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Q&A: Bird Runningwater, Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program

NATIVE NEWS ONLINE - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

N. Bird Runningwater

Published January 22, 2020

Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program
Jan. 23-Feb. 2
Sundance Film Festival
Park City, Utah
Public tickets on sale Jan. 21
sundance.org/programs/indigenous-program


Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribes, and was raised on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. From there, he’s carved out a longstanding career at the Sundance Institute’s Indigneous Program.

For more than 20 years, as the director of the program, Runningwater has guided the organization’s investment in Native American and Indigenous filmmakers through mentorship, labs, grants and fellowships. From the script up, it’s an ongoing support system for Native-made film projects. His team has introduced 140 Indigenous filmmakers to the world, curating a roster of over 350 films along the way.

Native News Online chatted with Runningwater about his career in the movie business and this year’s Sundance Film Festival—which includes five Indigenous-made films and the announcement of the annual Merata Mita Fellowship.

This year’s selected films are: Charter (World Dramatic Competition), Little Chief (Narrative Shorts), Lichen (Documentary Shorts), Now Is the Time (Documentary Shorts), małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (New Frontier).

Ane Dahl Torp and Troy Lundkvist appear in Charter by Amanda Kernell, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sophia Olsson.

Native News Online: While you live in Los Angeles now, you were raised on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. How did that upbringing inspire you to work in film and the arts?

Bird Runningwater: I grew up with very limited exposure to television. We were living in such an isolated part of New Mexico, we had maybe one good TV station, two if you rotated the antenna. My youth couldn’t be consumed by being glued to the television screen. As a result, I grew up in a really beautiful, mountainous reservation community that’s very traditional with a lot of ceremonies.

I was one of the rare ones of my generation where I wasn’t raised a fluent speaker of our language, but all of my peers understood and spoke our language. I was surrounded by an amazing and creative traditional space where I was able to create my own entertainment, thanks to the storytelling abilities of the people around me. Also, because I wasn’t influenced by television, I wasn’t aware that misrepresentation was happening on that screen. I had the great privilege of being able to be dismissive of misrepresentation in Westerns and all of these other iconic images people were getting wrong. I ended up working from a really different place.

With hundreds of films behind you, have you had time to work on any passion projects?
I’ve started to think of some of my own creative endeavors and actually telling some stories, specifically for my Mescalero community. I want us to be able to see ourselves reflected on the screen. Now that we’re inundated with satellite TV, digital platforms, cell phones—it’s so different now. I’d like to be able to create content for my own community.

Lichen by Lisa Jackson

So far, has Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime been supportive of the Indigenous film boom?
They have not. No.

That’s kind of disappointing.
Yes, but I will say, this past Thanksgiving, one of the films we supported through our Merata Mita Fellowship was a film called The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open. That film was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s company, ARRAY—and she has an output deal with Netflix. They released that film on Thanksgiving and the social media campaign around it … trended higher than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The 2020 festival starts up this week—any Indigenous film you’re most excited about?
Picking just one is like picking your favorite child. But, if we think about Amanda Kernell’s film that we’re showing (Charter), she’s Indigenous Sámi from Sweden and we’re premiering her second feature. Her first film was Sami Blood. She’s a very talented director—we also showed her short film previous to Sami Blood.

Then, stateside, there’s Sky Hopinka, whose film (małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore) we’re premiering. We’ve been showing his short films for quite a few years. He has such a distinctive style, distinctive voice and a distinctive lens through which he portrays a story. Now he’s really upped his game and created a feature-length film—with that specific style of storytelling that he creates. That film is playing at our New Frontiers section, which is reserved for films that are considered to be experimental or non-traditional. 

A still from malni – towards the ocean, towards the shore by Sky Hopinka, an official selection of the New Frontier Exhibitions program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

And then, one of the short films by Erica Tremblay, Little Chief, that’s one of the shorts that came out of our Native Lab. Two years ago, we accepted her into the lab to develop this project. She was given a grant to help her make it, refine it in the post process and to finalize the film. This is her first foray into fiction storytelling, she’s more traditionally a documentarian.

