11 user 1 critic

Where the Spirit Lives (1989)

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


Bruce Pittman


Keith Ross Leckie (original screenplay by)
7 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?



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


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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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









Release Date:

6 June 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Henkien tanssi See more »

Filming Locations:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



See full technical specs »

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]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

I appreciated the athentisity
7 March 2008 | by rpaulskiSee all my reviews

Movie review: Where the Spirit Lives

The movie, "Where The Spirit Lives" is centered around a young Indian girl whose name Amalia and brother by the name of Abraham, taken from their home and forced into a Christian school to learn English. At first, the two were defiant and unwilling to participate. They were however, fortunate enough to have a fresh teacher with morals and kindness still intact. This did not change for awhile and they tried escaping, but as soon as they learned their parents had gotten sick and past away, they had nothing left, which lead to the acceptance of a new life. Thing's went well and the English language was learned, and the little girl was even going to be adapted by an upscale older woman. Until, they found out their parents were still alive and looking for them, and the church had lied to them. Finally, the time was right and the two left for home with the blessing of their teacher.

It's sad to think that the United States was actually ran like this. To force young children into learning English, instead of accepting their own culture and language. Their is plenty of communication that can happen without forcing the whole tribe to convert to the "American way of life." This was a good film that centered on those who were afflicted the most, the children. It depicts the religious attitude and way of thinking through the school where they attended and the faculty that supported the movement. It also gives you a look at the harsh conditions, with the beatings and solitary confinement, the children had to endure. These force full actions did seem to work with some of the children, but there was defiantly a tipping point.

I would recommend watching this movie to those who are curious about the harsh realities of our government and how they used to treat people, even indigenous people, who would not conform to the English culture. There is conflict, some drama, and a little bit of action tied into this movie throughout. It's an interesting film that dose not really have any drag. Just a well thought out and entertaining movie.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 11 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed