Michelle St. John is an award-winning actor, singer, playwright and producer and a member of the Wampanoag Nation in the northeastern United States. While traveling in Northwestern Ontario in 2001, Michelle was struck by the persistence of Colonization Roads in communities throughout the region. She began an inquiry into the “Colonization Road Act of 1872” implemented by the Canadian government as part of the Dominion Lands Policy, and she began considering the impact these decisions had on both the indigenous peoples whose lands were appropriated and the settlers who followed government directives and established themselves on these lands.
In 2010, Michelle approached the CGRF with a proposal to develop a 10-minute trailer that was then used to source additional funding to complete a full documentary, Colonization Road – The Land Speaks. As funding came in, Michelle was able to recruit to her team Couchiching First Nation (Treaty 3) band member Ryan McMahon as the narrator and host / interviewer for the project.
In 2016, Michelle, Ryan and the team at Frog Girl Films debuted Colonization Road – The Land Speaks at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the ImagineNative film festival. The doc was picked up by CBC and has aired on the national broadcaster. The documentary explores the origin of the plethora of Colonization Roads across the province of Ontario, the impact on the First Nations peoples whose land they were built on and the impact this had on relations with settler communities.