Native American Heritage Month

On June 7, 1964, a driving rain buckled dams and flooded vehicles on the Blackfeet Reservation, sweeping crying children from mothers’ arms, and ferrying homes and bodies across the prairie. By the time it ended, more than two-dozen Blackfeet Indians had drowned in the worst natural disaster in Montana history. More than a half-century after the worst disaster in Montana history, two Blackfeet families struggle to come to terms with the 1964 flood.

In the Beginning was Water and Sky is a short-form New Media project that tells two parallel stories about a Chippewa boy who runs away from an Indian Boarding School in the 1950s and a Chippewa girl who runs away from her village in the 1700s.

What does blood have to do with identity? Kendra Mylnechuk, an adult Native adoptee, born in 1980 at the cusp of the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act, is on a journey to reconnect with her birth family and discover her Lummi heritage.

Today, only 41 fluent Native speakers of the Kodiak Alutiiq language remain, mostly Elders.

This feature documentary, about the role of Native Americans in popular music history, tells the story of a profound, essential, and, until now, missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence. Featuring music icons Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo, and others, Rumble will show how these talented Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.

Walking in Two Worlds journeys to the Tongass to reveal its splendor and shed light on the devastation and division resulting from the Settlement Act. The Tongass is rich with old-growth trees, salmon-filled rivers and wildlife. Alaska’s Tlingit and Haida Indian tribes have depended on this forest for their culture and survival.

In 2012, a film that Randy Vasquez directed and I produced, called The Thick Dark Fog, was broadcast nationwide on PBS. The film tells the story of Lakota elder Walter Littlemoon’s journey of healing from his American Indian boarding school experiences. During the production of the film, we spoke to many Native elders who had gone to boarding school.

For centuries survival was difficult for Alaska Native peoples, but they lived full lives. Today survival is easier, but they are dying young. Alaska Native peoples sustained their way of life through a social, cultural and spiritual balance, but the traumatic ramifications of colonization have left many scars that continue to be passed down from generation to generation. 

"Ohero:kon - Under the Husk" is a documentary that follows the challenging journey of two Mohawk girls as they take part in their traditional passage rites to becoming Mohawk Women. Kaienkwinehtha and Kasennakohe are childhood friends from traditional families living in the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne that straddles the U.S./Canada border. They both take part in a four-year adolescent passage rites ceremony called ohero:kon "under the husk" that has been revived in their community.

Neon Buffalo examines the history of Indian gaming from the first bingo halls to today's destination resorts. This feature-length documentary film delves deeper into Indian Gaming than slot machines and black jack tables to explore Indian gaming's role as the economic measure of a social revolution that began throughout Indian Country decades before the first casino doors opened. 

Historical trauma in Native peoples has produced other traumas: abuse, neglect and addiction. However, from tapping the healing power that is within them there are powerful stories of healing strategies occurring now in tribal communities.

Mankiller explores the life of Wilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation who led her people in building one of the strongest Indian Tribes in America. More than a biography, the program delivers an empowering message. 

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