American Graduate

The hopes and heartbreaks of senior year of high school comprise a defining part of teenage life and lore in America. Graduation marks the end of childhood, partings from family, friends and community and the start of a future that is both exciting and scary. But for Thomas Martinez, a statewide high school cross-country and track star, and Tamara Hardy, an academic as well as athletic star, growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico has heightened these tensions in ways particular to Native American history and contemporary reservation life.

In the rugged canyon lands of Northern Arizona, Navajo and Hopi cross-country runners from two rival high schools put it all on the line for Tribal pride, triumph over adversity and state championship glory. Win or lose, what they learn in the course of their seasons will have a dramatic effect on the rest of their lives.

Michelle Danforth (Oneida)
"For me, it was about creating something that my son and his friends would want to watch. Lacrosse is so important to many Native people, so sharing a small piece of it is equally exciting. When I first started, all I knew was that my husband had played lacrosse long ago, but the more I have learned, the more fascinated I am to learn even more."

Patty Loew (Ojibwe)

For the 7th Annual Longhouse Media's SuperFly Filmmaking Experience, Vision Maker Media was able to sponsor five Native youth to take part in this one-of-a-kind experience as an American Graduate initiative.

The history of lacrosse in North America is a rich and multi-layered one. Much more than a Native American ball and stick game, lacrosse is a cultural window into Native American communities and their historical relationship with each other and the dominant culture.

Embark on a journey of transformation as three sisters from the Pine Ridge Reservation reconnect with their incarcerated father via a series of video letters. The Poor Bear girls are not sure they even want to connect--but their mother, Cindy, helps them overcome reluctance and hurt.

Thomas, Tamara and Gabby--three Native American teenagers in Navajo, New Mexico--traverse their senior year at a Reservation high school. As graduation approaches, they must decide whether to stay in their community--a place inextricably linked to their identity--or leave in pursuit of opportunities elsewhere.

For Navajo and Hopi Tribes, running is more than a sport. The film moves beyond stereotypes of the past and present as two high school boys' cross country teams--Tuba City and Chinle--compete for the state championship title.

In the 1950s, two refineries were built on March Point, an area that was once part of the Swinomish Reservation by treaty. Three boys awaken to the destruction that these refineries have brought in their communities. Ambivalent environmental ambassadors at the onset, the boys grapple with their assignment through humor.

The history of lacrosse in North America is a rich and multi-layered one. Much more than a Native American ball and stick game, lacrosse is a cultural window into Native American communities and their historical relationship with each other and the dominant culture.

Two brothers from the Onondaga Nation pursue their dreams of playing lacrosse for Syracuse University. With the dream nearly in reach, the boys are caught in a constant struggle to define their Native identity, live-up to their family's expectations and balance challenges on and off the Reservation.

Follow-up series now available
The  Medicine Game: Four Brothers, One Dream

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