Indigenous Cinema Favorites

Movies of indigenous peoples have always been a bit on the back burner of cinema. While some movies such as “Dances with Wolves” or “Last of the Mohicans” have garnered great fame, there are many that get little recognition by movie critics and movie goers. Native American focused movies are indeed in short supply, and often include inaccurate portrayals, but the ideas they take on in the modern era have wide-reaching themes such as family issues or cultural death.

In support of PWNA’s aim to help raise awareness about realities in Indian Country, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite films that portray indigenous cultures in a realistic, informative light.

The first movie is an old favorite of mine: “Smoke Signals.” This movie has a great many examples of native humor, as well as many other methods that indigenous cultures use to cope with difficult situations. Following Victor Joseph in his dealing with his father’s passing, the movie hits on many difficult subjects, but has as its heaviest theme family estrangement, something that is found in Native and non-Native American communities around the world.

Another favorite movie of mine is “Rhymes with Young Ghouls,” a 1970’s era film that occurs on a fictitious reservation and heavily involves the theme of Christian-run state schools and their efforts to integrate native children into mainstream society. With my own family having had a taste of this dark part of history, and many outside people having little to no insight on these old boarding schools, I find it important to make these situations known through cinema. While the story also has some supernatural elements, the realities of these schools and some of the dramatic situations people go through are depicted accurately.

To touch on one last movie, I think “Skins” is a moving portrayal of some of the situations encountered in indigenous (and other) communities. Following a local officer named Rudy Yellow Lodge on a fictional reservation, the movie was actually shot on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After a local incident involving a murder, and dealing with an alcoholic brother, Rudy steps out as a vigilante and sets the local ABC store on fire. While this movie deals with heavy themes of alcoholism and the consequences and stress it causes on the reservation, it gives the audience the experience of addiction and the bonds it can break in a family. This movie also shows the barriers that can be overcome by families dealing with these problems together – in any community.

I think indigenous-made movies today provide an insight into reservation realities, histories, and other parts of the dysfunction in modern day culture, and they are portrayed well. Not often feel-good films, they deal with the tougher issues that take place on the reservations, with colonization and assimilation into the modern world, and at the same time tell compelling stories complete with heroes, villains, vigilantes, and bystanders. Make your next movie night one of these Native American tales!

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April is National Garden Month

April is National Garden Month, and many of our partners are committed to supporting a healthier lifestyle through gardens and other grant-funded or community-based projects this month and year-round. For example, the New Hope House Shelter and Garden in Eagle Butte, South Dakota recently completed a PWNA canning class led by Inyan Eagle Elk and supported by Shelter Director Daniel Butcher and Therapeutic Garden Coordinator Austin Red Dog. In this class, participants learned to preserve the food that will be grown in the shelter’s garden later this summer.

The New Hope House Shelter & Garden is considerably new to gardening, just one year ago turning much of their open lot into a haven of raised garden beds for squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers, and more. The regard shown to Unci Maka (Mother Earth) has in the first harvest produced positive results for plants and people. Austin reflected on their first year. “The residents themselves really surprised me — when I was at ceremony, they really took to it. They were out there every morning checking on the plants, watering them, and making sure they were okay. I feel like the plants really gave them compassion, because the residents cared for them from the time they were seeds. They helped give the plants life to grow, and that’s what we really hoped would be part of the impact.”

“Medicinal is another aspect of the gardening. I see this happening with other tribes. Indigenous foods are powerful; we have buffalo berries that are a super food, wild grapes, rosehips, currants, and June berries. Some of these foods are becoming scarcer, and we want to make these plentiful.”

The first year of the New Hope Shelter garden was not without hiccups. They tried to grow turnips, which they now know have a 99% fail rate. They also know that temperature, zone, and elevation are factors that need to be considered for planting. Melons and corn, they said, “crashed – we need to plant earlier. The good news was that the beans, okra, cherry tomatoes did really well.”

Daniel, Austin and crew stay motivated knowing that “the learning and sharing of ideas with the community about food and aspects for our bodies is healthy both mentally and physically.” Daniel recently posted this garden video on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Austin is optimistic about the future. “With consistency, as long as someone is gardening, there are always people that want to learn.” He shared that the shelter’s location has helped catch the attention of community members, said that people walk by and ask about the plants and the shelter team gives them samples so they can taste the difference from what they may get at the store. Austin emphasizes, “If enough people grow their own food, show more respect for mother earth, recognize that everything — the weeds, plants, animals — plays a part, and take care of the plants, the plants will take care of us!”

