Amanda Morris

‘The Cherokee Word for Water’: The Wilma Mankiller Story

the-cherokee-word-for-water

Wilma Pearl Mankiller became the first modern female Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1985 after working with volunteers from the small rural community of Bell, Oklahoma to bring water to the town. ‘The Cherokee Word for Water’ is the story of this extraordinary woman and leader whose activism on behalf of her community continues to resonate across the Cherokee Nation today.

From Racist Stereotype to Fully Whitewashed: Tiger Lily Since 1904

Tiger Lily in Peter Pan

Whatever the other problems might be with this film (and they are many), my focus for this review is the character Tiger Lily, who was originally conceived as a racist stereotype by J.M. Barrie and who has had her Native identity completely erased in this latest iteration. Is this progress? I think not.

From Racist Stereotype to Fully Whitewashed: Tiger Lily Since 1904

Tiger Lily in Peter Pan

Whatever the other problems might be with this film (and they are many), my focus for this review is the character Tiger Lily, who was originally conceived as a racist stereotype by J.M. Barrie and who has had her Native identity completely erased in this latest iteration. Is this progress? I think not.

Complicating Indigenous Feminism: Shayla’s Story in ‘Imprint’

And the story imprinted is the story of colonization and domination, a story that has seduced Shayla in her role as an attorney. But another story is also imprinted in this woman, a story of tradition, memory, family, and the foundational principles of her Indigenous culture. As the film progress, Shayla starts putting the broken pieces of her experiences in Denver together with the visions and experiences of home in order to remember.

Courage and Consequences in ‘Rhymes for Young Ghouls’

Kawennahere Devery Jacobs as Aila

The refreshing part about this dark story is the calm confidence and self-assurance of an unapologetic Native female protagonist who is unafraid to take risks and clearly provides leadership to her friends and family.

Exposing Real Lies: ‘Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian’

What does an “Indian” look like? If you are like most Americans, your answer will fall somewhere between Disney’s Pocahontas character, Johnny Depp’s depiction of Tonto, and the Washington NFL team logo. That’s because your education, family, friends, and society have no idea what actual, living Native peoples look like thanks in large part to Hollywood film representations. The 89-minute documentary ‘Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian’ (2009) will begin to correct some of those misrepresentations floating around in your brainpan.

Turning Poison into Medicine: ‘On and Off the Res w/Charlie Hill’

Normally, I would now insert a trailer, but this small independent documentary from Upstream Productions has no trailer or clips to share. It has an IMDB listing, but there is barely any information on it. To find anything out about Oneida Nation member Charlie Hill or this documentary, you have to search. Not only that, you have to know in advance what you are searching for. That puts you, kind reader, at a serious disadvantage if you didn’t even know Native Americans still exist, much less participate in the stand-up comedy circuit.

Facing Down the Devil in ‘The Lesser Blessed’

Dreamlike images of a body immersed in bathwater intermingle with images of fire and shadowy figures running. The camera settles clearly on the deeply scarred back of the young man in the tub as the opening sequence to ‘The Lesser Blessed’ comes to a close and the camera travels across a remote landscape split by a single road.

‘Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School’

Time for a serious interlude. ‘Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School’ is an 80-minute documentary that tells a story about the Indian boarding school experience from the Native American perspective. The dark history of Indian boarding schools sanctioned by U.S. government policy is a stain on this nation, but one that very few people know about. This film provides an emotional and logical overview of these boarding schools and the continuing effects on today’s Indigenous populations.

‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’: Racism, Kidnapping, and Forced Education Down Under

‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ (2002), directed by Phillip Noyce, is a powerful and assertive film version of this tragedy. Based on three real-life indigenous survivors of this era, known collectively as the Stolen Generation, the film is set in 1931 and tells the story of three young girls who were kidnapped on the government’s authority, forced into an “aboriginal integration” program 1,200 miles from home, and who are determined to run away and make it home on their own by following the fence. Unfortunately, the school’s director hunts them with the veracity of an early 1800s US slavemaster. He is relentless and determined, but the girls are as well.

‘American Indian Comedy Slam’: “Fighting hundreds of years of stereotypes”

While these Native American comedians are trained and practiced in Western stand-up forms, they are adept at mediating between the worlds of indigenous experiences and Euramerican ignorance of the mess, mayhem, and trauma of our shared histories. Native American stand-up comedy performances of today are commissioned and composed for a public purpose, as well as sharing an outsider status as simply entertainment rather than powerful and convincing forms of discourse that can create social and cultural change.

“How do we forgive our fathers?”: Forgiveness and Healing in ‘Smoke Signals’

After the film’s opening fire aftermath scene, viewers are introduced more thoroughly to Arnold Joseph, who cut his hair in mourning after the fire and eventually disappeared, and to Thomas and Victor as young men: “Me and Victor? We were children born of flame and ash,” Thomas narrates. Scenes of reservation life also unfold with a quiet humor, punctuated by music: parallel scenes of Victor eating frybread with his mother, Arlene (Tantoo Cardinal, Metis), and Thomas eating dinner with his grandmother (Monique Mojica, Kuna and Rappahannock); flashback scenes of Victor and Thomas as kids and of Victor with Arnold before he disappeared; the ubiquitous rez traffic and weather reporter, Lester Falls Apart; and two women driving a car in reverse down a paved rez road.