Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

 

June 2, 2001 - Issue 37

 
 

 
     
 

The Time Has Now Come For the True History of the People of the First Nations of this Land to Be Told

 
 

by Suzanne Westerly, correspondent

 
 

photos by Suzanne Westerly

 

For the last two years, Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Dakota Sioux), American Indian actor, singer, songwriter, and longtime activist and his crew, have been researching, and documenting on film, the true history of the United States, as told by American Indians themselves.

On Thursday evening, May 3rd, supporters and friends of Floyd's joined him at the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) for a gala benefit dinner and some great entertainment. Invited guests gathered on an outdoor patio where the smell of gardenia's floated through the summer-like air, as people mingled with friends and networked with new acquaintances.

The hosts of the event were Floyd, founder of Red Crow Creations and the Eyapaha Institute; Duane Champagne, Ph.D., Director of the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA; and Carole Goldberg, J.D., Director of the Tribal Law Development Clinic at UCLA.

There was an undercurrent of anticipation and excitement rippling through the audience as the launching of the First Annual Los Angeles American Indian Film, TV and New Media Festival, the "The Hoop of Life," was announced at the benefit dinner. Emceed by actors Peter Coyote and Richard Masur, the evening featured performers and speakers including the legendary American Indian author and historian Vine Deloria Jr. (Lakota), singer-songwriters John Trudell (Santee Sioux) and of course Floyd, and comedian Charlie Hill (Oneida). Tom Bee (Dakota), of SOAR Productions, formerly with XIT, also sang a few songs.

Red Crow Creations, the Eyapaha Institute, and the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA, will be the main organizers of the Los Angeles Film Festival, scheduled for 2002. Thursday evenings benefit helped raise completion funds for Floyd's groundbreaking historical documentary series "Exterminate Them!" America's War on Indian Nations, as well as honoring the Indian Tribal Nations that have generously contributed financial support and solidarity during the production of the documentary over the last two years.

Proceeding state by state, the first of the documentary series, The California Story, is scheduled for release in late fall of this year.

The films will look closely at "the crime scenes hidden between the lines of history," exposing how Indians were exterminated in the U.S., with the approval and often with monetary rewards given by the federal government. How and why the U.S. government led a fight against the people of the First Nations, the fact that the fight is still going on today, and "how it all must end."

It is said that the invaders who conquer the lands of another's write the history as they want it told, this is called revisionist history. What is taught in the schools of this country is revisionist history. Books that should instead be read in our schools are Vine Deloria's books; Custer Died for Your Sins; God is Red; Red Earth, White Lies; and Howard Zinn's book, The Peoples History of the United States. Deloria goes deeply into the facts pertaining to the U.S. government's treatment of American Indians, while Zinn explains how U.S. citizens have only been given the very top layer of what really happened throughout the history of this country. The truth about why events happened or were instigated, and the true telling of the events themselves have been, and continue to be, suppressed, mainly for political reasons.


Friday's Panel Discussion and Screening
The day after the benefit dinner, the group again gathered to attend and participate in two panel discussions and extensive screenings of selected excerpts of Native American films, TV clips, and new media clips from "Exterminate Them!" America's War on Indian Nations. This event was held at UCLA's Melnitz Hall, and kicked off the formal announcement of LA's first ever American Indian Film & New Media Festival "The Hoop of Life" scheduled for May, 2002.

Floyd welcomed the audience and introduced the first panel of speakers; comedian Charley Hill (Oneida); actress Irene Bedard (Inupiat Eskimo and Cree), (Smoke Signals," "Lakota Woman," "Pocahontas I & II"); Director of Programming and Production Carol Cornsilk, (Cherokee) (Native American Public Telecommunications in Nebraska); Native student filmmaker in the UCLA Film Department, Les Miller; producer Hanay Geiogamah (Kiowa), ("The Broken Chord," "Lakota Woman," "The Native Americans in the First Century," and founder of the Native American Dance Theater); producer/director Sandy Osawa (Makah), ("On & Off The Res", "The Charlie Hill Story"); author/historian Vine Deloria, Jr, (Lakota); and playwright/screenwriter Chuck Robertson (Ojibway-Dakota-Wahpeton),who has been an educator in Native communities for over thirty years.

"I believe that we have a group of very experienced people in the industry to help begin the First Indian New Media Film Festival. We come from different areas of knowledge and expertise, sometimes overlapping in two or three areas," said Floyd.

The second panel of presenters were Paul Apodaca, from the National Museum of the American Indian's Native American Film & Video Festival; Geoff Gilmore, Director, of The Sundance Film Festival; and Michael Smith, Director, of the American Indian Film Festival of San Francisco.

