Tribal nations sustained by arts
By Carol Berry, Today correspondent
DENVER – "Resilience" was the theme of a week-long film and arts festival of works that can "reaffirm collective identity, preserve collective memory, and help new generations cope with changes," festival officials said.
The stories and histories told in the films and art productions also entertained.
From the wit of Wisconsin Oneida comedian Charlie Hill to documentaries on tribal traditions to the film "Reel Injun" and analyses of Canadian Arctic policy, the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management's Seventh Annual Indigenous Film & Arts Festival displayed the wealth of narrative and visual art that sustains tribal nations.
The art and films "demonstrate why it is that after decades of programs of extermination and assimilation, American Indians, Maori, and other Native peoples stubbornly persist as strong political, social and cultural entities," said Mervyn L. Tano, IIIRM president and Jeanne M. Rubin, IIIRM general counsel and film festival director.
The comedian joined Neil Diamond, Canadian Cree from Waskaganish, director of "Reel Injun," to discuss the film's use of humor and irony as it presented non-Natives' depictions of Natives during the film industry's 50-year evolution toward movies that originate and are produced within the Native community.
The film clips in Diamond's documentary show familiar Western heroes in ways that reveal the depth of America's need to distort Native people and their societies to justify violent exploitation, using interviews with Clint Eastwood, John Trudell, Russell Means, Iron Eyes Cody (born Espera Oscar de Corti), and others.
"Americans love Westerns – it's in our blood," one interviewee said in "Reel Injun," while another recalled that, as children, "We cheered for the cowboys, never realizing we were the Indians."
"Reel Injun," shown at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a festival partner, was also sponsored in part by the Consulate General of Canada, whose representative said Diamond is "one of our foremost aboriginal filmmakers." The documentary has been nominated for a number of awards.
The Canadian consulate was also a sponsor of a far-ranging discussion on the role of indigenous peoples in the international dimension of Canada's Northern Strategy. Consul and senior trade commissioner, Ladan Amirazizi, termed the Arctic "an essential part of Canada's history" and its protection a top foreign policy objective of the Canadian government.
The conversation was held after a showing of "Before Tomorrow," a film of Inuit life in 1840 at about the time of first contact with Europeans and a subsequent epidemic that spared only a grandmother and her young grandson, to whom she passes along enough knowledge for him to have a future