Inyan also knows gardening is a critical factor in turning around the health implications plaguing tribes with poor food access. “Gardening is more important in native communities. People go to stores, shop for their food, money is exchanged for whatever food we choose, and we end up viewing food as a luxury as opposed to medicine that nourishes us.”

Although Inyan doesn’t plant a garden, he sees his role as sharing knowledge with others who want to learn. “The information belongs to all of us and sharing it — that’s my role.” Over the past year, Inyan has been leading our PWNA canning and cooking classes to better involve community cooks in healthier eating. “If only everyone realized how much work and love is attached to gardening, the connection to the land, preserving food, and practicing and partaking of the medicines. Our people invented those ways and many of those stories are gone, but as we get wiser with food, we will get those ways back.”

Inyan’s dream is that “everyone should be in the dirt — every spring, be up in the morning picking weeds and contributing, and training kids to grow food to feed themselves. My grandparents always talked about this, and it’s up to us to spark it. Indigenous people feeding each other and eating with each other — those are our ways.”

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April is National Pet Month

Spring brings more than great weather – across the U.K. and the U.S., this is the season of pets! National Pet Month is celebrated in April in the U.K. and until the end of May in the U.S., and is a chance to renew our efforts to properly care for our four-legged friends.

Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR) is Partnership with Native Americans’ (PWNA) animal services program, which works with reservation partners around the country to improve the lives of injured and orphaned animals and to educate reservation communities on proper care of pets. RAR services support spay and neuter clinics; rescue, rehabilitation and placement of animals through foster care; community education; and ultimately finding forever homes for stray animals.

In many tribal communities, stray animals are a common sight, which makes population management a necessary undertaking. But as it turns out, there are health benefits to these efforts as well. A 2013 Banfield report on pet health found that animals who get spayed or neutered have longer lifespans than those who do not.

In 2017, generous RAR donors made it possible to help reservation partners feed and care for stray animals, ensuring healthier animals and communities. The Oglala Pet Project (OPP) is one of the partners that received a RAR spay/neuter grant, and the impact is being felt across the Pine Ridge Reservation. As they shared, “We successfully spayed or neutered 61 animals from our start of this grant. This included 33 dog spays, 13 dog neuters, 8 cat spays and 7 cat neuters.” This work, they explained, prevented more than 1 million kittens and over 700,000 puppies from being born without a home.

Beyond attending to stray animals, OPP also offered services to community members whose animals they knew had multiple litters in the past. “We had owners contact us to surrender the puppies that their dogs just had. We agreed to take the puppies into our adoption program, and the owners agreed to take their dogs to the vet to be spayed.”

Native communities have been proactively tackling the homeless pet population for years and now are able to help more animals through support from RAR and its donors. This year, celebrate National Pet Month by getting your own pet spayed or neutered, ensuring they enjoy a long, tail-wagging life!

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Recently in Native News

Continuing our goal of keeping you informed of Native American news and culture from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of March. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

There’s Never Been a Native American Congresswoman. That Could Change in 2018. via The New York Times

  • “When Deb Haaland was a child, she would rise early on this state’s sun-beaten tribal land, sling a water jar around her waist and climb the mesa overlooking her pueblo. It was as high as she ever thought she would go. Now, she is among a historic number of Native American women running for elective office. None has ever served in Congress, but that could change this year if Ms. Haaland wins.”

Biggest Fake Native American Art Conspiracy Revealed via National Geographic

  • “The Zuni people rely heavily on hard-won earnings from handmade jewelry and crafts. The tourism department of Zuni Pueblo estimates that 80 percent of working adults there make arts and crafts for sale. Yet it’s getting harder and harder for them to make a living.”

Branch returns to her Navajo roots via Harvard Law Today

  • “That confusion as to why the world changed when you crossed the Navajo Nation boundary line was a driving question for my youth and my life,” says Branch. It propelled her to study law and policy. And three years ago, at age 36, it led her to become Attorney General of the Navajo Nation.”

