Newcomer's documentary features historic global event held in Port Alberni

Credit: Kristi Dobson
Dan Webb is working hard to complete the filming and editing of his project.
Kristi Dobson

When he moved to Port Alberni four years ago, Dan Webb decided to actively jump into the community as the best way to find out about the city’s people, places, and organizations. He always likes to have a creative project on the go, so when he found out about an interesting global meeting that took place here more than forty years ago, he jumped on the chance to make a documentary.

Dan started volunteering behind the scenes at Shaw and then joined the Film Fest committee. It was from those contacts that he came up with his topic. Over coffee with local resident, Denny Durocher, he discussed topics and found out about an interesting bit of history.

“He suggested a good story,” Dan said. “He was involved in a group fighting for solidarity and rights in Bolivia. I decided that was the story I wanted to tell.”

The activism spun off of a large global conference that took place in Port Alberni in 1975. As part of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, a body established to have the rights of all aboriginal peoples accepted, the Tsheshaht Band hosted a conference on their territory. There were 260 participants representing 19 countries and gained media attention.

“I decided to follow-up with my contacts and Mike Lewis was the central figure of it all,” Dan said.

When the leaders returned to their home countries, they were dedicated to continue to fight for the rights of their indigenous people. One of those was the first elected indigenous politician from Bolivia who formed an agreement to leave his three young daughters in Port Alberni while he continued his plight. While in Bolivia, he was imprisoned and his release became part of the campaign by local citizens. His daughters remained in Port Alberni for three years.

“There were a set of events but the real story is the activism that came later,” Dan said. “So, I have the story and Shaw has agreed to show it. I would also like to submit it to Film Fest to show it locally.”

Dan’s interest and desire to complete the project stems from multiple factors. He is an academic with a Ph.D in Political Science who taught at the University of Manitoba. He has published a book and expects to finish writing a novel.

“I am also a Lefty in terms of politics,” he said. “When I first came here I had nothing to do but apply for jobs and volunteer. I learned about the politics of the area and had a crash course in what the community was all about.”

Dan has actively been working on his film, including conducting interviews with those involved in the conference and shooting footage at pertinent locations. He has been in contact with the three Bolivian women who remained in Port Alberni in the 1970s, now grandmothers, and hopes to include them in the documentary.

What he is requiring now is assistance with the costs of preserving this piece of local history. He created a gofundme account and is on his way to reaching his goal. Anyone who would like to help can go here to donate.