From The Big Screen to the Courtroom: Noah Favel Creates a New Story for Indigenous Communities
“My motivation has always been to uplift Indigenous people in whatever way I can,” says Noah Joseph Favel, a filmmaker and law student from Poundmaker Cree Nation. Raised in Calgary and born in Saskatoon, he’s been able to maintain close cultural and familial connections to his home community. He’s embarking on his second year of law school at Queen's University, after receiving a BA from McGill University in history and film studies.
Between degrees, Favel made a documentary about the disappearance and the return of bison to his home community, with the support of the Samuel Connected North Youth Leadership Fund. Previously, he made a short film in high school about the Thunder Child Residential School and some short documentaries in university.
“I saw the documentary as a platform to bring awareness to the disappearance and the return of bison to our home community. I chose to go to law school also to help lift up indigenous people and advocate for their legal rights, as opposed to spreading information about the historical grievances that Indigenous people have suffered,” Favel explains.
He told the story with the help of Parks Canada officers who shared about the disappearance and return of the bison. They were joined by elders and members of his community who shared about their cultural significance. The documentary shared about the struggles Indigenous people faced in the absence of the bison and what their return meant.
“That return was symbolic of Indigenous people refusing to suffer at the hands of colonialism and refusing to accept defeat, how we pushed back we continue to fight on and how the return of bison is a signifier for the long-term continuation of Indigenous prosperity in Canada,” he elaborates.
To prepare him for all this important work, Favel has taken part in a combination of formal and informal training. He graduated from high school at St. Mary's High School in Calgary before heading off to university where he had a hard time with time management and task prioritization while maintaining a social life and a fitness regimen. Self-discipline and a calendar helped him get back on track. For cultural and spiritual learning, he attended ceremony and built relationships in his community, learning about the land and his peoples’ connection to it.
His advice for students that are thinking of leaving their community to pursue post-secondary is to take advantage of resources available to Indigenous students and people and to remember where they come from and the relationships that matter. He encourages them to give back to their home community as they pursue success away from it as a way to demonstrate reciprocity.
If he could give a message to his younger self it would be to visit the city you want to go to school in and think about the resources that are available and how good they are. It’s also important to reflect on if it’s the right school or city. To take care of himself, he believes in consistency, eating healthy, traditional foods, to protecting his mental health, getting outside, taking breaks and surrounding himself with good people. He tries to maintain perspective about stressful moments, to remain grateful and to keep moving forward during times of adversity or new challenges.
He was inspired to study law reflecting on the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Canada and all the legal work required to improve that disparity. He also wants to help develop economies of Indigenous communities and was aware of the need to have Indigenous lawyers as part of the solution to complex challenges, recognizing the challenge of predatory law firms that prey on Indigenous communities. Brave leaders like Martin Luther King and Barack Obama inspire him with their bravery and commitment. He’s also inspired by Indigenous people and leaders.
In conclusion, Favel wants Indigenous post-secondary students to keep moving forward, making plans to overcome obstacles and to recognize the love and support behind them. His motivation has always been to uplift Indigenous people in whatever way he can, from the film set to the courtroom. Shining a light on the challenges and excellence of Indigenous people, he’s taking his advocacy off-screen and into the justice system, in hopes of finding a better story for his community and others like it.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.