511 – feature film

The true story of Arthur Ivan Thompson, Tsaqwasupp, and his experience within the Indian Hospital and the Indian Residential School.  

“By any means necessary…”

…an excerpt from a letter from the Queen of England discussing the ways in which the residential school system was to civilize the ‘savages’ of Canada.

The residential school system was a product of the Gradual Civilization Act (1857) and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act (1869) in Canada and the USA. The United States started their assimilation of Native Americans through ‘Indian schooling’ as early as 1767. These schools proposed a common goal of, “assimilation through total immersion”, but this was just the rheotoric that was used to justify horrible injustices and supression of Indian rights and culture.

In 1953, Arthur Ivan Thompson and his sibblings were forced to leave their only home and attend the Alberni Indian Residential School (A.I.R.S.)

It is in this school, where Arthur lost his identity, and his dignity. He was strapped, beaten, raped and had a gun to his head. Like so many other young Indians, A.I.R.S. taught him to abuse himself and others. By the time he was 20, Arthur was an abuser of drugs and alcohol, as well as physically and psychologically abusive towards himself and others. Arthur spent nine terrible and traumatic years at A.I.R.S.

Principal Andrews, dorm supervisors, Mister Plint, Mister Floyd, Mister Lavoie, Mister Brugger and Barbara Rothwell were six notorious employees of AIRS, and for years inflicted severe damage to Arthur and numerous others.

In 1995, Arthur Thompson brought Mister Plint to court and put him behind bars. After that court case, he then brought Her Majesty the Queen of England in Right of Canada and the United Church of Canada to Supreme Court in August 1999.

This is the story of one man’s horrific experience in the Indian Schooling System and his lifelong battle back to dignity and humanity, culminating in the sensational and groundbreaking court case which brought an entire government to justice.

Based on the true story of Arthur Ivan Thompson, native artist and activist, this is the telling of the Supreme Court Case in August of 1999, which Arthur tells his story within the walls of the Nanaimo Indian Hospital and the Alberni Indian Residential School system. It starts from his first day entering the hospital, to his first day at school, to his last day inside the walls of the residential school system.