November is Native American Heritage Month – Focus On DVDs

This is week 3 of our November Did You Know postings.

As mentioned in previous postings, November is Native American Heritage month; last week our suggested reading titles were all non-fiction. This week our focus is on DVDs – both fiction and documentaries.

Recommended DVDs:

Crooked Arrows (2012)

A mixed-blood Native American; Joe Logan; eager to modernize his reservation; must first prove himself to his father; the traditionalist Tribal Chairman; by rediscovering his spirit. He is tasked with coaching the reservation’s high school lacrosse team which competes against the better equipped and better trained players of the elite Prep School League. Joe inspires the Native American boys and teaches them the true meaning of tribal pride. Ignited by their heritage and believing in their new-found potential; coach and team climb an uphill battle to the state championship finals against their privileged prep school rivals – will they win?

Crooked Arrows is an original; uplifting sports movie in the tradition of such classics as Mighty Ducks; Bad News Bears; Hoosiers; and Bend It Like Beckhamaset in the fresh; contemporary worlds of Native American reservations; prep schools; and lacrosse.

Dreamkeeper (2004):

Dreamkeeper tells the story of a resentful Lakota teenager (Eddie Spears) who reluctantly agrees to drive his wise elderly grandfather (August Schellenberg) from their “rez” in South Dakota to a to national Powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

While en route the grandfather, who is the dreamkeeping storyteller for his tribe, tells traditional stories/folklore to his grandson who is transformed from a resistant teen to a proud storyteller himself.

Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story (2004):

In 1975, armed FBI agents illegally entered the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Gunfire erupted- a Native American and two FBI agents fell dead. After the largest manhunt in FBI history, three men were apprehended- only one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

This is his story.

From the very beginning, Pelter’s case has been dogged with controversy. Were the charged trumped up? Was the evidence falsified? Were witnesses pressured to change their testimony? Many people, including some of today’s greatest legal minds, believe that Peltier is an innocent man. Twelve years ago, Robert Redford visited Leonard Peltier in prison. Today, after years of struggle with the FBI and the prison system, he and director Michael Apted (GORILLAS IN THE MIST, COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER) are able to present INCIDENT AT OGLALA- a riveting examination of the case and the real story of what may be one of the most outrageous abuses of justice in American history.

Jim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete (2009):

Born on Native American territory in Oklahoma; a descendant of the last great Sac and Fox chief, Black Hawk—his Indian name, Wa-tho-huck or “Bright Path”—something Jim Thorpe certainly lived up to in a time of hardship and stigmas for Native Americans. Thorpe’s athletic career began at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School where he played football and ran track. His natural athletic abilities are what legends are made of, no matter the sport, he excelled at it. In the 1912 Summer Olympics, Thorpe went on to win gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon; which were later recalled due to his questionable amateur athlete status, but reinstated after his death. In a 2000 poll conducted by ABC Sports, Jim Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century, beating out other greats such as Muhammed Ali and Babe Ruth.

Jim Thorpe was more than a legendary and accomplished athlete; he worked as an extra in the movie industry, travelled as a motivational speaker, and fought tirelessly as an activist for Native American rights and self-sufficiency. During WWII, in 1945, he even enlisted as a merchant marine.

Our Spirits Don’t Speak English (2008):

Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School is a Native American perspective on Indian Boarding Schools. This DVD produced by Rich-Heape Films, Inc. uncovers the dark history of U.S. Government policy which took Indian children from their homes, forced them into boarding schools and enacted a policy of educating them in the ways of Western Society. This DVD gives a voice to the countless Indian children forced through a system designed to strip them of their Native American culture, heritage and traditions.

Rumble! Indians That Rocked The World (2017):

This revelatory documentary brings to light a profound and missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence. Featuring music icons like Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo, and Taboo, RUMBLE shows how these pioneering Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives. RUMBLE uses playful re-creations and little-known stories, alongside concert footage, archives, and interviews. The stories of these iconic Native musicians are told by some of America`s greatest music legends who knew them, played music with them, and were inspired with them: everyone from Stevie Van Zandt, Iggy Pop, and Steven Tyler to Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones and Buddy Guy. Popular music and the history of rock and roll itself certainly would not have been the same without the contributions of Native Americans. RUMBLE was executive produced by Stevie Salas (Apache), celebrated guitarist and music producer, and museum exhibitions and programs executive Tim Johnson (Mohawk), formerly of the Smithsonian NMAI.

Smoke Signals (1998):

Based on a couple of short stories (from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) by Sherman Alexie, Smoke Signals is a lean and assured feature that speaks well of its lengthy, rich evolution, including a development stint at Sundance. The first feature made by a Native American crew and creative team, the film concerns two young Idaho men with radically different memories of one Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), a former resident of the reservation who split years before and has just died in Phoenix. Arnold’s strapping, popular son, Victor (Adam Beach), remembers him best as an alcoholic, occasionally abusive father who drove off one day and never came back. By contrast, Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), whom Arnold had saved from certain death years earlier, has chosen to exaggerate the man’s life and deeds in a mythmaking fashion that drives Victor crazy. Circumstances bring the two together, however, in a bus ride to retrieve Arnold’s ashes. There, in Phoenix, a confrontation with the reality of the dead man’s fullest legacy has a profound effect on both characters. Alexie, who wrote the script and was personally involved in all aspects of the production, and first-time director Chris Eyre are so polished in their approach that you can barely feel the cinematic engine at work here. This is the kind of movie in which the characters seem to be driving everything forward, a captivating and pleasant experience that gets a little too tidy at the end (can we call a moratorium on scenes of human ashes lovingly disposed to the winds?), but which is undeniably moving. The cast, including Irene Bedard (the voice of and physical inspiration for Disney’s Pocahontas) is outstanding. –Tom Keogh, Amazon Review

Spirit Rider (1993):

Without warning, a 16 year-old Native American orphan is uprooted from his latest foster home and returned to the reservation of his birth. He slowly begins to adjust to his new life with his grandfather, but someone who knows the awful secret surrounding his mother’s death is determined to destroy his newfound happiness. For the two adversaries, an annual horse race culminates in a life-and-death struggle that could finish them both.

We Shall Remain (2009):

From PBS’s acclaimed history series, American Experience, in association with Native American Public Telecommunications, We Shall Remain establishes Native history as an essential part of American history. These documentaries tell the story of the Native Americans’ perspective, upending two-dimensional stereotypes of American Indians as simply ferocious warriors or peaceable lovers of the land.

Have a great day!

Linda, SSCL

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