Navajo Rug Gallery Weaves Ancient Art And New Technology Together With Bitcoin via Forbes

  • “Navajo weavers today are carrying on a 300-year-old tradition of weaving blankets and rugs. Their unique upright loom uses a traditional weaving technique that cannot be mechanized. The loom is warped with one continuous wool thread and the weft is woven through it, one thread at a time. “It is a very time consuming and meticulous process,” Getzwiller explains, “Small rugs can take a full week to weave, while larger Navajo rugs can take years to complete.”
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Public Interest Registry: A Vital Resource for Nonprofits

Throughout the United States and the global community, nonprofits are entrusted by donors with a special responsibility to serve those in need and support positive social change. Transparency, independent financial audits, special review committees at the Board level, and independent evaluations by outside organizations such as the BBB Wise Giving Alliance all support this important mandate of nonprofits.

Another vital resource benefiting all nonprofits is the Public Interest Registry (PIR). Aptly named, this organization is the operator of .org, .ngo and .ong domains, and through these platforms keeps global communities open, connected and supporting the public interest.

For Internet users around the world, .org has become synonymous with nonprofit organizations, thanks to PIR. With a registered .org domain, nonprofits can immediately demonstrate legitimacy and trustworthiness to donors, increase confidence about giving decisions, and attract more support for their mission.

During the holidays, Public Interest Registry hosted the #ORGinAction social contest. This exciting contest provided U.S. nonprofits a chance to submit compelling images showing how their work is making a difference at local levels. PWNA entered with our PBS segment on gardening and nutrition training as a solution to food insecurity in Native communities, and we were honored to have PWNA selected as the winner.

Recently, I was invited by Public Interest Registry to share more about our organization, our biggest challenge, and our direction over the next 5-10 years. You can read my thoughts on these and other questions in the Q&A on the PIR blog.

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4D Strong Native Women Cohort

A strong leader can bring out the greatness in those around them, change a community for the better, and help others see the possibilities of the future. At Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), we believe that developing the abilities of emerging leaders who want to make a greater impact on the reservations is an integral part of building strong, self-sufficient Native American communities.

Our 4 Directions Development Program (4D) helps develop grassroots leaders throughout the Native communities PWNA serves. These emerging leaders have the opportunity to take part in a six-month training program that includes personal and professional development, setting of self-identified goals, and working work with an advisor-mentor, PWNA staff and other resources to reach those goals.

Skill-building such as networking and public speaking can translate into the ability to organize their community or mobilize workgroups, effectively communicate needed information, and more confidently collaborate with and lead those around them. The participants who graduate from the 4D program are better equipped to empower others within their communities, pave the way for locally-driven change and help the tribes into the future they want.

This fall PWNA will launch its first all-women cohort, known as 4D Strong Native Women. The program is supported by PepsiCo Foundation grants for girls and women, which aim at helping 1.5 million women be successful in the workplace and benefiting 12.5 million women around the world. In addition to providing funding for the Strong Native Women cohort, members of the Native American employee resource workgroup known as PepsiCo RISE will volunteer as mentor-advisors for the 4D participants (along with continuing to mentor many of our AIEF scholarship students). PepsiCo employees who are members of RISE share an interest in Native American culture, history and current issues.

The 4D Strong Native American Women cohort will begin October 2018 and conclude in March 2019. Recruitment for participants will begin soon for the program, which will take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Federal Recognition for Virginia Tribes

The year was 1607. The location was Jamestown. The people were indigenous, and life was about to change.

For up to 22,000 years pre-contact by the Europeans, the Chickahominy and other Algonguian and Powhatan tribes inhabited what we now know as Virginia. To put it simply, when John Smith arrived, Pocahontas was already there.

The first British settlers established the Virginia Colony as a permanent residence in 1607. The Pilgrims followed in 1620 to Virginia and Massachusetts. After 70 years and still unable to survive on their own, the British looked to the tribes for protection, and the tribes gave it. In 1677, the Chickahominy and several other tribes signed a peace treaty pledging fidelity to the British Crown and committing up to 500 bowmen should the Spanish attack the settlers. Some 111 years later in 1788, the state of Virginia was established.

Yet this history pre-dating even John Smith was not enough for the tribes to gain federal recognition as “tribes,” with all the rights and benefits that confers in the U.S. Instead, in 2015, more than 400 years after their ancestors greeted John Smith, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe was federally recognized – the first Virginia tribe to attain this status.

Some Virginia tribes such as the Chickahominy worked nearly 20 years to establish all the criteria deemed necessary by the U.S. government for federal recognition. For some Virginia tribes, the road to recognition was even longer.

The Rappahannock Tribe incorporated in 1921 to solidify their tribal government and begin their work toward state and federal recognition. The tribe was state-recognized on March 25, 1983. Their federal work, started in 1921 by Chief George Nelson, was reactivated in 1996 and continued through 2017 – all told a 96-year journey. Today the Rappahannock Tribe is led by Chief G. Anne Richardson, who was elected in 1998 and is the first woman to lead the tribe since the 1700s.

At last on Jan. 11 this year, President Trump signed into law the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, at once recognizing the Rappahannock, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Monacan and Nansemond tribes as sovereign nations and bringing the count of federally-recognized tribes to 573.

Over the next four years, these six Virginia tribes are entitled to an estimated $67 million in federal assistance for education, health care and housing. Other rights and benefits also confer with federal recognition. If the tribes request it, the Department of the Interior can take their lands into trust for the benefit of the tribes’ 4,400 members. This would not affect their hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering or water rights. Gaming operations, however, remain prohibited.

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Recently in Native News

Pursuant to our goal of helping you remain informed of the top news stories from Native American culture from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of February. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Giving Mountains Back Their Indigenous Names via Outside Magazine

  • “Last September, a 29-year-old Navajo climber named Len Necefer posted a photo of a young woman named Monserrat A Matehuala standing on the summit of Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s best known 14ers. What was significant was not that she summited—hundreds do each year. It was the location in the geotag that accompanied the post: Neníisótoyóú’u, the mountain’s Arapaho name.”

Harvard University’s first tenured Native American studies professor gets to work via The Daily Pennsylvanian

  • “Harvard University has hired its first tenured Native American studies professor,,, Philip J. Deloria started teaching in January of this year, transferring to Harvard from his former position in the American Studies department at the University of Michigan. Harvard History Department Chair Daniel L. Smail called Deloria “the leading — I was gonna say one of the leading, but he’s really the best — historian of Native Americans active today,” in a statement to the Crimson.”

This Native American tribe is reviving rural Oklahoma’s economy via The Week

  • “The Quapaw Cattle Company is the latest in a string of tribally owned and operated businesses that provide jobs to both tribal and nontribal citizens in Oklahoma. All total, tribes contribute more than $10 billion to the state’s economy.”

Tribal Leaders: Infrastructure Bill Should Include Indian Country Priorities via NPR

  • “Native American leaders are once again pushing for a seat at the decision-making table, saying this week that tribal nations have been overlooked for “too often and too long.”

 

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The Impact of Radio on Tribal Communities

On February 13, the world celebrated the lasting impact of the radio. Invented in the early 1890s, the use of radio waves to send signals has shaped everything from how we consume media to how we conduct disaster response. Although the inventor is still up for debate – Tesla or Marconi? – radio’s usefulness will never be in question, which is why every year we happily celebrate World Radio Day.

The holiday originated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), after originally being proposed by Spain. The first World Radio Day took place on November 3, 2011, and because the Olympics are being held this year, the focus of 2018’s holiday will be “Radio and Sports,” with particular attention given to radio as a means of civic participation for all humanity.

For much of Indian Country, radio is the enduring medium that connects tribal communities and citizens. Many Native Americans still await the capacity to cross the “digital divide,” or the lack of access to the internet within their own homes and communities, and radio is the lifeblood of news and connection. Native radio stations also help keep Native languages alive.

In 2009, radio host Deb Reger created the syndicated radio show “Moccasin Tracks,” which continues today as a forum for under-served people and communities to tell their stories. While Reger does not claim Native ancestry herself, she wanted to create a show to feature the stories and music of Native peoples. Her weekly guests hail from many different Native backgrounds and heritages, and the music and live performances on her show are by Native artists.

