NAPT recently traveled to the Northwest to film the 24th Annual Canoe Journey. We started at 6 a.m. documenting the launch from Tulalip. This amazing event will be part of the Growing Native series NAPT is producing for PBS.
Recently, I was honored to participate in Native Public Media's Digital Journalism and Storytelling Course. Literally, at the same time I was in Santa Fe for the Digital Journalism and Storytelling Course, I was working to order the equipment for training of Ponca youth in Oklahoma and Nebraska, so they could tell stories about the importance of home. NAPT is also proud of the role they played in funding five Native youth to participate in the 7th Annual Superfly Filmmaking Experience.
With all these different programs cropping up that are training Native youth how to share their stories through different forms of media, I want to make sure we are learning from one another.
The first step is to identify different programs. I will keep updating this list. If you know of a program that you don't see listed here, please send me a message or add a comment to this post:
Victoria Blackie is Dineh/Navajo and she won "Debut Artist of the Year" from the Native American Music Awards in 2010. Victoria sings country music and her style is similar to country-music legend Patsy Cline. In 2002, Victoria performed at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Victoria started performing at the age of 8 and she continues to work toward her goal of breaking into the Nashville music scene. Victoria Blackie is a rising star and her first album Wanted Man has won various music awards.
Victoria has accomplished a lot of notoriety as an Independent recording artist and she is anticipating the release of her second album. Her second project pushed her as a song writer and hopes to continue her success as a recording artist.
Recently, Production Assistant Tobias Grant (Omaha) talked with Victoria after her performance on Stage 49 during the Gathering of Nations Powwow. Tobias asked Victoria about her music, her experience as a country music singer and her song: Remember America.
I was honored to sit on the panel, “BUILDING COMMUNITY AWARENESS THROUGH LONG FORM DOCUMENTARIES” at the AFI SilverDocs Festival this year.Moderated by Doug McKenney, Executive Producer of CPB’s Public Awareness Initiative, the panel also included Sandy St. Louis, Project Manager for Frontline’s Dropout Nation, Jacquie Jones, Executive Director of the National Black Programming Consortium and Executive Producer of DC Met: Life Inside School Reform and Tanishia Williams-Minor, the high school principal featured in DC Met. The conversation centered on public media’s multi-year initiative, American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, designed to help communities across the country address the high school dropout crisis.
After presenting several clips from my film, Up Heartbreak Hill, which chronicles the senior year of three Navajo high school students, I spoke about my experience in Navajo, New Mexico.About 1,600 people presently live in the town – and 30% have high school diplomas.Thomas, Tamara and Gabby – the three kids whose stories I followed – all have a strong desire to go on to college and I think this is key to their success in high school.For them, graduating is a necessary step to a larger goal and it is this long-term aim that drives them and sets them apart from many of their peers.
Still, the challenges facing them and their classmates are numerous.They are largely first generation college students and while their families are supportive they are often lacking crucial information and resources to help guide their children through what can be an overwhelming process – one that involves not just submitting college applications but applying for scholarships and financial aide, as well.Finding the time and money to visit college campuses is also difficult and students often have limited information – and sometimes misinformation – about the options available to them.
The Navajo community is also plagued by the legacy of BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) schools, which in many instances cut students’ hair and forbade them from speaking their native language.The teachers and staff at Navajo Pine High School are wonderful and profoundly dedicated to their students – in many cases going well above and beyond their duties to ensure their success – but the memories of the BIA schools are deeply ingrained and one of the many scars they left is a mistrust of the education system.
Many of the obstacles facing students on the reservation are not unique; my fellow panelists discussed a number of the same issues that also affected the schools they were working with.And all agreed that setting students on a long-term trajectory – whether the end goal was trade school, the military, community college or university – was key to their successful completion of high school.The hope with all of our films is to increase awareness and understanding about the problems that exist and to provide opportunities for students, parents, educators and community members to come together to discuss ways of addressing them.POV, which will broadcast Up Heartbreak Hill later this month, has created a discussion guide and lesson plans, which can be used by schools, libraries, youth groups and community organizations.
Thanks to SilverDocs, Doug, Sandy, Jacquie, Tanishia and everyone who attended the panel for helping to facilitate such an important conversation.
The study reports results of American Indian and Alaska Native students grades 4 and 8 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), as well as the results of a special survey of American Indian and Alaska Native students, their teachers, and their school administrators—focusing on Native language and culture related to the education of American Indian and Alaska Native students.
Here are some highlights from the report: • American Indian and Alaska Native students lag behind other racial/ethnic groups in mathematics in both grades 4 and 8. And, the mathematics score gap between non-Native and Native students is larger than in 2005.
