Where the Spirit Lives (1989)

 |  Drama  |  6 June 1990 (USA)
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A young Native Canadian (First Nations person) fights to keep her culture and identity when she is abducted to a residential school.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michelle St. John ...
Komi / Amelia
Kim Bruisedhead Fox ...
Marianne Jones ...
Komi's Mother
Gus Chief Moon ...
Ka - moos - ee
Clayton Julian ...
Pita / Abraham
Margaret Cozry ...
Marge Fox ...
Anataki's Mother
Ron White ...
Ann-Marie MacDonald ...
Sean Mulcahy ...
Sam Malkin ...
Mr. Crawford
Doris Petrie ...
Miss Weir
Chapelle Jaffe ...
Miss Appleby
Tina Louise Bomberry ...
Asst. Supervisor #2 (as Tina Bomberry)
Barbara Wheeldon ...


In 1937, a young First Nations (Canadian native) girl named Ashtecome is kidnapped along with several other children from a village as part of a deliberate Canadian policy to force First Nations children to abandon their culture in order to be assimilated into white Canadian/British society. She is taken to a boarding school where she is forced to adopt Western Euro-centric ways and learn English, often under brutal treatment. Only one sympathetic white teacher who is more and more repelled by this bigotry offers her any help from among the staff. That, with her force of will, Ashtecome (forced to take the name Amelia) is determined to hold on to her identity and that of her siblings, who were also abducted. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

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A moving tribute to a young girl's courage and indomitable spirit...







Release Date:

6 June 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Henkien tanssi  »

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Did You Know?


The film had a special 25th anniversary showing at the 2013 Cinefest in Sudbury Ontario. See more »


Esther: I can't go with you. This has always been my home. I'm too scared. I'll never forget you.
[hugs Astokomi before she runs away]
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User Reviews

Historical fiction based upon one chapter in the systematic destruction of native American culture.
17 May 2006 | by (St. Louis Park, MN) – See all my reviews

Where the Spirit Lives is a powerful and emotional movie underpinned with both Canadian and US history, superb acting, and beautiful landscape. The movie, taking place during the 1930s in Nova Scotia, takes a sensitive and moving look at how a dominant culture oppresses and/or destroys other cultures whose behavior is contrary to the dominant culture's norms and values. The movie also demonstrates the courage and tenacity of people as they struggle to hold on to their identity and to their families despite enormous odds. The film demonstrates some stereotypical character development: the pious but misdirected priest, the naive but good-intentioned new teacher, the highly cultured wealthy woman who intends on adopting the protagonist, the ugly, evil, and abusive assistant who sees the students as wicked savages. I use this movie in my English classroom in conjunction with the Social Studies curriculum on Minnesota and native American history. We specifically juxtapose commonalities such as theme with The Diary of Anne Frank and the novel by Minnesota author Jon Hassler, Jemmy, culminating in a compare/contrast essay.

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