact on Indigenous women’s rights. In her brilliant film, she pieces together a touching portrait of Two-Axe Earley—as a mother, elder and an “accidental” activist who rose to become a fierce, courageous force for the rights of Indigenous women to retain their status.
Montour features interviews with sister Indigenous activist Nellie Carlson (who died in 2020), with whom Two-Axe Earley co-founded Indian Rights for Indian Women in 1967, as well as with women and children whose status rights were re-instated as a result of Indigenous women’s efforts.
Using rare archival footage and interviews with Two-Axe Earley, recorded by Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin over 30
years ago and heard here for the first time, Montour’s lyrical homage is an essential film that should be viewed in every theatre and
classroom across the country.  (National Film Board of Canada)