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Native American and Indigenous Peoples Heritage


Welcome to the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System’s Indigenous Peoples and Native American Heritage Month celebration! Explore virtual programs, films, short stories, poems, and print and digital resources, and engage in the rich histories, diverse cultures and important contributions of native and indigenous peoples. The Library invites you to reflect on the experiences and aspirations of close to 12,000 Native residents in Prince George’s County and nearly 60,000 Native Americans living in Maryland.

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

Author Sherman Alexie, using poetry and prose saturated with imagery, drama, and humor, has shed light on what it means to be a Native American in contemporary American society. His works have helped his fellow Native Americans to understand themselves better by honing in on typical problems rampant on reservations, including poverty, alcoholism, and racism. However, Alexie's characters are not the clichéd stone-faced people who accept their lot in defeat; rather, he exposes the rich sense of humor that Native Americans commonly use to deal with their problems. His works are also useful in helping non-Native Americans recognize the issues that Native Americans face and dispelling old mistaken notions of who Native Americans are, although his writings are disdainful of whites who claim to sympathize with Native Americans for their own selfish reasons. Alexie's mission to break down Native American stereotypes jumped from the page to the screen in 1998 with the release of his film, Smoke Signals, based on a collection of stories titled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

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Paula Gunn Allen

Paula Gunn Allen

As a scholar and literary critic, Paula Gunn Allen (1939-2008) worked to encourage the publication of Native American literature and to educate others about its themes, contexts, and structures. Having stated that her convictions can be traced back to the woman-centered structures of traditional Pueblo society, she was active in American feminist movements and in antiwar and antinuclear organizations until her retirement in the 1990s.

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Notah Ryan Begay, III

Notah Ryan Begay, III

Notah Begay is the only full-blooded Native American to ever play on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour. A solid golfer, Begay is conscious of his image as a role model for Native American children. One highlight of his young career was being a member of the President's Cup team in 2000. However, a back injury sabotaged his career plans and he is now an analyst for Golf Channel and NBC Sports.

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Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench

The name Johnny Bench is synonymous with baseball catcher. When Bench came on the Major League Baseball scene in 1968 with the Cincinnati Reds, he became the first catcher ever to win the National League Rookie of the Year award by showing fans what a good catcher can be, both behind the plate and at bat. With his keen eyesight, strong throwing arm, great agility, and savvy working relationship with pitchers, Bench was a defensive force who set records for playing a hundred or more games in thirteen consecutive seasons. Although he developed new catching and throwing postures that made him very effective and helped prevent injury, he still played with injuries to his feet, hands, and back. On the other side of the plate, cleanup hitter Bench could muscle the ball into the outfield and over the fence. Bench finished his career in 1983 with a then-record (for a catcher) 389 home runs. All told, Bench was a pivotal cog in the workings of what became known as Cincinnati's Big Red Machine.

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Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford

The University of Oklahoma recruited Sam Bradford to be a backup quarterback. In 2008, however, Bradford took a back seat to no one as he received the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the United States. Bradford, the first Native American to win the trophy in 38 years, also led the Sooners to the national championship game. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams and became their starting quarterback, but knee injuries in 2013 and 2014 ended both seasons for Bradford.

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Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich

Once named one of People magazine's most beautiful people, Louise Erdrich was a Native American writer with a wide popular appeal as a poet and children's author, as well as a novelist. She was no literary lightweight, however, having been compared to such noted American authors as William Faulkner. She was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in 2001 for her book The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and received the award in 2012 for The Round House.

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Graham Greene

Graham Greene

After achieving fame as Kicking Bird in Kevin Costner's 1990 film Dances with Wolves, actor Graham Greene found himself frequently accosted by admirers. "The other day, some lady came up and said 'I know you must get this all the time, but you look remarkably like that man in Dances with Wolves,'" he told Brian D. Johnson in Maclean's in 1991. "I said: 'Yes, I do get it all the time, and frankly it's annoying. I work at the post office, ma'am.'" Apparently Greene's acting was good enough to convince her.

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Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

Native American Joy Harjo (born 1951) is a multi-faceted writer, artist, and musician. Trained first as a painter, Harjo shifted her attention to poetry during her undergraduate studies at the University of New Mexico. Of Muscogee Creek heritage, Harjo often draws on Native American spirituality and culture in her work, spotlighting feminist concerns and musical themes as well. Harjo has taught at the University of Colorado, the University of Arizona, and the University of New Mexico and has written several television scripts and screenplays. She has been honored with numerous awards and fellowships for her writing and music. She published a memoir, Crazy Brave, in 2013. In 2019, Harjo was named United States Poet Laureate, making her the first Native American to earn the title.