Those three are really exciting artists that we’ve been fortunate to work with before. It demonstrates the commitment that Sundance and my program have toward the growth of artists and their ongoing work and unique perspectives.

Robert Redford is the founder of the Sundance Film Festival. How instrumental was he in the Native program, and is he still involved?
I interact with him quite often. The reason my program exists is because we were managed by Robert Redford and the Institute created a thread to support Native filmmakers. That stemmed from the work and personal passion he did prior to the establishment of the Institute. Robert was nurturing filmmakers and mentoring filmmakers well before the establishment of the Sundance Institute.

To premiere Smoke Signals at Sundance back in the late ’90s, was huge, right?
For him to reach that point, finally, in 1998, where a film is theatrically released into American theatres, that was written, produced and directed by Native American filmmakers was a culmination of decades of investment. Today, we have a small, but mighty team. We’re constantly engaged with the filmmakers we select to work with. Once we get involved with a project, ideally, we would like to see the project through from development into production and then connecting with audiences.

We stay in touch over the long course of a filmmaker’s career, with the hopes of hopefully they won’t need us. It’s difficult to obtain, but hopefully they can transition into a sustainable career. Somebody who’s moved into that realm is Taika Waititi, who’s one of our alumni. I showed his first short film at Sundance back in 2004. I helped him with his first two feature films, to get them made. Now he’s nominated for six Oscars.

Now Is the Time by Chris Auchter

There’s so much talent out there, how do you decide what filmmakers have submitted the best applications?
We’re really known for our curatorial process and vigor. Through that, we’re accessing the originality of someone’s voice, their ambition and what it is they want to do. We look at the voice they have and see how we can help strengthen it and get it out into the cinematic universe. Ideally, it’s someone who has a spark, so you can just fan the flames of creativity and help mold and guide it. Hopefully, at one point it will flame and take off.

The post Q&A: Bird Runningwater, Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program appeared first on Native News Online.

Categories: UNITED STATES

Cherokee Nation Moves To Ensure Its Tribal Citizens Are Counted in 2020 Census

NATIVE NEWS ONLINE - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Published January 22, 2020

#CherokeeNationCounts campaign will help ensure tribe receives crucial funding and grant opportunities

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation has kicked off its 2020 Census efforts by introducing its #CherokeeNationCounts campaign. The Cherokee Nation is urging all tribal citizens to make sure they completely fill out the Census form.

The Cherokee Nation says filling out the Census form will help to ensure the tribe receives key funding for programs including Indian Health Service and housing allocations through Housing and Urban Development during this new decade.

Cherokee Nation officials cite the 2010 Census, saying some of its tribal communities in Sequoyah and Adair Counties had a lower Census participation rate. Nationally, there was also under-reporting of children under the age of 5.

“We’re launching a #CherokeeNationCounts campaign to tell our tribal citizens to fill out the 2020 US Census, because if we aren’t all counted, we leave money on the table,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The Cherokee Nation estimates for every one Cherokee Nation citizen who doesn’t get counted, it’s a loss of about $50,000 in federal funding over the course of a decade that helps our tribal programs and services.”

By April 1, each home will receive an invitation to participate in 2020 Census either online, by mail or telephone.

Aside from its impact on funding, an accurate count in the Census helps Cherokee Nation better understand the demographics and needs of tribal communities — not only in Oklahoma, but across the United States.

The tribe has established a Complete Count Committee, made up of tribal departments staff, to educate tribal committees about the 2020 Census and how to accurately complete it.

The Complete Count Committee wants to assure tribal citizens that information submitted as part of the 2020 Census is confidential and protected by federal law, and will not impact tribal citizens’ housing, income or custody arrangements.

More information is also available at 2020census.gov.

The post Cherokee Nation Moves To Ensure Its Tribal Citizens Are Counted in 2020 Census appeared first on Native News Online.

