Classical definitions of nature and the environment prioritize a concept of what “the natural” is by generally focusing on “untouched land.” In the United States for example, consider how pop culture romanticizes the origin story of Hawaii --- or how for centuries the US Government ignored the “rights of personhood” held by the Klamath river that the Yurok reservation (located in present-day California) had declared. This prioritization is an example of cultural erasure, the process whereby the dominant culture takes acts and measures to erase Indigenous people and their history with land through spiritual and cultural destruction.
But fear not loyal friend, because to redefine our concept of nature and the environment, as well as to acknowledge the land we are living on and support Indigenous peoples’ fight for land recognition and their rights, we must center Indigenous stories and simultaneously appreciate the nature that immediately surrounds ourselves.
One way to normalize these new conversations is by making the effort to watch the films of Indigenous filmmakers and Indigenous issues. Here at the Sustainability Office, we compiled a short list that may help you take action. Though this list is not exhaustive, we find that these films are great stepping stones and introductions to major issues within Indigenous communities.
We invite you to consider how these films serve as both a frame and a mirror into the interdisciplinary or self-contained realms of Indigenous issues:
By “frame”, try considering how the filmmaker(s) amalgamated their footage, interviews, and narrative. What challenges did the filmmaker(s) face in order to produce the film?
By “mirror”, consider your relationship with nature and the environment. What can you unlearn about your definitions of nature. Additionally, consider what methods the films offer for you to get involved in the discussion and exploration of these issues.
Lastly, all of these films are free and directly accessible either via your Dartmouth Kanopy subscription, or on Vimeo. If you watch some of these films and want to discuss more, we'd love to host a space for discussion and further exploration! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to continue the conversation.
When Two Worlds Collide
The conflicts presented in this film are so lucidly complex that we must not label it as apt for subtle background noise while you work on homework or, ahem, peruse your social media feed. Watching the AIDESEP--an organization of indigenous Amazonians led by Alberto Pizango--fight the overly ambitious ex-Peruvian president Alan Garcia, is likely to get you riled up.
On one side, President Alan Garcia tries to ignore laws established to prevent corporate and industrial intrusions in the Amazon. Pizango and his supporters counter him with civil disobedience and impassioned speeches. The protests result in violence and a whirlwind of ramifications for all Peruvian people. Understanding the narrative in Peru may help one apply comparative analysis between this conflict and the ongoing contemporary conflicts like the building of the TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline or the issues faced by Indigenous Bolivians amidst ongoing lithium mining in their lands.
Tags: Amazonia, Peru, Civil Disobedience, Free Trade, Exploitation of Natural Resources, Police Violence, Corporate Exploitation
Runtime: 103 minutes
Languages: Spanish, English-subtitles
KONELĪNE: Our Land Beautiful 2016
Nettie Wild’s enchanting documentary takes us to the Canadian wilderness, implanting us in the elemental forces that prevail the experience of both the indigenous peoples and the settlers who share the traditional lands of the Tahltan First Nation. At more than 1000 miles from Vancouver, British Columbia, the scenes pace through landmarks like the Stikine River, ancient glaciers, and the tiny communities that coexist within.
More meditative by nature, this film immerses one in the poetry of the land and its people. The film is timeless and unequivocally beautiful.
Tags: Tahltan First Nation, Canada, British Columbia, Visual Poetry, Romanticism, Natural Landscapes, Ethnographic
Runtime: 96 minutes
Swift Feet (Pies Ligeros)
The Tarahumara are one of the largest indigenous cultures in North America. This film highlights how running is an important cultural tradition within the rugged sierras of Northwestern Mexico.
They regularly compete in races that can last days and stretch well beyond a hundred miles. During the 1990s, Tarahumara runners Victoriano Churo and Cirildo Chacarito received international attention for their running abilities after they competed in several ultramarathons in the United States. Running in long, colorful shirts and sandals made out of rubber tires, they captivated the world with their strength and endurance.
Tags: The Tarahumara, Mexico, Running, Sports, Non-linear narrative
Runtime: 76 minutes
Vincent Carelli’s Martírio was filmed over the course of 40 years as he sought out the origins of the Guarani Kaiowa genocide. This archival historical file of images, new footage, and hearings in Brazilian Congress, reveal the cruelty with which they coexist every day.
An epic documentary, Martírio offers a testimony to the crudeness of a conflict that has no foreseen solution in the near future.
Tags: Guarani Kaiowa, Brazil, genocide, archival footage, unresolved conflict
Runtime: 162 minutes
Languages: Portuguese, Guarani, Spanish
The Garifuna Journey
This gallant documentary, with immersive scenes of fishing, cooking, dancing, cassava preparation, spiritual ritual, music, and dance, all demonstrate the Garifuna link to their Caribbean past and the African Diaspora.
Descendants of African and Carib-Indian ancestors, the Garifuna fought to maintain their homeland and resisted slavery. For this love of freedom, they were exiled from St. Vincent in the Caribbean by the British in 1797.
Despite exile their traditional culture survives today. It is a little known story that deserves its place in the annals of the African Diaspora. In first person Garifuna voices, this documentary presents the history, the language, food, music, dance and spirituality of the Garifuna culture.
Tags: Garifuna, Belize, African Diaspora, St. Vincent, the Caribbean, exile, slavery resistance
Runtime: 46 minutes
More Than a Word 2015
Through interviews with scholars, tribal leaders, lawyers, policy experts, activists, and Washington R*dskins fans, the film explores the history of the slanderous term "redskin," and delves into cultural stereotypes of Native Americans and their relationship to history. Ultimately, the film argues for representations that honor and celebrate the humanity of Indigenous people.
John Little and Kenn Little, co-filmmakers and brothers, are both enrolled members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Together, they are writing Indigenous people into the historical and cultural narrative.
Tags: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, slanderous vocabulary, normalized racism, football, sports
Runtime: 70 minutes
Homecoming is a paddling adventure that raises awareness about the threat of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota.
Directed by Joe Fairbanks, Dartmouth Class of 2017.
Tags: Minnesota, United States, Water conservation, Exploitation of Natural Resources, corporate exploitation
Runtime: 8 minutes