Bee Nation

The First Ever First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee in Canada

Students in Saskatchewan compete in the first province-wide First Nations Spelling Bee, trying to make their way to the national championship. There's only one way to spell success but many ways to define it in this emotional and captivating film.

William Kaysaywaysemat III from Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Saskatchewan competes at his first Spelling Bee of Canada championship in Toronto

William Kaysaywaysemat III from Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Saskatchewan competes at his first Spelling Bee of Canada championship in Toronto

The Film

Bee Nation is a heart-warming and inspiring film that transcends stereotypes often associated with Canada’s First Nations people. It is set within the framework of the first-ever First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee in Canada. Out on the breathy landscapes of Saskatchewan Reserves, we meet students, parents and educators in the weeks leading up to the spelling bee. We go ice fishing on a school outing, we revel in a dance at a powwow, we see best friends study together and we hover in the excitement as the day draws nearer. We see the hardships our characters face but we also feel the love and support that exists within the family home. We are drawn in by the intimacy of family life on the reserve set against a backdrop of vast and beautiful landscapes. And as we spend time with the children who will compete, we find ourselves investing in them, cheering for them and wanting them to succeed.

The future of our children is common ground we can all agree is paramount to a better world. Bee Nation explores that common ground in a First Nations context and asks us to shed our stereotypes in doing so.



The Director


Lana Šlezić

Lana Šlezić is an award winning Canadian photographer and filmmaker who has lived and worked all over the world. Lana grew up in Port Credit, Ontario. From 2004 to 2006 Lana spent two years documenting the lives of women across Afghanistan. She authored the internationally acclaimed book Forsaken which won numerous awards and was selected in 2008 by American Photo Magazine as one of the Top Ten photo books of that year. Among other awards, she also won a World Press Photo award for her portrait series on Afghan women entitled A Window Inside. Lana has lived in India, Turkey, Afghanistan and the UAE and has a body of photographic work that has been published globally including National Geographic, TIME, Newsweek, Der Spiegel, Macleans, The Walrus and many more. Her work has also been exhibited internationally.

More recently, Lana has turned her storytelling eye to film and has produced, directed and/or shot several commercial works and short documentaries, including Breaking Caste, Serhiy’s Story and The Little Things. Her latest short film Andy Barrie: The Voice is a candid portrait of former CBC radio host Andy Barrie’s struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and was featured at the 2016 Hot Docs Film Festival. Bee Nation is Lana’s first feature length documentary film and has been selected as the opening night film for the 2017 Hot Docs Film Festival.

The Children of Bee Nation


William Kaysaywaysemat

Kahkewistahaw First Nation Reserve, Saskatchewan

William Kaysaywaysemat III is 9 years old and from Kahkewistahaw First Nation. He attends the Chief Kakewistahaw Community School where he is in the fourth grade. William is an ambitious child having achieved so many accomplishments already. He excels academically in all areas with math being his favourite subject. He is very active in sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball, golf and softball. His favourite sport is hockey and he just completed his fourth season.

William is also active in his culture. He has been dancing powwow since he was 3 years old. During the Summer, he travels to powwows with his family almost every weekend. In 2014-2015 season, he was the Little Warrior for his own First Nation, Kahkewistahaw. In 2015-2016 season, he was the Little Warrior for the Treaty 4 territory. This was a huge honor and responsibility as he was given the opportunity to represent his First Nation as well as Treaty 4 at all the powwows he attended. 2016 was a memorable one for William.


Makayla Cannepotato

Onion Lake First Nation Reserve, Saskatchewan

Makayla Cannepotato lives in Onion Lake Cree Nation Reserve. She is 12 years old and is in grade 6 at Chief Taylor Elementary School. She has a little sister and an older brother. Her hobbies are playing sports and spending time with friends. She also loves to read and competes regularly at cross country and track and field events.


Alexander Johansson (Xander)

Saulteaux Cree Nation Reserve, Saskatchewan

Alexander Johansson, affectionately known as Xander, is thirteen years old. His parents are Toy Johansson and Joanne Moccasin. Xander was born in North Battleford, SK but later moved to Saulteaux First Nation, Saskatchewan. He attends Saulteaux Heritage School. Xander likes building fires (in their fire pit), reading books (if they're interesting), cleaning up and sometimes participating in sports and building things. His favourite thing to do is play video games because he started playing games when he was little and has been playing ever since. Xander will soon finish grade eight at Saulteaux Heritage school and then is off to high school.


Thomas Isbister

Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation Reserve, Saskatchewan

Thomas Edward Dale Isbister hails from Ahtahkakoop reserve in Saskatchewan. He is 


Savannah Nicks and Josie Singer

Big River First Nation Reserve, Saskatchewan

Savannah and Josie Singer...


The Spelling Bee