• American Indian and Alaska Native students lose ground in comparison to Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, and Hispanic peers in reading. There was no significant change in 2011 in average reading scores for American Indian and Alaska Native students compared to 2005 or 2009.
• While reading scores in 2011 did not change significantly for American Indian and Alaska Native fourth graders who were eligible for the National Student Lunch Program (NSLP) or not eligible, the reading score in 2011 for American Indian and Alaska Native eighth graders who were not eligible was higher than the score in 2005. In 2011, 72 percent of Native fourth graders and 66 percent of Native eighth graders participating in the 2011 reading assessment were eligible for NSLP—which is higher than the percentages in 2005 (65 and 60 percent respectively).
• Almost half of American Indian and Alaska Native students attend schools in rural locations. Most Native students attend low-density public schools. (Low density schools are where less than 25 percent of the students are American Indian/Alaska Native.)
• Regarding their education plans, American Indian and Alaska Native eighth-grade students were asked how often they talked to a family member, teacher, or school counselor about what classes to take in high school or about what they wanted to do after high school. The percentages of students who spoke to someone two or more times during the eighth grade ranged from 69 percent for students attending high-density schools (more than 25 percent of the students are American Indian/Alaska Native) to 75 percent for students attending low-density schools (less than 25 percent of the students are American Indian/Alaska Native). About one-third of Native eighth graders talked to a teacher and 16 to 18 percent talked to a school counselor two or more times about their education plans in and after high school. Approximately 60 percent of Native eighth-grade students reported NEVER talking to a school counselor about their future plans.
• Fifty-seven percent of Native eighth-graders in high-density and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, and 63 percent in low-density schools plan to go to college full-time.
You can make a difference! Be the catalyst for change. Learn more about the American Graduate initiative at www.americangraduate.org.
See how NAPT is helping to decrease the achievement gap and encouraging students to get their high school diploma in Indian Country. Visit www.nativetelecom.org/amgrad today!
The National Indian Education Study (NIES) is designed to describe the condition of education for American Indian and Alaska Native students in the U.S. The study was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the request of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Indian Education (OIE).
We have just started to using tumblr, but have already found some items that others should keep in mind. Beyond the normal social media best practices of keeping it short and using video and engaging images when available, we've found a few areas to keep in mind specifically when talking about tumblr.com
Seek out like-minded bloggers and then follow them and then comment on and repost blogs that are of interest to you and your audiences.
Make sure to add relavant tags.
Photo albums work really well as a single post.
Add links to your text and images.
Use the built-in scheudler to space out your posts, but not too far apart as two engaging posts back-to-back can cause a buzz around the other.
As we learn more, we'll share.
If you are on tumblr, please feel free to comment with other suggestions and follow us
“The purpose of this funding is to increase the diversity of voices available to PBS viewers,” says NAPT Executive Director Shirley K. Sneve (Rosebud Sioux). “We encourage Native Americans to take on significant creative leadership roles, such as director, producer and editor. We want Native voices to have creative control, and not just in an advisory capacity.”
Across the Creek Producer: Jon Cournoyer (Rosebud Sioux) Broken by the legacy of colonialism, the Lakota Tribes struggle for restoration, healing and rebuilding. This film focuses on mostly the elder generation and their reflections on the youth, specifically to family structure, spirituality and language to help reclaim their stories, values and visions for the future.
Apache Scouts: An Untold Story Producers: Velma Craig (Diné) and Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo) The U.S. Army had little to no success subduing Apache bands of the Southwest, until White Mountain Apaches enlisted as Army Scouts. This film explores the complex histories of the Scouts, their relation to Geronimo and to securing the White Mountain Apache homeland.
Finding Refuge Producers: Torsten Kjellstand, Rob Finch, Jamie Francis, and Isabella Blatchford (Supiaq/Alutiiq, Inupiaq) The efforts of one dying woman to preserve her Native culture don’t end when she passes, but prompts a renewal in finding pride in that culture. She confronts the violent event over two centuries ago that began the destruction of her people and the shame that colonialism created.
Kivalina People Producer: Gina Abatemarco This film is an intimate and unique look into the public and private lives of one of America’s last Indigenous cultures trying to survive in the modern Arctic, where struggles of poverty, climate change, and culture are inextricably intertwined.
The Mayor of Shiprock Producer: Ramona Emerson (Diné) In the town of Shiprock, N.M., the harsh realities of Reservation life and the beautiful, reddened landscape of the rock formations build stories of survival and existence. Poverty and corruption have long been a struggle in the community and as the Navajo Nation looks for leadership, it is met with scandal. To make a change, a young group of men and women are taking back their community—led by 21-year-old Graham Beyale. This is the story of how one will make a difference and inspire a generation of leaders to make changes in their own communities.
Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian Producers: Sydney Beane (Flandreau Santee Sioux) and John Whitehead This documentary follows Kate Beane, a young Dakota women, as she examines the extraordinary life of her celebrated relative, Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa). Biography and journey come together as Kate traces Eastman’s path—from traditional Dakota boyhood, through education at Dartmouth College, and in later roles as physician, author, lecturer, and Native American advocate.
Rising Voices/Hothaninpi Producer: Wilhelm Meya This is the story of five young Lakotas who are on a journey to learn their language—representing a new generation transforming their world in the 21st century. Five short films by Lakota filmmakers will be integrated into 90-minute anchor film. Also, regional Native American filmmakers partnered with PBS stations will develop additional short films about each region’s Native American language.
Spirit in Glass Producer: Penny Phillips A celebration of Native American Plateau art and culture, the film emphasizes the origin and remarkable survival of the art form and culture as experienced by Native Plateau bead artists.
Yellow Fever Producer: Sophie Rousmaniere Tina Garnanez, a young Navajo woman, begins a personal investigation into the history of the Navajo Uranium Boom, examining its lasting impacts and the potential for new mining in the area. Looking at the cost of cheap energy and the future of the industry, Tina becomes an advocate, lobbyist, and a vocal proponent for environmental justice.
Young Lakota Producers: Marion Lipschutz, Rose Rosenblatt, and Heather Rae (Cherokee) This series of five short videos features leaders addressing Native American women’s health. It is an online complement to the documentary Young Lakota to be broadcast on “Independent Lens” in 2013. Distributed electronically, the videos are particularly relevant to the contemporary experience of young people, girls and women in Indian Country. Funds will be used for community engagement.
We Breathe Again Producer: Evon Peter (Neetsaii Gwich’in) One of the most difficult and tragic issues Alaska Native communities face today is suicide—with a rate six times the national average. This feature-length documentary is the story of four Alaska Natives wrestling with the impacts of suicide and illuminating a path towards healing.
About NAPT Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc. (NAPT), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) which receives major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, shares Native stories with the world through support of the creation, promotion and distribution of Native media. Founded in 1977, through various media—Public Television, Public Radio and the Internet—NAPT brings awareness of Indian and Alaska Native issues. NAPT operates VisionMaker, the premier source for quality Native American educational and home videos. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media—to be the next generation of storytellers. NAPT is located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. NAPT offers student employment, internships and fellowships. Reaching the general public and the global market is the ultimate goal for the dissemination of Native-produced media.
I watched a filmed called "Sip'ohi- El Lugar Del Mansdure" directed by Sebastian Lingiardi. It was a film about the Wichi Tribe in Argentina. The opening of the film we see a close up of someone trying to create a fire. It goes into this great creation story, oral traditions in the tribe. The main character is, Gustavo, a member of the tribe who has left the city life to go back home, or as we Natives in the US would say, “going back to the rez.” What drew me into the film within the first few frames was the language. It was a cross between Spanish and Navajo. It was weird. There were very similar glottal stops and intonation that the Navajo Language has, but I couldn’t figure out any of the words and it sounded like Spanish at the same time, but it wasn’t Spanish (I know because I asked some Spanish speaking audience members.)
As the film went on, I was “duped” into thinking that the filmmaker was Gustavo. I didn’t find out until the Q&A session that the filmmaker was not from the Wichi tribe and is simply (or not simply) a documentary filmmaker. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the filmmaker and the very traditional content that he captured within the Wichi Tribe. I mean, this has been done for decades! Outsiders, coming into Native Communities, filming them and galavanting off with a film they call their own letting people watch it all over the world. This could be seen as an objectification and exploitation of Indigenous people. But I wanted to keep an open mind, so I kept listening to the questions and answers between the audience and the director.
As people talked and asked questions, it was revealed that Sebastian worked closely in collaboration with Gustavo to make the film. He also provided some training and guidance for people of the Wichi Tribe to develop their own media. In fact the Wichi Tribe did produce a film that has been seen in different venues (I need to find out more about this so stay tuned). Once I heard this, I felt that Sebastian was perhaps doing something good and that I could unclench my fists for the moment.
I rose my hand to speak and commended Sebastian and reminded all filmmakers that if they are going to go into someone else’s space, they must not just take. As in a lot of Native cultures, you must give an offering or give something in exchange if you take something from someone or something. I reminded the filmmakers that Indigenous people have stories to tell that identify us and they are important, sacred stories, not ones to be objectified and used as “art.” I liked the fact that Sebastian respected the people of the Wichi tribe enough to empower them with the technology and skills to start telling their own stories with their own voice using media.
I reminded the filmmakers that you must have respect for your content. A few people actually came up to me after the session and thanked me for reminding them about giving back and thanked me for saying what I did. But does that make it okay for others to go into Indigenous communities and film? I would argue that it is up to the responsibility of the filmmaker, but not all filmmakers are responsible. And it was very evident at a screening the next day.
