Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory


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Accomplished scholars in the emerging field of Native film studies, Marubbio and Buffalohead They do scholars and students of Native film a great service by reprinting four seminal and provocative essays. Ruppert, University of Alaska Fairbanks -- J. Elise Marubbio and Eric L. Buffalohead have succeeded in depicting the complexities in study, teaching, and creating Native film Regardless of an individual's level of knowledge and expertise in Native film, Native Americans on Film is a valuable read for anyone interested in this topic.

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Preview this item Preview this item. Who are his or her audi- ence? Should heritage dictate the type of films one makes? Who represents whom? What are the ethical choices involved in working in the mainstream film industries? What ethical choices must be made when working for a Native or Indigenous community? Another set of questions focuses on the concept of sovereignty: How is sovereignty applied to Native and Indigenous media? Whose voice is foregrounded? Who speaks for whom? Who controls the product? Who is the audience?

Does participating in a filmic conversation on sovereignty confine a filmmaker within the dichotomy of colonialist discourse on sovereignty? A third set of questions weaves between the aforementioned and per- tains to the multiple levels of poetics and politics that are Native film: Is there a Native aesthetic and should we even be asking that question at this point in the development of Native cinema history?

Or is Native cinema now so enormous a field that it cannot be confined by the term?

Where are Native and Indigenous film situated in regard to national cin- emas? When do particular examples of Native film break away from the Native cinema label and become subsumed by independent cinema or Hollywood cinema? Beverly R. We all belong to the story of our people.

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Indigenous feature films exhibit so much diversity that it is impossible to generalize about them. Thinking about the collection of Indigenous films as a whole, then, calls for a focus on their differences rather than on their similarities. Many of these films, for example, employ mostly Indig- enous people as cast and crew, while many do not. Some adapt traditional cultural practices to filmmaking, but others follow Western production schedules. Many emphasize distinctively Indigenous content, and yet an increasing number do not.

The editing and narrative structure of some Indigenous films mimic older oral traditions; many Native features, how- ever, are plotted like mainstream commercial films. Production values are high in some Indigenous features and low in others. This chapter explores some of the most significant dimensions of dif- ference found in Indigenous films while drawing on examples from films made by dozens of peoples spread around the world. A concluding sec- tion examines how this remarkable diversity disturbs attempts to use non- Indigenous ideas as a basis for analyzing Indigenous cinema.

The range of differences also makes it unlikely, perhaps impossible, to develop a single Indigenous perspective able to adequately engage with all the work in In- digenous filmmaking now being produced across the globe. The diversity of Indigenous films presents not one but a multitude of separate alterna- tives to hegemonic commercial filmmaking. Indigenous Personnel Great variation exists not only in the Indigeneity of directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, and other members of production crews, but even among the actors who work on films labeled Indigenous.

Fraser, a Fijian partly raised in New Zealand, wrote and directed this film, which focuses on a the character of a Fijian matriarch. Naming Number Two covers a single day as this matriarch attempts to supervise a traditional feast during which she hopes to pass on the legal title to her house while simultaneously keeping important secrets from her children and grand- children. International film festival audiences found few problems with this casting, but when the film was shown in Fiji, the largely Indig- enous Fijian audience hissed and booed.

It was evident to them that an African American woman and Polynesian actors were not Fijian. Most audiences outside Fiji, of course, will neither notice nor much care about the differences among Polynesian and Melanesian actors. In North America, similarly, Indigenous films often rely on actors with various tribal affiliations to tell stories rooted in specific places and tribes. Still, it is good to keep in mind that Indigenous peoples in Fiji, New Zealand, North America, and elsewhere will have different expectations about who may, and may not, pretend onscreen to be one of them.

Different peoples, too, have different expectations about how much of a production crew must be Indigenous in order for the film to seem to belong more to their community than to the commercial circuits of feature films. In many places, first and early Indigenous productions have required substantial assistance from outsiders while, simultaneously, local communities have asked—and sometimes even required—that they be provided training so that subsequent work can be done by the Indigenous people themselves.