Categories: UNITED STATES

90 years young. And counted first

INDIAN COUNTRY MEDIA NETWORK - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

'We are Yup'ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong'

Categories: UNITED STATES

Mary Annette Pember: ‘Always a storyteller’

INDIAN COUNTRY MEDIA NETWORK - January 21, 2020 - 10:00pm

Indian Country Today’s team continues to grow with new national correspondent

Categories: UNITED STATES

My MMIWG Medallion is Famous! – Whoopi Goldberg Wears Beaded Medallion on The View

POWWOWS.COM - January 21, 2020 - 9:14pm

My MMIWG Medallion is Famous! – Whoopi Goldberg Wears Beaded Medallion on The ViewOne early afternoon, Mish Daniels, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation, was watching The View and noticed the jewelry that Whoopi Goldberg was wearing around her neck. It was her very own homemade piece that she had made! She screamed.....

The post My MMIWG Medallion is Famous! – Whoopi Goldberg Wears Beaded Medallion on The View appeared first on .

Categories: POWWOW, UNITED STATES

National American Indian Organization Leaders to Attended Fifth Circuit Court’s Brackeen v. Berhhardt Rehearing

NATIVE NEWS ONLINE - January 21, 2020 - 8:57pm

Published January 21, 2020

NEW ORLEANS — Leaders of four national American Indian organizations will be in a United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Fifth Circuit) courtroom in New Orleans on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, as the Court rehears Brackeen v. Bernhardt, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). They will be there to represent Indian Country and to show support for the 41-year-old law that protects the best interests of American Indian children and families.

The leaders make up the Protect ICWA Campaign, which include: Sarah Kastelic, National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) executive director; Kevin Allis, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) chief executive officer; Derrick Beetso, NCAI general counsel; Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, Association on American Affairs (AAIA) executive director and attorney; Erin C. Dougherty Lynch, Native American Rights Fund (NARF) senior staff attorney and Dan Lewerenz, NARF staff attorney.

In 2018, a federal district court in Texas, in a widely criticized decision, held that ICWA violates the U.S. Constitution. Last year, in response to appeals brought by the federal government and the intervening tribal nations at that time (the Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, and the Navajo Nation), a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit reversed that decision, reaffirming the constitutionality of ICWA. In an en banc review, complex cases of broad legal significance are reconsidered by the entire court, and not just a three-judge panel. For the Brackeen v. Bernhardt case, the decision reached by the en banc review panel will replace the three-judge panel decision from August 2019.  

“We are proud to be part of a broad bipartisan coalition supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act,” said the Protect ICWA Campaign, noting that the pro-ICWA coalition has helped garner support from 495 federally recognized tribes, 26 states and the District of Columbia, 77 members of Congress, more than 60 Native organizations, and the nation’s leading experts in child welfare, constitutional law, administrative law, and Indian law. “We are confident that the hearing before the full panel of judges signifies the Court’s recognition of how careful Congress was to craft ICWA as a model of cooperative federalism, and how important ICWA is every day in helping achieve the best interests of Indian children and families.”

 

 

The post National American Indian Organization Leaders to Attended Fifth Circuit Court’s Brackeen v. Berhhardt Rehearing appeared first on Native News Online.

Categories: UNITED STATES

Selena Not Afraid: Please ‘share Selena’s pictures and story’

INDIAN COUNTRY MEDIA NETWORK - January 21, 2020 - 7:42pm

Family, state and Indian Country grapple with death of 16-year-old

Categories: UNITED STATES

Reservations brace for winter storms amid slow recovery

INDIAN COUNTRY MEDIA NETWORK - January 21, 2020 - 7:20pm

'Once the winds start howling, my wife worries again'

Categories: UNITED STATES

NTU Starts Navajo Language Translation Program for Elections

TRIBAL COLLEGE JOURNAL - January 21, 2020 - 6:58pm

The program is designed to address the need for interpreters to be present and available for Navajo voters when they are seeking information about elections or when casting ballots, according to a press release from the university.

The post NTU Starts Navajo Language Translation Program for Elections appeared first on Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education.

