Cree Code Talker waits for local screening

Richard Froese

A short documentary film about a former Grouard man could be coming to a public viewing in the next several months.

“Cree Code Talker” features the role of Charles (Checker) Tomkins during the Second World War.

The 10-minute film was produced in spring 2016 after about one year of research and interviews.

“At this moment, we have no plans to screen the film in High Prairie or Slave Lake,” says Alex Lazarowich, director of the production, with roots in Slave Lake.

“We are still co-ordinating with some organizations who might host an event but nothing is confirmed.”

She and producer Cowboy Smithx are also waiting to determine where the film will have its world premiere.

“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 stated when interviewed as the project was launched.

“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.”

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

As one of five Cree code talkers she discovered from northern Alberta, Tomkins shared very little about his work.

“He took his sworn secrecy to the U.S. Air Force very seriously,” Lazarowich says.

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

The film was chosen to be part of the National Screen Institutes Aboriginal Documentary Program.

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