Among the issues discussed during the afternoon were the empowerment of Indian professionals behind the cameras: producers, directors, writers, etc., and how to develop a Festival that was primarily "Indian made."

"One of the reasons why we decided to hold the Film Festival here in Los Angeles," said Floyd, "was because this is where the heart of the film industry is. Not only have we for centuries been muted as Indian Nations, our voice has been ignored and oftentimes our voice was obscured. Our voice was not even heard. We have to think about our visibility in this new millennium that we are going into. Visibility is so important, and the proper visibility on top of that. There is so much disinformation about who we are; we have to correct that. We live in a world of a mountain of disinformation, which amounts to a lie. In many ways, we live in a lie then."

"Peggy Barnett, (Laguna, Cherokee, Creek) graduated from UCLA, so she grew up in LA she grew up with a feeling that there was something missing here. So, she came up to me after I got the Eyapaha Institute going and encouraged me to follow it through. Consequently we are here today because of her thoughts and her reasons, to start something that once and for all put us in a place where we have visibility in Hollywood, in LA, in America, visibility in the world. New technologies make it so that we can do this now."

"Eyapaha Institute, is partnering along with a very capable community developer, Sydney Beane," said Floyd. Syd is a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (Dakota) and former Chairperson of the Tribal Economic Development Holding Company. Syd was a founding Board Member of the Institute. "He is a community developer and organizer and he knows how to put partners together so we can create a larger entity for this film festival. Eventually we will have an all-Indian multi-media studio here. Creating an incubator for cinematography, writing, all featured aspects of film production. Hollywood is the place to do it. And we have the combinations of partners now who will move forward with this."

There are also plans for an all-Indian channel television network. "When we get that we will be able to go out into the world with quality productions," Floyd said. "We can tell our stories, because the history that most people learned in school was not true. The crime scenes that were hidden between the lines of history" can now be filled in. The other side of history, the truth that was left out can now be written. "America designed it [education] that way so Americans could live in this comfort zone, this feel-good history that created an illusion, and at the same time a lie. We are so misinterpreted; we are so out of the picture of reality. Today the holocaust that was inflicted upon us centuries ago continues today in the names of mascots in sports. We are made symbols and mascots or something in museums. We really have a challenge here today," ended Floyd directing his comments to the panel and the audience, "to go into next year to try to formulate a direction and come up with films of merit."

Red Crow Creations, a for profit production studio, and Eyapaha Institute, a non-profit 501 c (3) organization, work together to "promote awareness, education and preservation of American Indian values and culture." By finding the truth of history and giving American Indians a unique opportunity instill a sense of pride, self-esteem and wellness within Indian communities and rebuild the images and global perception of Indigenous Peoples everywhere." The Institute and Red Crow Creations, "will encourage in all people a dedication to positive family and community values, social and racial tolerance, an awareness of a global responsibility and above all, a commitment to respect, honor and protect the Mother Earth and all creation."

"Eyapaha Institute, is partnering with a very capable community developer and organizer, Sydney Beane," said Floyd. Syd is a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (Dakota) and former Chairperson of the Tribal Economic Development Holding Company. Syd was a founding Board Member of the Institute.

Because of a need for Indian professionals behind the cameras, a job-training curriculum is part of the Eyapaha Institute's programs. Chuck Banner, Director of Entertainment & Multi-Media with Eyapaha Institute, and Senior VP of Production & Development with Red Crow Creations, will act as project director for the development of the prototype curriculum for the Southern California Indian Centers Los Angeles' job training and economic development program. The goal is, "To create job training programs and employment opportunities for American Indians in the entertainment and multi-media industry through the development of productions and programs related to history, oral tradition, language recovery, cultural preservation and wellness."

The two-day event at UCLA was made possible through the generous support of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

Honorees at the event include California and other Tribal Nations who have contributed to the production over the last two years: Barona Band of Mission Indians, Cachidehe Band of Winton Indians, Elk Valley Rancheria, Mooretown Rancheria, Koncow-Maidu Tribe, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Santa Rosa Rancheria, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe of the Dakota Nation, Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Tyme Maidu Tribe Berry Creek Reservation, Viejas Band of Kumcyaay Indians.

Keep an eye out for the release of the extraordinary historical documentary series "Exterminate Them!" America's War on Indian Nations. For more information, go to
http://www.eyapaha.org

 
Suzanne Westerly
Photojournalist
POB 31340
Santa Fe, NM 87594
P/F 505-989-1968 cell 505 -670-1644
suzannewesterly@earthlink.net
 

For more information on the photographs, click here.

 

 
     
 

 
     
 

 
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