Filmmaker Trudy Stewart passes away
U of R filmmaker leaves hole in local community
The Saskatchewan film industry and the community at large have suffered a tragic loss. The news broke Octob. 1 that the filmmaker and University of Regina alumnus Trudy Stewart had passed away. Trudy, along with her friend and collaborator Janine Windolph, were recently announced as recipients of the University of Regina’s Alumni Crowning Achievement Award. Their work with the RIIS (Regina Indian Industrial School) commemorative association and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) were the prime reasons cited for the distinction. To honor Stewarts legacy, I believe we should take a moment to reflect on the importance of work she’s left behind.
Stewart and Windolph co-directed RIIS from Amnesia. The film was produced by the RIIS media project and funded by the United Church for the purposes of raising awareness for the little-known history of the Regina Indian Industrial School Cemetery. The school operated just outside the city between 1891 to 1910. The cemetery’s grounds are estimated to hold the remains of three dozen former students. The school was finally designated a heritage site by the Province in 2017. Ownership of the grounds was transferred to the RIIS commemorative association back in June of this year. The preservation of the land, its history, and the memories of those lost at the school can in part be attributed to Stewart’s work. The film is available for viewing on the RIIS media project’s YouTube channel.
She also worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a statement gatherer. Her work with the commission contributed to the necessary task. She helped shed light on one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history. The shadow of which still looms large over survivors, friends and family of survivors, and the country as a whole.
Stewart gave us a unique insight on her work with the TRC. She directed an award-winning film titled From Up North. In the film, Stewart reflects on her personal experience listening to survivor’s stories. The film features Noel Starblanket, former chief of Starblanket Reservation, the National Indian Brotherhood, and a survivor of the Lebret Indian Residential School. Starblanket recounts his experience as a survivor whilst Stewart reflects on the difficulty she faced and the lessons she learned listening to the many Survivors statements. She cites not only the many tragic hardships and abuses faced by survivors but also their resiliency and healing. The film concludes with Stewart noting that she herself has a healing journey to undertake, promising to help residential school survivors in any way she can. The film is available on APTN’s streaming service.
Stewart’s work was dedicated to honoring the victims and survivors of the residential school system. Her work has preserved their stories and incited the all too important discussions necessary for truly attaining reconciliation. Despite her tragic departure we can take solace in knowing that her legacy will continue to fulfill her promise. As the long road ahead winds, as we heal and reflect on the road to reconciliation we can always look to Stewart as a role model.
Her obituary states that any friends wishing to do so may make donations in memoriam to the Autism Resources Center.