indigiTALKS: SON OF The SUN:

Join us for an insightful discussion on the work and legacy of the legendary Willie Dunn

Presented by Zachary Johnston (Skokomish/Yakama)
Sponsored by


With support from:


Thursday, October 20
TIFF Bell Lightbox | Cinema 4
GET YOUR TICKETS NOW! (limit 4 per person)

indigiTALKS is imagineNATIVE’s lecture series exploring Indigenous media arts in all its diversity, complexities and nuances. Programmers, artists, curators and community members alike are invited to create a live, TED Talks–style presentation that aims to shed new light and perspectives on the unique storytelling, style and creativity of Indigenous media arts and artists past, present and future.

This year, imagineNATIVE invited filmmaker and writer Zachary Johnston to present a talk on Willie Dunn, the legendary, trailblazing filmmaker, singer and artist who was born in 1942 and walked on in 2013.

This event is free and open to the public. Please claim your ticket in person at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Box Office. One ticket per person.



Born to a mixed family of Scottish/Irish and Mi’kmaq blood, Willie Dunn grew up in a Montreal full of jazz clubs, folk guitars and cold winter nights. After serving in the Canadian Armed Forces and seeing the world while wearing army greens, Willie returned home and was given his first guitar. This innocuous gift sent him down a path that would inspire and insight in the name of Native America. Willie Dunn became an artist activist who used folk music, film and the canvas to protest the dire state of affairs many First Nations people found themselves in during the 1960s and 1970s – situations which still ring true to this day.

By exploring Willie’s creativity and motivation through his films, songs and art, we’ll gain an understanding of the illuminated life for the “Indian” in the Americas. Willie headed the first all-Indigenous film production when he made a short film for his song The Ballad Of Crowfoot (1968, National Film Board of Canada), making cinematic history in the process. Willie would later make films exploring environmental degradation and linguistic maladies plaguing Native land and Native life. After Willie’s success with film, he moved on to record several albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which allowed his protest movement for a better world to take the airwaves of Canada, the US, and even Europe, by storm. As Willie’s life wound down into the 21st century, he turned his attention to the canvas and paints. His world came full circle as he became an icon of Indigenous North America and our right to basic respect and freedoms that always seem just out of our reach. 

A special thank you to Willie's family for their insight, guidance and support. 

Zachary Johnston was born near the Skokomish Reservation in western Washington State. His father raised him off the reservation, but maintained close ties to a Native life in the mountains of the Olympics and the seas of the Salish Sea. Zachary went on to study politics and history in Washington, D.C., before becoming a traveller and teacher and spending the better part of the 2000s circumnavigating the globe. Over the last decade Zachary has worked as a documentary filmmaker and writer. He completed a short documentary about an engagement ceremony in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009, and he is currently a writer for Uproxx Life, covering food, drink, travel and Indigenous-themed issues.