One impressive example of this occurred with the production of Ten Canoes Though the film was made with sub- stantial contributions and funding from outsiders, the production process was used as an opportunity to teach Indigenous Ramingining community youth technical skills so that future productions would be less dependent on non-Indigenous crews.

Barclay argues that only the dimension of creative control should be used in choosing whether to label a film In- digenous. So Barclay maintains, for example, that Whale Rider is not an Indigenous film since Niki Caro, its director and screenwriter, is not Indigenous. Barclay is surely correct that creative control of the final cut is very important in determining whether a film should be called Indigenous. Important, too, however, are factors associated with production methods, film content, and story structure.

When there are disputes over whether a film should be labeled Indig- enous, it seems best to allow the community being represented to decide. Many Indigenous approaches to film production are thus, not surprisingly, quite different from the ways of working associated with commercial cinema. Differences often manifest themselves even in preproduction. This same bi-cultural, bilingual process continued through the first and final draft scripts. Some Rotumans, for ex- ample, were reluctant to perform in The Land Has Eyes, as to do so vio- lated the island value of humility.

Hereniko overcame these objections by appealing to another Rotuman value, one emphasizing the importance of personal connections and mutual obligations. The Land Has Eyes screened on a hospital veranda in Rotuma. Cour- tesy of Alan Howard. Such disturbances sometimes had to be accepted as parts of the shots.

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Large-budget as well as smaller-budget Indigenous films can be shaped by the customs of the people for and about whom they are made. The shoot itself employed mostly Igloolik Inuit as cast and crew, in part because only natives of the region could be expected to care for themselves and to survive in the frequently extreme subarctic condi- tions. As filming proceeded, director Kunuk reports,. We just work like that. And of course, all the actors come from our own little community, and you just tell them when they have to get into their characters and they do. I have very little directing to do.

Because the script is already written and people know what to do. Indigenous productions often require different sorts of performances from actors from what is common in non-Indigenous cinematic produc- tions. The Aboriginal actors and crew who made Ten Canoes, for exam- ple, labored to re-create onscreen an entire way of life that more knew through stories and photographs than through direct experience. The photographs had been made in the mids by the white anthropologist Donald Thomson. Outsiders may be required to assist, for example, in aiding in the distribution of the finished videos.

These strategies help maintain what Schiwy describes as the continuing co-presence of both capitalist and reciprocal economies across the rural Andean highland region. Most of their documentary and fiction videos are distributed to vil- lages throughout the region through existing systems of trade exchange. Some are also sold in existing markets and to foreign NGOs, scholars, fes- tivals, and academic institutions.

Increasingly, however, Schiwy reports, Indigenous Bolivian video makers have become wary of allowing their work to circulate as commodities in the global marketplace. There are concerns about who should receive the payments—the video makers or the communities shown? Eyre offered the film for free viewing inside a large mo- bile cinema trailer transported from place to place by a semitruck.

Audi- ences sat in luxury seats to watch this film made especially for them. Most, especially in Anglo-American settler nations, have to trust that Indigenous people will find their way to watching through the usual distribution channels of film festivals, theaters, rentals, and television. The continuing growth of DVD rentals via mail and of film downloading via broadband Internet connections may one day make it easier to distribute Indigenous films to specialized audiences. From pre- through postproduction and distribution, then, there is tre- mendous variation in how Indigenous peoples make and share their films.

This is yet another area where it seems fruitless to try to generalize about the archive of Indigenous films. Screening Indigenous Content Indigenous filmmakers have made hundreds more documentaries than feature films, in part because producing a documentary is generally cheaper and easier, but also because many filmmakers want most to care- fully record the unique cultural practices of their people.

Native Americans on film : conversations, teaching, and theory

Feature films can also represent these practices, of course, but documentaries can do it while less encumbered with the requirements associated with offering a unifying story. Some Indigenous features, nonetheless, emphasize care- fully photographed sequences that seem ethnographic. Films like Atanar- juat: The Fast Runner, Seven Songs from the Tundra , and Ten Canoes, for example, seem aimed at helping strengthen and perpetuate precontact traditions.