Hopi radio station KUYI, 88.1 in Northern Arizona functions as a source of connection and entertainment, but also as the emergency notification service for the residents. When a wildfire occurs, or winter brings icy roads, most hear about it first on the radio. During severe flooding in 2009 that wiped out plumbing for nearly one-third of the community, the radio station broadcasted daily basis where those affected could find clean water and functional bathrooms. And in 2010, when a snowstorm rocked the reservation, the Hopi radio station let community members know the location of food being air-dropped by the National Guard.

In Barrow, Alaska, seven villages of the Iñupiat tribe rely on radio as their source of news, weather, sports, and spirituality. KBRW station in Barrow is the only radio station for roughly 94,000 square miles, and the programming reflects the needs of the area, with much of the broadcast in both English and the Iñupiat language, as well as spiritual programming that speaks to the Iñupiat beliefs.

The radio program “Native America Calling” is a nationwide electronic forum connecting public radio stations, Internet and listeners from all across the country. They host Native guests and discuss news impacting Native tribes and peoples, to improve quality of life for Native Americans.

Radio remains an incredibly important tool for tribal communities, connecting them locally and nationally and providing a reliable social lifeline even in the most remote of communities.

Join PWNA as we celebrate World Radio Day, and praise and support radio stations on Native lands for their integral and vital contributions to Native communities.

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2018 Winter Olympics & Native American Athletes

Every two years, countries converge on the selected host city and Olympians compete for the gold. The 2018 Winter Olympics are fast approaching (Feb. 9-25) and will be hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Although my research indicates there are no Native American athletes representing the USA this year, there are several First Nations members representing Canada in the 2018 games, and even as these athletes prepare to compete against the best in the world, other athletes are hard at work training for their chance in the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

In a previous PWNA blog after the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, we celebrated three Indigenous athletes. Today we provide an update on these athletes and what they’re doing as the 2018 winter games approach.

  • Ashton Locklear, Lumbee, was one of three alternates on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic team in 2016. Her teammates stayed healthy throughout the games while she encouraged them, the team earning 4 Golds, 4 Silvers, and a Bronze Medal. Returning home, Locklear hit the gym and competed through the 2017 World Championship finals. In February 2017, Locklear became a Nike N7 Ambassador, one of the “…outstanding Native American and Aboriginal athletes who embody the power and spirit of N7, believe in the power of sport and encourage those around them to do the same.” During the Montreal World finals, an unfortunate shoulder injury required surgery. Recovery and rehabilitation for an injured athlete is equally as grueling as training when healthy, but Ashton’s goal remains the same: to complete at the highest level and earn her spot for the 2020 Summer Olympics!
  • Rickie Fowler, Navajo, was one of four golfers representing the U.S. Men’s Golf Team in 2016. He tied for 37th place out of 60 golfers worldwide and one of his teammates took home the Bronze Medal. During his Rio experience, Fowler said, “Whenever you see someone, you know they’re the best at what they do from their country. It’s inspiring.” Since returning from Rio, Fowler remains on the PGA Tour, competing in more than 45 tournaments and earning an Official World Golf Ranking of 7.
  • Jaimie Thibeault, T’Sou-ke Nation, was a member of the Canadian Women’s Volleyball team in 2016. The opportunity to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics ended in a three-match sweep against Puerto Rico during an Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Similar to Locklear and Fowler, Thibeault returned to her team in Italy to finish the season. For professional volleyball players, many of their opportunities exist outside of their home countries, and upon her summer return to Canada, Thibeault made the difficult decision to retire. Yet, when a club from Indonesia knocked on her door in December 2016, she decided she would return for a short season in a warm climate – celebrating a last chance on her terms. Jaimie now applies the sport that earned her a full-ride college scholarship to the University of Montana, and her career as a volleyball pro, as a catalyst to encourage youth to stay active and empowered through sports.

Being an athlete on any level requires commitment and balance. These athletes and all those representing tribal nations, schools, clubs and even countries give us the chance to cheer each other on in the sports we love – and can lose our voices over!

Help us cheer on our northern First Nation neighbors as they compete at the top of their game in the 2018 Winter Olympics:

  • Spencer O’Brien-Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation (Women’s Snowboarding) and N7 Ambassador
  • Jesse Cockney-Inuvialuk, Yellowknife Northwest Territories (Men’s Skiing)
  • Brigette Lacquette- Métis (Women’s Hockey)
  • Rene Bourque- Métis (Men’s Hockey)
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