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Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo (born 1945) is one of the leading Native American activists in the United States. She has raised public awareness about issues of concern to Native Americans by working on legislation to protect their rights, preserve their languages and traditions, reduce their high levels of poverty, alcoholism and unemployment, and safeguard their sacred lands. She fought for nearly 20 years to remove disparaging names from sports teams, most particularly the Washington Redskins.

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Diane Humetewa

Diane Humetewa

Diane J. Humetewa is an American attorney and professor. In 2013 President Barack Obama nominated Humetewa to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for Arizona and in May of 2014 she was confirmed by the Senate. She is the first Native American woman to serve in a federal court. Humetewa previously served as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona from 2007 to 2009.

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Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller was the first woman ever to serve as chief of the Cherokee nation. She assumed that post in December 1985, when the tribe's former chief, Ross Swimmer, left to become assistant secretary of the interior for Indian affairs. As deputy principal chief under Swimmer, Mankiller automatically assumed tribal leadership following Swimmer's departure. With 67,000 members, the Cherokees was the second largest Native American tribe at the time of her appointment to chief. Of the approximately five hundred tribes in the United States, less than fifty are headed by women, and none of the other female-led tribes as large as the Cherokee tribe. As chief, Mankiller presided over 45,000 acres of Cherokee land in Oklahoma, the state that has been home to the Cherokee people since 1839. (The Cherokees originally inhabited an area that is now part of six southeastern states, but they were forced by the federal government to relocate to what is now northern Oklahoma.)

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Russell Means

Russell Means

Russell Means (born 1939) led the American Indian Movement (AIM) in a 1973 armed seizure of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, site of the previous massacre of Sioux by Seventh U.S. Cavalry troops on December 29, 1890. With co-leaders Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier, Means and AIM held off hundreds of federal agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation for seventy-one days before their surrender.

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N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday (born 1934) is recognized as one of the premier writers in the United States. In 1969 his novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He taught at the university level for many years and even at the age of 80 served as a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico.

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Montezuma II, Emperor of Mexico

Montezuma II

Montezuma II (1466-1520) was the ninth ruler of the Aztec Empire in present-day Mexico. In the sixteenth century he was seized by the Spanish conquistadores, who used him to control and rule the empire.

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Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton

"Pound for pound, day for day, Wayne Newton is the highest-paid cabaret entertainer ever," writes Robert Windeler in People magazine. Newton graced the stages of Las Vegas resort casinos for decades, performing two high-energy shows per night, seven nights a week, as many as 40 weeks per year. "Nostalgia fans remember Newton as a pudgy, baby-faced, adenoidal tenor with three big hits: 'Heart,' 'Danke Schoen,' and 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady,'" notes Betsy Carter in Newsweek. "Today, Newton has ... cultivated a silky baritone and outfitted himself in sequined cowboy suits--an image that has earned him the Las Vegas billing of 'The Midnight Idol.'... His mellow blend of pop, rhythm-and-blues, country and rock wins no fewer than five ovations each night from the predominantly middle-aged, Middle American audience." Esquire contributor Ron Rosenbaum observes that Newton "has built an entertainment empire out of what was once a lounge act, transformed himself into a Tom Jones-type sex symbol, [and] become the highest-grossing entertainer in Las Vegas history" because he "has somehow captured and concentrated, become an emblem of, the essence of Vegasness."

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Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich was an Alaskan native who fought for equal rights in Alaska. She addressed the Alaskan Territorial Senate to chide members who were against an antidiscrimination bill, which passed in 1945. After many years as an activist, Peratrovich died of cancer. Alaskans observe a day dedicated to her memory each February.

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Powhatan

Powhatan

Powhatan (ca. 1550-1618) was chief of a confederation of Algonquian peoples in Virginia at the time of the British colonization of Jamestown.

Powhatan was the son of a chief reportedly driven from Florida by the Spaniards. Settling in Virginia, the chief soon conquered about five local tribes and confederated them under his leadership. Powhatan inherited this confederacy and continued to conquer other tribes so that, by the time of the colonization of Jamestown, he ruled about 30 tribes made up of some 8,000 people.

