A new documentary will premiere in Port Alberni this weekend, exploring a little-known story that took place in the Alberni Valley 40 years ago.
“Let’s Walk Together As One,” a film by Dan Webb, tracks the events that emerged out of the 1975 World Council of Indigenous People, which was held on Tseshaht First Nation territory in Port Alberni. The meeting brought together representatives of Indigenous groups from 19 separate countries. Through the course of the event, strong international friendships were formed, and this film follows the outcome of a relationship between Bolivian delegates and a group of local political activists. In a twist, their unlikely bonds of solidarity contributed to a radical shift in Bolivian politics.
The theme of the documentary, said Webb, is the way in which small, local actions can have much larger, long-lasting consequences.
“It’s a story of collaboration between these different groups,” Webb explained. “There are people from all walks of life coming together for this, and there are these long-lasting connections that live on today.”
Webb, who holds a Ph.D in Political Science, currently lives in Courtenay and works for Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, but hopes to eventually transition into filmmaking as a profession. This film is Webb’s first, made on an almost non-existent budget.
Webb became involved in filmmaking when he and his wife moved to Port Alberni from Winnipeg a few years ago. He started out volunteering with the Film Festival committee and Shaw TV, with long-time videographer Darren Evans showing him the ropes.
“I wanted to see if I could find a local story to tell to turn into a movie,” Webb explained.
Calling himself a “political scientist by training,” Webb had a keen interest in local politics. He sat down for coffee with local resident Denny Durocher and learned about the first international conference for the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. Webb was particularly intrigued by the relationship that was formed between Constantino Lima—a visiting Indigenous rights leader from Bolivia—and the people of Port Alberni. Lima’s three young daughters spent three years in Port Alberni, attending school and learning English.
“I realized that was the interesting story to tell,” said Webb.
The film is structured into four different chapters—first exploring the events leading up to the 1975 conference, then the conference itself, then the three Bolivian girls. The final chapter is a story about “political solidarity and activism” between Indigenous leaders in Port Alberni and the Bolivians, said Webb.
Webb spoke to a number of people for the documentary—Port Alberni’s Michael Lewis, the late Hesquiaht elder Simon Lucas, Tseshaht First Nation’s Richard Watts and Nuu-chah-nulth artist Ron Hamilton. Webb even speaks to one of the three Bolivian daughters, who is now a grandmother.
Webb said that viewers in Port Alberni might be “a little surprised” by the contents of the film.
“All these people that we interviewed…the vast majority have lived in the Alberni Valley all their lives,” Webb explained. “[Viewers] might know a lot of people, but they might not have any idea of their involvement in these events. A lot of it was kept secret.”
The world premiere of “Let’s Walk Together As One” takes place at the Alberni District Secondary School Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the Alberni Valley Museum for $5.