By Mordecai Specktor
American Indian cinema, etc.
Politics – the stuff of this column in The Circle – merged with art in a film series called “INDIgenesis: Indigenous Filmmakers, Past and Present,” which was presented in March at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
I attended the screening of Missy Whiteman’s The Coyote Way: Going Back Home, which was filmed with a cast of young Native American actor sat Little Earth and around the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. The heart felt 30-minute film – billed as a“sci fi/docunarrative” – is about a boy who has to decide between joining a street gang or going on a journey to find the truth of his existence. Whiteman (Northern Arapaho and Kickapoo) and a contingent of actors, musicians and production staffers participated in a Q&A after the film screening.
And on March 25, I attended the program called “Views from Standing Rock,” which presented a video from Stacey Thunder’s web series Indigenous, and clips from the documentary in-progress Akicita, both of which concern the remarkable effort at Standing Rock to stop the Dakota Access pipeline.
Thunder’s video about the water protectors’ struggle (she said it will be on YouTube soon), and Akicita, directed by Heather Rae and Cody Lucich, put youth and women in the forefront of this amazing story of American Indian solidarity. Hundreds of Native nations, along with activists from around the globe, rallied to the cause at Standing Rock, and the Oceti Sakowin encampment, near Cannonball, No. Dakota, grew to a population of 11,000.
Rae’s 2005 documentary Trudell also was screened as part of the INDIgenesis series at the Walker. And she is listed as an executive producer for a segment of Viceland’s excellent documentary series about indigenous issues called Rise.
The first two Rise programs are about the stand at Standing Rock; and they are notable in providing context – such as the Indian boarding school atrocities, the Wounded Knee massacre in1890, and Wounded Knee II and the American Indian Movement – for those viewers lacking a grasp of what has led us to these emotionally fraught times.
I also want to mention another program, “The Urban Rez,” from the Rise series. The segment focuses on Winnipeg, which is home to 80,000 Indians, and looks at the scourges of poverty, and violence directed at Native girls and women. The program, written and directed by Michelle Latimer, features Gitz Crazyboy, an activist from the Athabascan Chippewyan First Nations, whose ancestral land has been despoiled by the Alberta tar sands. Again, the residential schools come into focus as a source of intergenerational trauma in Canada’s First Nations.
Getting back to the INDI genesis film series, I didn’t attend the screening for INAATE/SE/ (it shines a certain way.to a certain place./ it flies. falls./), but I was able to watch an online screener. This intriguing, experimental documentary film, by Zack and Adam Khalil (Ojibway), concerns the Seven Fires Prophecy of the Ojibwe. The film-makers are from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and the 75-minute film look sat the destruction of the American Indian life way in this area of the northern Great Lakes.
And speaking of destruction, the so-called U.S. president, Donald Trump, declared war on the planet in March, with his executive orders approving construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, and dismantling former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was intended to shift the economy away from dirty coal. Trump and his crew of climate deniers and Big Oil proponents – including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil – are determined to ravage the natural environment in furtherance of maximizing corporate profits.
I doubt that Trump knows the particulars of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline projects – he’s a complete ignoramus in virtually every area of public policy. However, his executive orders will ignite popular resistance to the hard energy path.
In regard to the Keystone XL pipeline, which will pass within 200 yards of the Rosebud reservation, a story in the Bismarck Tribune noted that “resistance camps similar to those occupied at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation through the fall and early winter will be formed again in South Dakota, where the Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux have already pledged physical space…”
The story quoted Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network: “We will carry forth the fire and unity we saw with Dakota Access against this next project. We learned solid lessons from Dakota Access and what is obvious is that this fight won’t be in one location, throughout the entire length of the project.”