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Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson became a professional musician in 1959, when he began playing guitar with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in juke joints and dives all across North America. Six years later, before thousands of fans, he was backing Bob Dylan as the folkie was making his transition to electric. By then the Hawks were known simply as the Band and were soon creating their own powerful originals. After another tour with Dylan, the Band decided to call it quits in 1976 and Robertson began working in movies, both acting and scoring soundtracks, while remaining relatively behind the scenes for nearly a decade. In 1987 he released his first solo LP, proving that his songwriting and guitar abilities were stronger than ever. The Band was inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame in 2014. Robertson, one of two surviving members at the time, accepted the honor in his home country.

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Will Rogers

Will Rogers

One of the most celebrated humorists and public figures of his day, Will Rogers (1879-1935) offered dry, whimsical commentaries on a plethora of political, social, and economic issues. His aphoristic, satirical observations, which he voiced in magazine articles and nationally syndicated columns, revealed the foibles and injustices of American society and reaffirmed the humorist's role as the voice of the "average" citizen.

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Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie

One of the most striking voices of the contemporary folk music movement of the 1960s, Buffy Sainte-Marie has enjoyed a career far broader than the "protest singer" category into which she has sometimes been placed. She has written and lectured on Native American affairs, written poetry and screenplays, and composed film scores, as well as writing, recording, and performing songs in styles ranging from folk to rock and from art song to electronic music. But while she has become known for love songs like "Until It's Time for You to Go," Sainte-Marie has never abandoned the social and political concerns that marked her early work. And though she resists the label of "protest song," she admitted to Paul Sexton of Billboard, "The only reason I ever became a singer in the first place was because I had something to say." She still had something to say in 2015 when she released her album Power in the Blood.

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Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Silko (born 1948) is one of the foremost authors to emerge from the Native American literary renaissance of the 1970s. She blends western literary forms with the oral traditions of her Laguna Pueblo heritage to communicate Native American concepts concerning time, nature, and spirituality and their relevance in the contemporary world.

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Wes Studi

Wes Studi

Wes Studi got a relatively late start as a film star. He was about 44 when he landed his first movie. Prior to that career move, the Native American performer had compiled a list of real-life credits that included soldier, reporter and activist. He has gone on to log an array of film appearances in a variety of genres.

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Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief (born 1925) was a world-renowned ballerina and one of the premiere American ballerinas of all time. She was the first American to dance at the Paris Opera and has danced with the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet Russe, and with the Balanchine Ballet Society (New York City Ballet). Tallchief passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 88.

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Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

American track star and professional football and baseball player Jim Thorpe (1888-1953) was the hero of the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, only to have his gold medals taken from him for professionalism.

James Francis Thorpe (Native American name, Wa-tho-huck or Bright Path) was born south of Bellemonta, near Prague, Oklahoma, on May 28, 1888, the son of Hiran P. Thorpe of Irish and Sac and Fox Indian extraction and Charlotte View of Potowatomi and Kickapoo extraction. Raised with a twin brother, Charlie, on a farm, Thorpe first attended the Sac and Fox Indian Agency school near Tecumseh, Oklahoma, before being sent to the Haskell Indian School near Lawrence, Kansas, in 1898.

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Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa)

Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa)

Native American activist and writer of the Sioux tribe Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (1876-1938) was prominent in the Pan-Indian movement of the 1920s and 1930s. She devoted her life to lobbying for the rights of Native Americans.

One of the most outspoken voices raised on behalf of Native Americans during the early twentieth century was that of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a granddaughter of the famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull. As a writer, she produced a number of essays and short stories that established her as a significant figure in Native American literature. Her enduring legacy, however, is that of a reformer and activist devoted to improving the lives of Native Americans both on and off the reservation. Calling upon her skills as an orator, Bonnin made numerous appearances before government officials in Washington and ordinary citizens throughout the nation to draw attention to the plight of Native Americans trapped in poverty and despair.

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In the United States, the celebration of the history, culture, and traditions of Native Americans gained official national recognition when President Ronald Reagan declared November 23-30 as Native American Heritage Week in 1986, and President George H.W. Bush dedicated the entire month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month in 1990. Since 2008, the state of Maryland also celebrates the American Indian Heritage Day on the fourth Friday of November, the day following Thanksgiving, and honors the ongoing relationship that it has with the Native American community.

PGCMLS is proud to commemorate the first Native American Day in Prince George’s County. In 2019, the Prince George’s County Council stated the following: “The native and indigenous peoples of Prince George's County and the United States have significantly contributed to the rich fabric of history and culture we celebrate in our communities and should be rightly recognized. Whether it is the Piscataway-Conoy tribe in the County, or the many Native American tribes indigenous to every region of our nation, recognizing their place as the 'First Americans' is long overdue.” The newly designated Native American Day will be celebrated in Prince George’s County for the first time on October 12, 2020.

Therefore, as residents of Prince George’s County, we acknowledge that we gather on the traditional lands of the Mattapanient, the Patuxent, the Piscataway, the Moyaone, the Pamunkey, and the Mattapanient, past and present, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations. This calls us to commit to continuing to learn how to be better stewards of the land we inhabit as well.

Sources:

Important Dates In Native American History

1

20,000 B.C.E.

People crossed and inhabited the Bering Land Bridge, which connected Asia and North America before sea levels rose to make the crossing by boat necessary


1000 C.E.

The Thule culture thrives in the arctic using whale skin boats and dog sleds for transportation.

2

3

800 C.E.

Mississippian Mound Building culture begins, lasting into the 1500s.


1000-1400 C.E.

Vikings arrived and explore parts of North America.

4

5

1450

Iroquois League of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca is formed, making a powerful alliance.


1492

Columbus arrives in the Americas.

6

7

1540

Hernando de Soto arrives in the Southeast, bringing violence and disease to the area.


1550s

The Creek Confederacy forms, consisting of the Creek, Hitchiti and Alabama tribes.

8

9

1600s

tribes across the Great Plains acquire horses, helping shape their culture.


1614

Pocahontas, the daughter of a Powhatan chief is kidnapped by the English in a prisoner exchange.

10

11

1754

The French and Indian Wars begin.


1779

The Five Civilized Tribes start to align, including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes.

12

13

1821

Sequoyah’s finishes his syllabary, a writing system for his native Cherokee language.


1824

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is formed.

14

15

1830

The Indian Removal Act is passed, starting the long term displacement of Native peoples in the Northeast to Oklahoma territory.


1831

The Trail of Tears occurs, in which many Indians and slaves perish on their way to Indian Territory.

16

17

1862

The Homestead Act opens up the west to white settlers, allowing homesteaders to claim tribal land.


1864

The Sand Creek Massacre takes place, in which the US Army surprises and kills 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho, mostly women and children.

18

19

1867

The United States buys Alaska from Russia, and eventually instate residential schools in the territory.


1887

The Dawes General Allotment Act breaks up tribal reservation land into family-owned allotment. This led to many impoverished Natives selling of their land and eventually led to the loss of 90 million acres of land.

20

21

1890

The spiritual movement called the Ghost Dance begins, eventually garnering negative attention from the U.S. government.


1890

U.S. troops attack a camp at Wounded Knee Massacre in an attempt to stop the Ghost Dance.

22

23

1912

Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) becomes the first Native American to medal in the Olympics.


1916

New York celebrates American Indian Day, the first state to do so.

24

25

1918

Choctaw soldiers use their language as a secret code during WWI for the United States Army, becoming known as the Code Talkers.


1924

The Indian Citizenship Act grants US citizenships to all Native Americans born in the United States, though voting rights are not given.

26

27

1929

Charles Curtis, a Native of mixed descent becomes Vice President, after serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.


1934

Indian Reorganization Act reduces federal interference in Indian Affairs and restores key powers to tribal governments.

28

29

1944

The National Congress of Native Americans is founded.


1945

Termination Policy removes recognition and support from tribes and instead encourages complete assimilation of individuals with Native American heritage.

30

31

1968

American Indian Movement begins at an intertribal meeting in Minnesota.


1971

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act come into effect, giving money and land rights to local Native groups.

32

33

1975

Indian Self-Determination Act reversed strategies of termination and gave tribes more opportunities for financial support over time with less oversight.


1978

Members of the American Indian Movement lead the Longest Walk, a spiritual journey and protest march for tribal sovereignty.

34

35

1987

Wilma Mankiller is elected the first female president of the Cherokee Nation.


1990

“Two Spirit” is adopted as an appropriate label to describe difference in sexual and gender identities in Native Communities.

36

37

2000

U.S. Mint issues a dollar coin with the imagine of Sacagawea.


2002

John Bennett Herrington (Chickasaw) becomes the first Indian in space.