Categories: EDUCATION, UNITED STATES

Diné College Receives Federal Grant to Combat On-Campus Violence

TRIBAL COLLEGE JOURNAL - January 21, 2020 - 6:58pm

Diné College is the recipient of a federal grant to develop and strengthen campus security and programs that address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus.

The post Diné College Receives Federal Grant to Combat On-Campus Violence appeared first on Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education.

Categories: EDUCATION, UNITED STATES

UTTC, UMary Team Up for Mid-Winter Powwow

TRIBAL COLLEGE JOURNAL - January 21, 2020 - 6:57pm

Martin Luther King Day is about celebrating a man who promoted the idea of inclusiveness. The University of Mary and United Tribes Technical College teamed up to celebrate that message and create a new tradition in Bismarck.

The post UTTC, UMary Team Up for Mid-Winter Powwow appeared first on Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education.

Categories: EDUCATION, UNITED STATES

Food for Thought Raises $25K

TRIBAL COLLEGE JOURNAL - January 21, 2020 - 6:57pm

The event raised over $25,000 for student scholarships at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, said Mary Soyring, a member of the foundation's board of directors.

The post Food for Thought Raises $25K appeared first on Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education.

Categories: EDUCATION, UNITED STATES

Soaring rates of Indigenous people in prison 'unacceptable,' says federal watchdog

CBC ABORIGINAL NEWS - January 21, 2020 - 5:39pm
YEAR Elder Offender Corrections 20171210

Canada's Correctional Investigator says the percentage of Indigenous people in federal custody has jumped dramatically in the past four years — a trend he describes as 'a national travesty'.

Categories: CANADA

New housing opening in northern B.C. for Indigenous patients who have to travel for medical appointments

CBC ABORIGINAL NEWS - January 21, 2020 - 5:34pm
UNBC

BC Housing and the First Nations Health Authority have partnered to provide temporary housing near medical facilities in Prince George and Fort St. John, making it more affordable for rural Indigenous patient to attend appointments.

Categories: CANADA

Chemical Co. To Take Tribal Waste Permit Case To High Court

LAW360 (Native feed) - January 21, 2020 - 4:49pm
FMC Corp. urged the Ninth Circuit on Friday to put a hold on a ruling that the chemical maker must pay $1.5 million in yearly permit fees to store hazardous waste on the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes' reservation, saying the company might have trouble getting its money back if it ultimately wins its case.

Army Corps Withdraws Contentious Water Supply Rule

LAW360 (Native feed) - January 21, 2020 - 4:29pm
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will withdraw a proposed rule covering the use of water from its reservoir projects after states, tribes and lawmakers raised concerns that the rule would “federalize” the control of water in many rivers, it announced Tuesday.

Note from Editor: Native News Online Improves Subscriber Email Delivery

NATIVE NEWS ONLINE - January 21, 2020 - 4:13pm

Published January 21, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In an effort to improve services to our readers, Native News Online has eliminated emails sent every time an article is posted to our website. We heard from several subscribers who felt they were receiving too many emails from our publication.

Under the improved system, emails will only be sent once per day with links to the articles posted for that day. The exception will be with breaking news articles.

In the event, you unsubscribed to our emails because of the high frequency, please sign up for your FREE email subscription. CLICK to subscribe to keep up with informative Indian Country news.

The post Note from Editor: Native News Online Improves Subscriber Email Delivery appeared first on Native News Online.

Categories: UNITED STATES

Teen activist Autumn Peltier appears at World Economic Forum with criticism for federal politicians

CBC ABORIGINAL NEWS - January 21, 2020 - 3:48pm
Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier

Teenage Indigenous water activist Autumn Peltier says she doesn't feel Canada's federal politicians are focused enough on climate change, even after years of her campaigning for them to take action.

Categories: CANADA

‘They don't believe climate change is real’

INDIAN COUNTRY MEDIA NETWORK - January 21, 2020 - 3:10pm

Autumn Peltier, Greta Thunberg, and youth activists speak in Davos, Switzerland

Categories: UNITED STATES

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