The effect of recording these details can be like that described by an Igloolik elder upon viewing Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. They seem determined to avoid showing behaviors that might emphasize differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Beneath Clouds , Samoan Wedding , and Smoke Signals , from Australia, New Zealand, and North America, respectively, are geographically diverse ex- amples of this approach.

Most Indigenous feature films lie somewhere be- tween these extremes. Films such as Radiance , Skins, and Whale Rider linger on a few sequences of distinctive practices but seldom so long that outsider audiences become aware they are witnessing an unfamiliar practice. Indigenous feature films can include significant Indigenous content merely by casting Indigenous people in prominent roles. Non-Indigenous filmmakers have historically avoided placing Native peoples in these roles, even when the characters onscreen were supposed to be Indige- nous.

So Dolores del Rio and Debra Paget famously played Polynesian women in, respectively, the original and the remake of Bird of Paradise. Even decades later, Trevor Howard in Windwalker and various Disney animators in Pocahontas were still assuming they could represent Native Americans better than these Indigenous peoples could represent themselves.

In addition to cultural practices and actors, Indigenous films may include a third content element, an Indigenous language, one that has seldom, if ever, been heard before onscreen. Selwyn worked for ten years to get a film version made. Filming in an Indigenous language may discourage wide distribution in English-speaking countries, where audiences avoid movies with sub- titles. Sometimes, of course, non-Indigenous filmmakers use Indigenous languages, too, gener- ally in efforts to make their films seem more authentic.

So Windwalker, for example, uses an English-language voice-over and non-Indigenous ac- tors, but the characters all speak either Cheyenne or Crow. Mel Gibson uses Mayan for similar purposes in Apocalypto , hoping to coax au- diences into mistakenly believing that they are witnessing a Mayan story. Non-Indigenous languages are now the first language of many Indig- enous peoples. Still, it is likely that bi- lingual Indigenous people will increasingly emphasize their Indigenous languages in the feature films they create.

I do not think anyone, however, would want to claim that a film is less In- digenous because its actors do not speak an Indigenous language. On the other hand, Windwalker or Apocalypto do not become Indigenous films merely because they rely on Indigenous languages. Degree of Indigenous- language use will just have to be one more of the many dimensions of difference displayed by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous films.

In addition to content differences across cultural practices, actors, and languages, Indigenous films also differ in the degree to which they dwell on Indigenous landscapes, seascapes, symbols, and other related iconography. In many instances, outsiders will not even recognize when significant Indigenous scenes are being shown. Panning across a particu- lar landscape in an Indigenous feature film, for instance, may seem to mainstream audiences as yet another stereotypical establishment shot or an attempt to show the beauties or harshness of nature.

These same shots may be seen by Indigenous people as images of their ancestors, or as invo- cations of spirits or gods, or as a wordless retelling of historical events. They just shot them and pushed them off. Now, no one gives a shit. Yet it is clear there are Indigenous feature films, too, at the other end of the continuum, which place their Indigenous characters firmly within non-Indigenous land- scapes. Grand Avenue and Naturally Native , for example, similarly emphasize that Native Americans continue to be Indians even when living entirely within urban landscapes.

In their treatment of Indigenous landscapes, symbols, and related content, then, Indigenous features once again exhibit more differences than commonalities. Screening Indigenous Storytelling Forms Content and form are notoriously interconnected and confusing concepts; still, it seems useful briefly to consider form separately from content, es- pecially since Indigenous films sometimes mystify audiences accustomed to Western film forms.

An emphasis on places, discussed above, is one striking form found in many Indigenous films. In each of these four manifesta- tions of form, however, as we shall see, there is so much variation among Indigenous films that it does not seem accurate to claim that any one form characterizes most Indigenous films. Some Indigenous peoples thus may be able to move their storytelling traditions directly from speech to film, without intermediary steps involving writing and reading. Schiwy maintains these videos adapt Western filmmak- ing conventions in the service of Andean oral-visual traditions that predate colonialism.

