Chris Eyre (2013)
Chris Eyre (2013)
Growing Native started out with a tomato. It was, at first glance, just a regular tomato – round, red, and quite delicious. But on a cold winter day many years ago, Vision Maker Media’s Executive Director Shirley K. Sneve (Sicangu Lakota) thought about that tomato for a minute and something clicked.
“My ancestors did not eat tomatoes in winter,” Sneve remarked. “Now, they had access to trade routes that could have brought tomatoes in from warmer places, sure, but they didn’t eat tomatoes year round like I do. That got me thinking, just what did the traditional Lakota diet look like?”
This internal conversation from years ago planted the seed for the idea that would sprout into Growing Native, the seven-part television series that looks at Indian Country from a sustainability viewpoint. As Native communities drifted away from their traditional diets, health problems took an unprecedented climb, resulting in the epidemic levels of diabetes, alcoholism and obesity we see today. Growing Native explores what Indigenous communities are doing to respond to these changes, and a growing number of those responses begin with our food.
Enter Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre. Eyre is synonymous with Native film, and for good reason. His film Smoke Signals is regarded by many people as “the most-Indian movie ever made” –though Eyre himself gives that title to the amazing film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner by Zacharias Kunuk. Eyre has also worked in public television as the Director for the series We Shall Remain. So when Sneve needed a host for Growing Native, Chris Eyre was at the top of her list.
Growing Native follows Eyre as he travels around Indian Country, looking for stories of sustainability. It could be the cataloguing and preservation of heirloom seeds, or perhaps the subsistence hunting and gathering that takes place on lands tribes have inhabited for generations, or even the novel approach a tribe has taken to preserve their language; whatever it is, Growing Native wants to be there to give communities the opportunity to share their stories cultural resurgence with a wide audience.
“It’s a look at the things that are right in front of you,” Eyre says. “There are these things that are right in front of our face that we never get to experience, and that’s what these shows are about. It’s about the sharing and the entertainment that is right there in front of you.” Eyre’s familiarity with Indian Country is really just a starting point, a necessary foundation that gives him an eye for identifying those qualities that make a place different or special.
The stories Growing Native shares are just the tip of the iceberg. The show isn’t the only approach Vision Maker Media is taking to call attention to the global movement of responsible stewardship for our resources and cultures. Blogs like this one, podcasts, and future video clips will all be added to the growing database of content that will supplement the episodes. This transmedia approach intrigued Eyre, who commented, “We’re living in an accelerated time and technology and place. It’s amazing how technology changes so quickly and everyone just adheres to that.”
As the series progresses, Chris Eyre will have more opportunities to visit the homes of Native people from all over and share their stories of sustainability. Be sure to check back often for more updates on the Growing Native series.
Written by Blue Tarpalechee.
Interviews conducted and edited by Blue Tarpalechee.