Cree Code Talker coming to High Prairie on Jan. 18

Charles (Checker) Tomkins

Richard Froese
Award-winning short film Cree Code Talker will be shown Jan. 18 in High Prairie with a public screening and event to honour local war veterans.

The 14-minute film about Charles (Checker) Tomkins of Grouard will be held at St. Andrew’s School at 7 p.m.

“We invite the community and war veterans to attend this event,” says Jamie Chalifoux, success coach with HOSTS (Helping Our Students To Succeed), which is co-hosting the event with the school.

“It’s an opportunity to honour the contributions of Aboriginal veterans in Second World War efforts and how instrumental Cree code talkers were in winning the war,” says Jessica Richardson, teacher of Aboriginal studies at St. Andrew’s.

Members of the Tomkins family have been specially invited, along with Aboriginal veterans in the region, and members of the Royal Canadian Legion and High Prairie Air Cadets.

“We invite people to stay after the film for refreshments and conversation about the film,” Richardson says.

Cree Code Talker was produced by Alexandra Lazarowich and Cowboy Smithx in spring 2016 and won numerous awards.

While neither will be available to attend, an invitation has been accepted by Pearl Calahasen, mother of Lazarowich and former longtime local MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, from 1989-2015.

Digging deep into the United States archives, the film depicts the true story of Tomkins’ involvement with the US Air Force and the development of the code talkers communication system as the Cree language was used as a vital secret weapon in combat.

Tomkins was one of five Cree code talkers from northern Alberta, although he had shared about his work before he died in 2002 as the last survivor.

Several of Tomkins’ relatives and other local people were interviewed as the documenters visited the Grouard area in summer 2014.

“The goal of the project is to honour Charles (Checker) Tomkins and the other Aboriginal veterans who went unrecognized for their entire lifetime for their heroic war effort,” Lazarowich says.
“Unfortunately there are none left living, but we hope this film will shed light on the unique work these men did, their sacrifice and to make sure that they will not be forgotten.”

Cree Code Talker won a $1,000 cash award for best short documentary in the 17th annual ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Oct. 19-23.

One year earlier, the film won first at the 2015 Hot Docs BravoFAC- TUAL Short Documentary Pitch Competition, with a $30,000 award, which Smithx says was key to help make the production a success.

More screenings of Cree Code Talker and festivals will be posted on the Facebook Page at Facebook/CreeCodeTalker.

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