It was taught to me as a little child and I never forgot it. Other Indigenous filmmakers have also adapted older stories but re- vised them for situations associated with more recent times. Both those who use new media to revitalize older storytelling traditions and those who make films with no traces of culture- specific traditions contribute to the body of Indigenous films.

Allegorical films generally do not develop characters or plots with the complexity common to nonallegorical films. Audiences, then, who do not recognize the allegory in an Indigenous film may judge it as simplistic or underdeveloped. The same film, however, may resonate deeply for view- ers who recognize that the history of an entire Indigenous people is being shown. One can interpret any film allegorically by seeing any one actor as representing not a particular character but, as an example, the proletariat, as in Sergei M.

Darrell Varga has produced just such a thoroughly alle- gorical reading of Atanarjuat. The film is not what it seems on the surface to many, a tale about individuals involved in a revenge adventure, Varga claims, but rather should be understood as offering a moral lesson about the importance of community over individuals. Interpreted as allegory, however, the story is less about two individuals than about one Native people.

Rather, the tear, like the film itself, speaks a collective story, a collective grief. We should be very careful with such allegorical interpretations, how- ever. As critics of Jameson have pointed out, there is something reduc- tive and even condescending about expecting third world and Indigenous films to work allegorically. Some Indigenous films may be allegorical, but surely many others are not.

Here we have yet one more dimension of dif- ference across the archive of Indigenous films. Temporality Just as Western modernity helped produce a decline in allegorical narra- tives so, too, has modernity encouraged an exclusively linear conception of time. These films assume that time flows only one way; a change in the past will thus lead along a single path to determinate consequences. Even a film such as The Matrix , while alluding to alternative temporalities, ultimately ties its narrative together by positing a single linear temporal- ity.

A more recent spate of commercial and independent films, beginning perhaps with Pulp Fiction and including later releases such as Me- mento , Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , and Babel , experiment with temporalities while not attempting any funda- mental assertions about the possibly fundamental illusion of linearity.

Smoke Signals weaves together parallel events on Fourths of July that are decades apart. And yet, once again, we should not expect all Indigenous films to avoid linear narratives. Shot Selection and Editing Probably more has been written about the shot selection and editing of Indigenous films than about any other element of Indigenous cinematic form.

Here again, some claim that a desire to present a specifically Indig- enous sense of time and place leads filmmakers to adopt styles of cinema- tography and editing seldom seen in commercial cinema. Some analysts claim, for instance, that Indigenous filmmakers show a preference for medium to long shots. Close-up views are rejected, it is said, because they force an unnatural intimacy on people that is very different from what is common in their daily lives.

Close-ups, too, some claim, tend to empha- size individuals rather than the communities and groups that are the real subjects of Indigenous feature films. An absence of close-ups, however, is not characteristic of the majority of Indigenous films. Also, an increasing proportion of films are being shot for viewing on smaller screens, such as for television and home viewing. This means that preferences for long and medium shots will likely in- creasingly fade even for Indigenous filmmakers who have preferred them in the past.

Close-ups generally work better for smaller-screen viewing than do medium and, especially, long shots.


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Long takes, uninterrupted shots from a single camera, are another form that has frequently been said to be particularly common among Indigenous films. As the anthropological filmmaker David MacDougall points out, any editing of shots, of whatever scale, cuts into fragments what participants themselves experience as continuous.

Indigenous embrace of the long take. Just as many or more Indigenous filmmakers, however, use long takes no more frequently than do non-Indigenous filmmakers. The Sacred Aesthetic There is yet one further element of form that deserves special mention.

