Kainai filmmaker documents opioid crisis that has ravaged her community


Award winning documentary maker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ new film called Kímmapiiyipitssini – the Meaning of Empathy, tells the story of how the opioid crisis has ravaged her community.

Kainai or the Blood Reserve is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is the largest reserve in Canada.

In 2014 fentanyl flooded the illicit drug trade on the reserve.

“Our community took rapid action and there were so many people working on the frontlines just taking radical action and implementing harm reduction in an effort to save lives,” says Tailfeathers. “And it did save lives over the last seven years almost the community has become a national leader in terms of the communities response to the opioid crisis.”

Tailfeathers documents the lives of people struggling with addiction – and the community coming together to save them.

Leading the charge in the fight against the opioid crisis is Elle Maija’s mother Dr. Esther Tailfeathers. When the film was being made, she was about to open a four bed facility on the reserve.

“We will try to keep them until we’ve got them stable medically and help them through their withdrawals and then we assess whether or not we are going to start them on Suboxone or Methadone,” says Esther Tailfeathers.

Elle Maija says that she wants other communities to watch this documentary and consider harm reduction practices that have been successful in saving lives in places like the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and now the Kainai First Nation in Southern Alberta.

“The evidence shows that harm reduction does save lives so it’s absolutely necessary in terms of the opioid crisis,” she says.

Kímmapiiyipitssini – the Meanting of Empathy, premiers at Hot Docs which starts April 29.

Video Journalist / Vancouver

A proud Métis from BC, Tina began her television career in 1997 as a talent agent for film and TV. She joined APTN National News in 2007 as a Video Journalist in the Vancouver bureau. In 2010, she was the recipient of the Amnesty International Human Rights Journalism Award for her story on murdered and missing women and girls.