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In The Footsteps Of Our Ancestors

What many call the ‘worlds toughest hike’, the Canol Heritage Trail is a 355km rugged alpine path that weaves its way through vast canyons, rivers and thicket deep within the Mackenzie Mountains of the Sahtú region, NWT. In The Footsteps Of Our Ancestors is an award-winning documentary feature that follows the journey of 11 brave hikers during a 37-mile traverse of the trail as part of the 2017 Canol Youth Leadership Hike.

Tracing the abandoned remains of the Canol Pipeline project, one of World War II's failed energy pursuits, the diverse team of youth, elders and community guides walk in the footsteps of the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę Mountain Dene, the Indigenous stewards of the land since time immemorial.

Faced with some of the most beautiful and unforgiving wilderness found in Canada, the team quickly understand what the realities of life in the mountains would have been like for their Sahtú Dene and Métis ancestors and the difficulties faced by the American Army in building one of the greatest constructions projects of the 20th century.

With each foot placed in front of the other, the hikers reveal an enduring message for future generations and showcase the power of youth leadership, the spirit of teamwork, and the tremendous potential we unlock inside ourselves when we are chosen by the land.

---- Praise for "In The Footsteps Of Our Ancestors" ----

"This teaching is going to help educate the people. To see how we have to work together in the future for the next seven generations. It was a very powerful film. Very much so." - Perry Bellegarde, Canadian National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

"[A] meaningful film with Sahtu elders, leaders and youth. Great story, good images, time to breathe... an overall feeling of grace and gratitude." - Diz Glithero, National Coordinator for the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC)

"Truly gifted young people" - Norman Yakeleya, Dene National Chief of Canada

"The most beautiful scenery and awesome trek with more than a million dollar view. Good teamwork!" - Mary Jane Kunkel, daugher of Sahtú Dene Guide Fred Andrew

"Beautiful collaboration and fine film!" - Katherine Stauble, National Gallery of Canada

"A wonderful film" - The Yellowknifer Newspaper

  • Nicholas Castel
  • Norman Yakeleya
    Executive Producer
  • Jordan Lennie
  • Jeff Watkins
  • Erinn Drage
  • Joe Handley
    Key Cast
  • Myles Erb
    Key Cast
  • Garth Wallbridge
    Key Cast
  • Nicholas Castel
  • Erinn Drage
  • Nicholas Castel
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Adventure, Indigenous, Youth Leadership, Historical, Canadian
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 9 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 22, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Sony, Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Tulita - Community Screening
    January 23, 2019
    North American Premiere
  • Norman Wells - Community Screening
    Norman Wells
    January 24, 2019
  • Yellowknife - Prince of Wales Museum Screening
    January 28, 2019
  • Ottawa - Museum Of Nature Screening
    January 30, 2019
    Ontario Premiere
  • Edmonton - Garneau Theatre Screening
    February 6, 2019
  • Gatineau - Environment & Climate Change Canada
    Gatinuea Quebec
    August 9, 2019
  • Weengushk International Film Festival
    July 13, 2019
    Official Selection
  • Yellowknife International Film Festival
    November 6, 2019
    Official Selection
  • Ottawa Adventure Film Festival
    November 20, 2019
    613km Award (won)
  • Ruperts Land Colloquium - University of Winnipeg
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    October 14, 2020
  • Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival
    February 19, 2021
    People's Choice Award - Indigenous Identity In The Outdoors
Distribution Information
  • Northwestel Community TV
    Country: Canada
    Rights: Free TV
  • McIntyre Media
    Country: Canada
    Rights: Internet
Director Biography - Nicholas Castel, Erinn Drage

Nicholas (Co-Director) is a documentary filmmaker and producer based in Montreal. His diverse portfolio reflects his passion for cultural and investigative storytelling. It spans many geographies and issues, including global health, Arctic issues, Canadian identity, youth empowerment and activism. He latest feature COEXTINCTION is a wildlife conservation film about a critically endangered species of Orca in the Pacific Northwest.

Erinn (Co-Director) is a nature researcher and advocate originally from Halifax, NS. She is passionate about storytelling through film, protecting natural environments, and including local communities in conservation initiatives. Erinn is currently working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and works in freelance video production and adventure guiding on the side.

Norman Yakeleya (Executive Producer) is the current Dene National Chief to the Assembly of First Nations in Canada. He has a rich history of community and political activism that spans the entirety of the Northwest Territories, across many industries. His most passionate interests lie in youth leadership and community building. He is the founder of the Canol Youth Leadership Hike, an on-the-land youth leadership program that hikes through the rugged wilderness of the Mackenzie Mountains.

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Director Statement

We are very proud to present 'In The Footsteps Of Our Ancestors' a documentary first for Trails In Tandem. This film is a story of gathering; where World War history collides with Dene teachings against the backdrop of a breathtaking northern landscape. It's powerful messages of teamwork, leadership and cross-cultural collaboration make it an excellent entry point to the concepts of reconciliation, land-based education and the shared responsibility we have to take care our home. This project will be a fond memory for our team and has forged some lifelong friendships and shared experiences that we hope resonates with you. Thank you!