Just as some mistakenly claim that frequent depictions of landscapes and emphases on long takes characterize Indigenous films, so others say these films typically manifest onscreen the power of ancestral, spiritual, and other unseen beings. The much-respected and pioneering Hopi film- maker Victor Masayesva Jr. Films such as Four Sheets to the Wind , Mile Post , Naming Number Two, and Samoan Wedding may presage a type of secular film that Indigenous filmmakers in settler communities will increasingly make if the integra- tion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples becomes more common.

Even in their engagement with the spiritual, then, Indigenous feature films may be becoming too diverse to support any single characterization. Varied Production Values Production values are a fifth dimension of difference found in Indigenous films. Some Indigenous films cost millions of dollars, employ experi- enced crews and actors, rely on elaborate sound and lighting apparatuses, and often shoot scenes on custom-built sets.

The result is polished screen images like those shown in Hollywood films. Rider, and Ten Canoes are examples of Indigenous films with high pro- duction values. Films such as The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, Pathfinder, The Land Has Eyes, and Smoke Signals also offer fairly polished scenes, though they do not show off their expensiveness onscreen in the manner of high-end Hollywood films. Many Indigenous features exhibit even less of the polish that even a small budget and some professional crew members provide.

Production values in themselves are not, of course, the sole predictor of audience engagement. The absence of high production values often makes little or no differ- ence to Indigenous audiences hungry to see their own stories onscreen. Some films by Indigenous people probably will continue to follow commercial trends toward increasingly expensive productions. And many, likely, will not. Eurocentric Aesthetics Reviewing these five dimensions of difference underscores the extraordi- nary diversity to be found in Indigenous films.

Even more diversity may well emerge as more Indigenous peoples turn to filmmaking. The range of differences makes it impractical to seek a single perspective for thinking about all Indigenous films. At the least, no such pan-Indigenous perspec- tive should be constructed from ideas rooted mostly in Anglo-European traditions. To do so would be to once again deny Indigenous people the right to interpret and represent themselves.

The peculiarity of using outsider ideas to guide thinking about In- digenous film becomes evident if one considers how this method would work in reverse. Nonetheless, as Native American poet and anthropologist Wendy Rose explains, just such an ethnocentric perspective grounds most Euro-American thinking about Indigenous art. Indigenous films might, at first glance, seem to represent a possible exception to the dangers of conceptual Eurocentrism. Filmmaking, after all, depends on Western technologies, and so all films, wherever produced, might seem amenable to analysis using Western ideas.

Quite the opposite: when new technologies are adapted, new cultures generally forge unique uses that reflect the charac- teristics of the adopting cultures. Many—though not all—Indigenous films are thus better un- derstood as instances of specific older visual and oral Indigenous arts than as expressions of aesthetic traditions associated with Western films.

Concepts and experience based on Western aesthetics and cinema can thus as often mislead as help. While it may therefore sometimes be useful to draw upon some Euro-American concepts, it seems best simul- taneously to keep open the possibility that each Indigenous film may be different not only from commercial and national cinemas but also from other Indigenous films. Though most feature films commonly work to correct and undermine non-Indigenous cinemas, they do this work in very different ways. Looking at Indigenous films from across the globe also reveals how difficult it will be to develop inclusive concepts or a pan-Indigenous per- spective that provides a unified Indigenous way of thinking about this di- verse work.

Indigenous peoples on all continents share a common history of more or less successful resistance to modern invasions, genocides, co- lonialisms, and imperialisms. Many thus share somewhat similar political goals. Contemporary Indigenous cultures, however, at least as manifested in the feature films reviewed in this chapter, seem too different to be re- duced to a single category or genre or to be analyzed from a single point of view.

In an important sense, then, while there are an increasing number of Indigenous films, it may seldom be useful to claim there is such an object as Indigenous film. The diversity of Indigenous films offers not so much a challenge to non-Indigenous cinema as a reminder of the rich possibilities of what it can mean to be human. Rolling Res. This documentary is included with the DVD for Skins. Eric D. Schiwy, e-mail message to author, July 29, Masayesva Jr.

