Yakonnhéhkwen (It Sustains Her)

One woman’s journey from the depression that brought her to the brink of suicide, to the realization of her value as an Onkwehonwe woman and artist.

Creative team

Writer/director/producer: Candace Maracle

Filmmaker’s statement

Two years ago, while I was mid-production of my film Yakonnhéhkwen (It Sustains Her), a student I was teaching in Six Nations, Ontario committed suicide. Touched by this event, it informed the narrative of Yakonnhéhkwen placing a stronger focus on mental health and suicide. I wanted to create space to engage this discourse and empower viewers who have resonance with my main character’s story because suicide is such an epidemic on First Nation’s territories.

Yakonnhéhkwen is a Kenyen’kéha word meaning ‘it sustains her.’ Ann found healing in the rare traditional Iroquoian art form of black ash basketry. She also became keenly aware that her ancestors were there to show her the way.

This is a short film about the depression that brought her to brink of suicide and her journey home, back to her culture and learning to truly value herself as an Onkwehonwe woman and artist.

About Candace Maracle

Candace Maracle

I am Wolf Clan from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. An award-winning filmmaker and journalist, I graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Ryerson University.

My work as a journalist includes reporting for APTN’s National News and producing for CBC Radio’s The Current and As It Happens, and two feature-length documentaries and one short.

My first documentary, The Creator’s Game: The Quest for Gold and the Fight for Nationhood, addresses the issue of Indigenous sovereignty through the game of lacrosse and was broadcast in the US and on Australian television. My second documentary, The Grandfather of All Treaties, premiered at the 2015 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival to a sold-out audience. Both are part of Indigenous education curriculum across the country in universities and other institutions.

I am currently studying Kenienké’ha, my native tongue and also an endangered language, so I can include it in my work. My background as an Indigenous woman and journalist is prominently featured in my work bridging Onkwehonwe tradition and language with contemporary issues that affect all Canadians.

I got into documentary filmmaking because I preferred the longer form media in which to tackle Indigenous issues and tell our stories in a more comprehensive way than five-minute news pieces could proffer. I felt it was my duty as a Kanyen’kehá:ka woman to tell a better story. The distorted versions of our stories often told in mainstream media provoke aggression over insight.

It’s a journalist’s job to speak truth to power. In telling these stories we not only have the capacity to inform but also to influence the way those stories are interpreted by the rest of Canada. It is also my intention to inspire my peoples through storytelling while educating the rest of Canada.

My life’s work has been to gather information and stories from our Knowledge and Faith Keepers so I can learn them and share and preserve them through film. The themes in my work are anchored by a current event which makes my work relevant for all of Canada.

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