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Blast from the Past: Documentary shines light on Kanawaki leases

A MCK-produced documentary will premier tonight and answer many of the questions people in Kahnawake may have about the original lease, operation and potential future of the Kanawaki Golf Club. (Courtesy MCK)

Most Blast From the Past photos involve looking at an archival photo, speaking to someone associated with the photo, and learning a bit about Kahnawake’s history.

This week, the photo is included in the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake-produced documentary Green Fees: the Evolution of the Kanawaki Lease that will air tonight at the Legion at 7 p.m., and provides more information that this page of the paper could.

The documentary is around 45 minutes long and charts the history of the Kanawaki Golf Club, its controversial leases and public reaction past and present.

“The government shafted us,” says former grand chief Andrew Delisle Sr. when describing the original lease conditions. “It manipulated us to take land and rent it out.”

Without spoiling too many points in the documentary or describing the history involved with the photo, this week’s Blast will look at the how the film came together.

The Eastern Door screened the film Monday, and it’s an engaging and informative documentary that will shine light on the club’s history as consultations begin next month on the club’s lease that is up for negotiation soon.

“I am very pleased with the documentary,” said council chief Carl Horn, who holds the Kanawaki portfolio. “It provides the community with a detailed description of the history of the lease.”

The documentary is narrated, edited and directed by local filmmaker Gage Diabo, who appears throughout the film to explain fine points of the lease and other historic tidbits.

“I was initially brought on just to write the narration, which would tie the project together,” Diabo told The Eastern Door. “With the short time frame to get this thing complete, though, my role grew to the point where I was conducting interviews, editing the footage and even performing the narration myself. By filling all of those roles, I got to really put my own personal stamp on the project.”

The film is well worth the 45-minute viewing. It begins in 1910 with the three leases, and the particular nature of the agreement with the landowners whose property the course is located on.

Diabo and the crew hit every possible angle from those concerned, with environmental practices to people upset at hiring practices to those who play golf in the community and appreciate having such a fine establishment locally.

Past and present Mohawk Council chiefs, former caddies, golfers, legal experts and club president Dan Anber all feature in addition to great archival photos like the one printed above.

“For me, the project was a wonderful chance to bring together everything I’ve learned so far, as both a documentary filmmaker and a student of the history of Indian Affairs in Canada,” said Diabo.

“Getting to sit down and dig into that history with important folks like Andrew Delisle Sr. and Dan Anber was such a great learning experience, and I hope it translates to the audience in the end.”

Diabo, Horn and the others involved in the project knew the subject matter could be a loaded one, as consultations continue with the club’s lease renewal approaching.

The greatest part of the documentary for this historian and journalist is its ability to flush out rumours or urban legends about the course and its members and focus on the actual facts involved.

“The challenge was to approach this history, which is not only long and complex, but also very close to home for many people, from as neutral a stance as possible,” said Diabo.

“The whole point was to get the facts straight, let the key players have their say, and to separate out all of the rumour that’s built up over the past century. To do all that in a way that was neither demonizing nor too forgiving (not to mention, interesting to the viewer) was a fun task.”

The film aims for feedback and consultation from community members, which will start in earnest in October.

Green Fees: The evolution of the Kanawaki lease airs tonight at the Legion at 7 p.m.

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