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Indigenous Media, Ayni, and the Global Market. Annette Jaimes Boston: South End, , Nanook Allakariallak at the trading post in Nanook of the North. While Nanook is portrayed as heroic and master of his physical environment in other scenes that situate him outside of Western notions of time and history, when he is compared with the world of the trader, he is depicted as awkward and lacking intelligence, an anachronis- tic and irrelevant, if quaint, figure in the early twentieth-century context of his original audience. I use Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner , the first full-length feature film directed by an Inuit, Zacharias Kunuk, and produced by Igloolik Isuma Productions, a collaborative, ma- jority Inuit production company, as my primary context for analysis to examine the ways this film is embedded within discourses about Arctic peoples that cannot be severed from the larger web of hegemonic dis- courses of ethnography.

I do this first by discussing the pervasive images of Native Americans in ethnographic films and then by theorizing the ways that Atanarjuat intervenes into visual sovereignty as a film that success- fully addresses a dual Inuit and non-Inuit audience for two different aims. More specifically, I interrogate how the Atanarjuat filmmakers strategi- cally adjust and reframe the registers on which Inuit epistemes are con- sidered with the twin, but not necessarily conflicting, aims of operating in the service of their home communities and forcing viewers to reconsider mass-mediated images of the Arctic.

I suggest a reading practice for thinking about the space between re- sistance and compliance wherein Indigenous filmmakers and actors re- visit, contribute to, borrow from, critique, and reconfigure ethnographic film conventions, at the same time operating within and stretching the boundaries created by these conventions. Terming this approach visual sovereignty, I demonstrate how this strategy offers up not only the pos- sibility of engaging and deconstructing white-generated representations of Indigenous people, but more broadly and importantly how it inter- venes in larger discussions of Native American sovereignty by locating and advocating for Indigenous cultural and political power both within and outside of Western legal jurisprudence.

Peter Pitseolak, an Inuit photographer from Cape Dorset, met Flaherty in and was inspired to learn photography as a result. His stunning, intimate photographs of community members in the s and s militates against images of Arctic people that framed them as archaic, primitive, and doomed peoples. At a training workshop in , the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, a language preservation, land rights, and cultural advocacy organization that later formed the Inuit Broadcast Corporation IBC , screened the film for an Inuit community.

By appealing to a mass, intergenerational, and transnational Indigenous audience, vi- sual sovereignty permits the flow of Indigenous knowledge about such key issues as land rights, language acquisition, and preservation by narrativ- izing local and international struggles. Visual sovereignty, as expressed by Indigenous filmmakers, also involves employing editing technologies that permit filmmakers to stage performances of oral narrative and Indigenous notions of time and space that are not possible through print alone.

Visualizing Sovereignty in Indigenous Films Sovereignty in its manifold manifestations is what sets Native American studies apart from other critical race discourses. Native Americans have no single shared culture, event, or series of events, no Middle Passage, necessary to imagine a collective group experience. Even the Wounded Knee Massacre of that resulted in the murders of more than three hundred Lakota tribal members is not an event to which all Native Americans can cathect our communal memories, despite the fact that it is a significant visual register because the bodies of the victims were photographed and these images were widely disseminated as postcards.

As David E. Wilkins and K. Sovereignty is a key term in the lexicon of Native American studies because it demonstrates how Indigenous peoples are different from immi- grant communities in the Americas as well as other Indigenous nations in terms of political structure, epistemology, and relationships to specific geographical spaces.

Native nations prior to European contact theorized about the con- cept of sovereignty in order to discursively distinguish themselves from the other human, spirit, animal, and inanimate communities surround- ing them through performance, songs, stories, dreams, and visual texts such as wampum, pictographs, and tipi drawings. In a Native American context, the term predates European notions of nation-to-nation politi- cal sovereignty even as the Indigenous conceptions have now incorpo- rated these non-Native articulations of the term into their definition.