38

39

2008

the Coquille Indian Tribe becomes the first Indian tribe to publicly enact marriage equality policies.


2009

President Obama signs Native American Apology Resolution.

40

41

2012

The Idle No More Movement led by Canadian Indigenous women influences Indigenous environmental protection protests across North America.


1967

#NoDAPL protest begins at Standing Rock Reservation to protest the new pipeline proposal.

42

43

2020

The Washington football team begins official talks to change their name and remove slur and associated imagery from their uniforms.


2020

First Native American Day is celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day on Oct 12 in Prince George’s County.

44

Work Cited:

Wells, A. (2018). Native American Heritage Timeline 20th – 21st Century. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.edi.nih.gov/blog/communities/native-american-heritage-timeline-20th-%E2%80%93-21st-century

O'Brien, C. (Ed.). (2019). Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture: Stories, Time Lines, Maps, and More. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Bios: Strong Medicine speaks- Native American elder has her say: An oral history. BIO STRONG
Black Elk: The life of an American Visionary. BIO BLACK ELK
Code Talker: BIO NEZ
You don’t have to say you love me: A memoir BIO ALEXIE

Hoopla Streaming Video

Hoopla offers thousands of movies, television shows, music albums. Borrow up to 6 titles per month for free with your PGCMLS library card.

  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord, 1991 - Amazing rain forest cinematography highlights this powerful film about feuding missionaries in the Brazilian jungle. Featuring a strong cast packed with Academy Award nominees, At Play in the Fields of the Lord is a sterling adaptation of Peter Matthiessen's brilliant novel.
  • Happy People : A Year in the Taiga, 2013 - With insightful commentary written and narrated by Herzog, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga follows one of the Siberian trappers through all four seasons of the year to tell the story of a culture virtually untouched by modernity. 
  • The Lesser Blessed, 2013 - Through the eyes of Larry Sole, a First Nation teenager, The Lesser Blessed weaves the story of three unlikely friends isolated in a small town discovering life and love in a world clouded by a dark mystery from his past.
  • Sweet Country, 2018 - Sam, a middle-aged Aboriginal man, works for a preacher in the outback of Australia's Northern Territory. When Harry, a bitter war veteran, moves into a neighboring outpost, the preacher sends Sam and his family to help Harry renovate his cattle yards. 
  • Xingu, 2012 - This gripping historical drama tells the inspiring true story of the three Villas-Bôas brothers, Orlando (Felipe Camarago), Claudio (Joao Miguel) and Leonardo (Caio Blat), and their mission to protect the indigenous Amazon natives. Seeking adventure, the brothers join the "March to the West," an expedition to explore the Amazon rainforest. After befriending the native tribes, they become the leading advocates for the creation of the Xingu National Park.

Kanopy Streaming Video

Kanopy is an online video streaming platform with 26,000 movies, documentaries, and indie and foreign films from over hundreds of producers including The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, Kino Lorber, PBS, and thousands of independent filmmakers. Users are limited to 10 videos streamed every month.

  • Indians Like Us, 2013 - Every weekend, a small group of French citizens dress up in Native regalia and make appearances at various village fairs alongside their countrymen in France. However, in order to fulfill their dream, they must travel to the United States and meet "real Indians." Together, they finally manage a two-week drive across the Midwest and discover that the reality of contemporary Native Americans is quite different from their portrayed envisioning. Filled with unforeseen emotion, their road movie visits Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, and Little Big Horn, and along the way, it captures surreal and enlightening encounters on both sides.
  • In Whose Honor? American Indian Mascots in Sports, 1997 - What's wrong with American Indian sports mascots? This moving, award-winning film is the first of its kind to address that subject. IN WHOSE HONOR? takes a critical look at the long-running practice of "honoring" American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports.
  • Young Lakota: A Native American Leader Fights for Reproductive Rights, 2013 - In this award-winning documentary, Cecilia Fire Thunder- the first female President of the Oglala Sioux tribe, defies a proposed South Dakota law criminalizing all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest, by threatening to build a women's clinic on the sovereign territory of the reservation. She ignites a political firestorm that sets off a chain reaction in the lives of three young Lakotas on the Pine Ridge Reservation, forcing each of them to make choices that define who they are and the kind of adults they will become.
  • Nanook of the North, 1922 - Robert Flaherty made this wonderful film of Inuit life following six years as an Artic explorer for the Canadian Northern Railway.
  • For more titles, browse "Indigenous Studies"