Native American Studies

For decades, thousands of Navajos worked the railroads, maintaining the trans-continental network. Metal Road explores the dynamics of livelihood, family and the railroads through the lens of a Navajo trackman. The film follows three Navajo railroaders from the 9001 Heavy Steel Gang as they leave their homeland to replace aging railroad tracks from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean under extreme weather conditions.

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.
An Eastern Shoshone Elder and two Northern Arapaho youth living on the Wind River Indian Reservation attempt to learn why thousands of ancestral artifacts are in the darkness of underground archives of museums and churches, boxed away and forgotten. Like millions of indigenous people in many parts of the world, they do not control their own material culture. It is being preserved, locked away, by ‘outsiders’ who themselves do not know what they have.
What does it take for a contemporary Native family to thrive on their reservation? Badger Creek is a portrait of Native resilience as seen through a year in the life of three generations of a Blackfeet family living on the reservation in Montana. The loving and sober Momberg family members run a successful ranch, live a traditional worldview and are relearning their language.

Ohero:kon - Under the Husk is a documentary that follows two Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) girls on their challenging journey to becoming women. They both take part in a four-year adolescent passage rites ceremony that has been revived in their community.

A provocative film from the American Indian perspective that reframes today’s controversial energy debate while the fate of the environment hangs in the balance. Red Power Energy illustrates the complex realities of Indian reservations grappling with how to balance their natural resources with their traditional beliefs.

Lake of Betrayal looks at the Seneca Nation’s fight to protect its sovereignty against a backdrop of a federal Indian Termination policy, pork-barrel politics, and undisclosed plans for private hydro-power generation. The documentary takes a long view of the imposed changes on the Seneca’s way of life that have led to major economic benefits and irreplaceable cultural losses.

Medicine Woman, interweaves the lives of Native American women healers of today with the story of America’s first Native doctor, Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915). The one-hour PBS documentary produced by and about women, features historic and contemporary profiles of female healers, starting with Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915) of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. 

Worlds collide in the Tongass Forest, when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act turns tribes into corporations and sparks a lengthy logging frenzy. A story of division and redemption plays out between a Tlingit brother and sister, showing the possibility of healing both the forest and the native community.

Ishi’s Return is a half-hour film about Ishi, billed in 1911 as the “last wild Indian,” when he wandered out of the woods in Oroville, California, and became a national sensation. When Ishi died, his brain was removed and sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Navajo Math Circles follows Navajo students in a lively collaboration with mathematicians. Using a model called math circles, the students stay late after school and assemble over the summer at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, to study mathematics. The math circles approach emphasizes student-centered learning by putting children in charge of exploring mathematics to their own joy and satisfaction.

For over 50 years, archaeologist Dr. Douglas Anderson, of Brown University, studied the Iñupiaq Natives of Northwestern Alaska. When one of the last excavations of his career shuts down due to the discovery of human remains, he must rely on the relationships he has built with the Iñupiaq. Policy dictates that archaeological excavations on National Park Service land must stop when remains are found and all living descendants be notified. Are the relationships between Anderson and the Iñupiaq based purely on his own academic pursuits?

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