What We're Reading: Narrative Sovereignty: Native Filmmakers are America’s Teachers

"Invisibility is deadly. When they don’t see us, we don’t exist," said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) for Medium. "One of the biggest perpetrators of our erasure has been the multi-trillion dollar entertainment industry. Native American characters only make up between 0-.04% of primetime TV and films. What’s more, the 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report found Native representation in film has remained stagnant at 0.6%. Quite a stark difference from the 66.9% for white men. While these numbers are staggering, they are not surprising. They are part of the fuel that ignites our work to build pathways for Native creatives in the film industry."

"My name is Crystal Echo Hawk. I am a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and the founder and Executive Director of IllumiNative, a Native woman-led racial and social justice nonprofit organization dedicated to building power for Native peoples by amplifying Native voices, stories, and issues. These statistics are from Reclaiming Native Truth, the largest public opinion and strategy setting research project ever conducted by Native peoples and the basis on which IllumiNative was founded. Led by this founding research initiative, we work to dismantle the invisibility, erasure, and toxic stereotypes that impact Native peoples today."

"This past August, during one of Indian Country’s largest artistic events of the year, IllumiNative hosted the first annual “Indigenous Futures: Envisioning the Next 100 Years” at the centennial Santa Fe Indian Market. For two days, we invited Native creatives to speak and celebrate their accomplishments in building power in television and film, climate justice, politics, fashion, and more. More than an event, this was a moment to celebrate the power that Native creatives continue to build across all sectors. As part of our celebration of Native excellence, we invited Navajo filmmaker Shaandiin Tome to share her award-winning documentary, Long Line of Ladies. This film, which premiered at Sundance and screened at SXSW, follows a Karuk girl as she and her family prepare for her Ihuk, a traditional Karuk coming-of-age ceremony and has earned numerous accolades."

"We know from Reclaiming Native Truth that 78% of audiences are interested in and understand the importance of increasing Native representation in Hollywood. What we need now from allies in the industry is to create space for Native peoples — for our stories, our dreams and our realities. Native filmmakers are ready and their time is now."

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