The English word sovereignty, then, becomes a placeholder for a multitude of Indigenous designations employed to describe the concept that also takes into account the European origins of the idea. The contradictions of sovereignty are numerous. It incorporates as well European notions of recognizing political autonomy and jurispru- dence. In other words, sovereignty in a Native American context incorpo- rates the paradox of multiple definitions into its genealogy. And the fact that sovereignty is located within and without Indigenous discourse does not make it any less powerful or valid a statement of political, individual, or cultural autonomy.

It was first created in the seventeenth century as a pact between the Iroquois and the Dutch.

Native Americans on film : conversations, teaching, and theory (Book, ) [devyzuzyvoby.tk]

Iroquois interpret it as a visual manifestation of their inherent right to retain their geographic, cultural, political, linguistic, and economic sovereignty. According to G. Peter Jemison, Seneca Faithkeeper:. The purple lines represent the Haudenosaunee traveling in their canoe. Parallel to them, but not touching, is the path of the boat of the Europeans that came here. In our canoe is our way of life, our language, our law and our customs and traditions.

And in the boat, likewise, are the European language, customs, traditions, and law. It is significant that one of the first treaties made between Indians and whites was recorded using an Indigenous form. From this perspective, visual sovereignty opens up a practice for reading Native American visual culture that incorporates both Indigenous traditions of community representation and non-Indigenous filmmaking practices.

As the Two Row Wampum Belt demonstrates, vi- sual sovereignty recognizes the paradox of creating media for multiple audiences, critiquing filmic representations of Native Americans, at the same time that it participates in some of the conventions that have pro- duced these representations. Likewise, visual sovereignty intervenes in larger discourses on Indigenous sovereignty, but employs a slightly different set of tactics. Visual sovereignty arbitrates in the broader world of Indigenous sovereignty and is not always directly involved in po- litical debates that determine Native American survival and livelihood, as legal sovereignty in the U.

Under visual sovereignty, filmmakers can deploy individual and community assertions of what sovereignty and self- representation mean and, through new media technologies, frame more imaginative renderings of Native American intellectual and cultural para- digms, such as the presentation of the spiritual and dream world, than are often possible in official political contexts. I do not mean, however, to insinuate here that visual sovereignty is outside of or disinterested in po- litical activism and debate. Recent news reports detail how this global catastrophe is adversely affecting all forms of plant and animal life in the Arctic, and simultaneously Atanarjuat intimates how human populations on the front line of global warming will also be devastated.

Moreover, Igloolik Isuma Productions employs ethnographic film conventions to serve didactic purposes within the Inuit communities of Canada, forging much-needed economic opportunities in depressed mar- kets; educating younger generations alienated from community elders and tribal epistemologies through diasporic conditions; and addressing the lingering effects of colonization, natural environments in immediate peril, and high mortality, substance abuse, and incarceration rates.

With a population of roughly thirteen hun- dred people, 93 percent of whom are Inuit, and a consensual government system that blends Inuit principles qaujimajatuqangit in Inuktitut with Canadian parliamentary democracy, Nunavut is the site of a unique and exciting Indigenous political economy and a practicing form of political and cultural sovereignty that provides an ideal site to host a production company that works in the service of visual sovereignty.

The work of Igloolik Isuma and Arnait Video Productions aligns with the kinds of work that has been produced in the past three decades by Indigenous filmmakers in sites such as Latin America, Africa, and Ocea- nia. It seems likely to me that some Indigenous film artists will be interested in shaping films that sit with confidence within the First, Second, and Third cinema framework. Barclay cites a number of filmmakers, including Zacharias Kunuk and himself, as practitioners of Fourth Cinema.

Atanarjuat compels non-Inuit spectators to think differently about what constitutes Indigenous content in films and more conventional representations of Native Americans in cinematic history and also about Indigenous visual aesthetics. By mak- ing their own films and videos, they speak for themselves, no longer aliens in an industry which for a century has used them for its own ends. Rather, they also engage in dialogue with media communities outside the far North, reconsidering and transforming filmic genres and audience expectations.

Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory Native Americans on Film: Conversations, Teaching, and Theory
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