So the next day we watch a film called, “The Creation as we Saw It” directed by Ben Rivers as a work in progress. It was the first showing of the morning, then we saw Moana directed by Robert and Frances Flaherty which was presented by their great grandson, Sami van Ingen (he has some interesting stories on the Flaherty family and seminar which was awesome to hear about over lunch....) Anyway, I watched Ben River’s film and then went to the question and answer session. Now maybe it was the gruelling schedule we have been on, taking in up to 9-15 films a day that I didn’t catch this until later, but something was very disturbing about this film.
The film is a documentary style story with the Indigenous people of The Vanuatu Republic. It is scenery of the tribe and the people with a voice over of their oral legends and creation stories about how humans and pigs came to be what and who they are. It reminded me of Navajo creation stories of how certain animals came to be. It was a well made film, very beautiful cinematography. I went to the question and answer session and someone asked the Ben (born in Somerset, England) why he made the film. His answer was, “We won free plane tickets and decided to go to The Vanuatu Republic.” My 5 hour delayed response to this was, “WTH?” Not to mention the title of the film is not empowering to the Indigenous people at all, “The Creation as We Saw it.” REALLY!?!?
I wish I would have responded to his disregard and objectivity of the Native people of The Vanuatu Republic. I would expect more of an explanation of an “artist” about his work. Indigenous people’s lives are not “art” to be shown on screen that outsiders can take credit for. The stories that the Vanuatu people were telling are a part of who they are, a part of their culture and traditions and to see a filmmaker blatantly take their stories and show it as an experimental, art, documentary or work in progress made me feel quite sad. He did mention that the Indigenous people were collaborative and the chief worked with him for the creation film, but does that make it okay if he’s showing their stories as his own story all over the world after he won plane tickets? I didn’t get a sense of any kind of interest or emotional connection between the filmmaker and the content other than, this is my art, take it or leave it. This could be an assumption. If I get the chance to speak to the director of this film this is something I will surely ask him about, but right now I think I would be too emotional to carry on a logical and decent conversation about this film with him.
I know there are people out there who have great intentions when filming other cultures but the important thing to remember is RESPECT. You can’t take a story from another culture and call it your own or call it art in the objective, disrepectful sense. Filmmakers have a certain obligation and responsibility when it comes to media. Media is influential. You can make a person laugh, cry, get angry, get happy all with a story on screen. But a filmmaker must also realize that there are stories out there that are not for you to tell.
When we watch films, we want to be taken to another place, another time, we want to live vicariously through someone else's experience. We want to feel the catharsis that allows us to briefly disseminate our feelings out of our bodies. This can be cleansing, enlightening, inspiring, frustrating or even vindicating.
But what is truth when we watch a film? As Native American’s we can probably agree that for the most part, how “Natives” are represented in film has been off for the past century. But what is real? Who has the right to tell a story about a certain subject? How can a filmmaker be trusted with content? What constitutes entertainment vs. educational media? You are the audience. It is important to watch media with an open mind and active participation, especially when it comes to “non-fiction” based movies.
At the Flaherty film seminar, it has already been an interesting 36 hours. I’ve met scholars, filmmakers, educators, programmers and producers from all over the world. I’m surrounded by people who are passionate about making documentary films and who tirelessly devote their lives to tell a story that is real and important to them. Last night I watched some of my fellow peer's excerpts from their films, some completed and some works in progress. I saw films about death, amputees, relationships, defiance, Buddhism, immigration, Natives losing land, amongst many other films about social and political issues. Despite my tiredness I was tuned in. Tuned into the true reality media, and no I’m not talking the Kardashians.
In a discussion this morning, we talked about the truthfulness of film. What is truth and at what point can we take every movie, cut for cut? As an editor, it is very easy to turn the truth into a finely chiseled, well told story and it is very easy to throw the real “truth” on the cutting room floor. Films are there for you to be entertained as well as to be informed. With this seminar’s theme “Open Wounds,” we’ve visited some very uncomfortable issues surrounding humans. Film can be a way to reopen past wounds in order to relive our past, deal with our past and perhaps accept our past and move on. Film can be our own personal therapy not only for the filmmaker, but for the active audience member as well.
I was able to sit and have an intimate one-on-one conversation with an amazing documentary filmmaker tonight. Ms. Lourdes Portillo has made many films about social justice issues and has been very prominent in the Latino Filmmaking community for many years (See Photo Below). She has recieved many awards and praises but what was I enjoyed about Ms. Portillo is her very sincere heart. Although I, myself have not made my own documentary yet, she has already taught me some very valuable lessons about the craft of filmmaking that you won’t learn in film school: