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WTIU Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

WTIU offers a spectrum of unique programs that delve into rarely-seen aspects of contemporary Native American life.

JonMarc Skunkcap just after an exchange in the Indian Relay National Championships at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, Idaho.

Throughout November WTIU will present an array of award-winning documentaries on the Native American experience. Join us for programs about a young Alaskan businessman struggling to make a living, the excitement of the National Championship horse races, and an intimate new portrait of a legendary American Indian leader.

Friday, November 1 at 1 p.m.

Cory Mann is a quirky young Tlingit businessman hustling to make a dollar in Juneau, Alaska. Hungry for smoked salmon and nostalgic for his childhood, he decides to spend a summer smoking fish at his family’s traditional fish camp. This documentary of his life and the untold history of his people is woven with the process of preparing the food as Mann struggles to pay his bills, fend off the IRS , and keep his business afloat. By turns tragic, bizarre, and hilarious, Smokin’ Fish tells the story of one man’s attempts to navigate the messy collision between the modern world and an ancient culture.

Sunday, November 3 at 3 p.m.

Grab is an intimate portrait of the little-documented Grab Day in the villages of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo tribe. Each year, Laguna Pueblo villagers honor Catholic saints and family members by showering food and gifts from the rooftops of their homes upon the community gathered below. An official selection at the Sundance Film Festival, Grab shows how a community-wide prayer of abundance, thanks, and renewal exists at the intersection of traditional native and contemporary Western cultures.

The documentary explores the origins and evolution of this 300-year-old custom, from its introduction by Spanish settlers to its modern-day twists. Narrated by actress Parker Posey, the film follows three families as they prepare for the annual event, chronicling their lives for the year leading up to Grab Day.

Sunday, November 10 at 3 p.m.

This documentary shows Native American performers infusing contemporary genres of dance and music with traditional elements drawn from their tribal heritage. Part performance, part behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, the film profiles the artists as they bring the “Native Fusion” genre to the mainstream.

Native American artists are shown working in a variety of genres most people don’t associate with American Indians. Featured artists include award-winning pop-diva Jana Mashonee; classically-trained ballet dancers Michael Greyeyes and Santee Smith; Grammy-winning musicians Robert Mirabal and Bill Miller; and R&B songstress Martha Redbone.

Wednesday, November 13 at 1 p.m.

This multi-award-winning documentary is a journey into the life of a legendary figure who many have heard of but don’t really know—warrior, leader of the Sioux Nation, and skilled diplomat, Sitting Bull.

Augmented by extensive use of Sitting Bull’s own words, more than six hundred historical photographs and images, and a compelling original music score, the documentary brings to life the little-known human side of Sitting Bull as well as the story of a great man’s struggle to maintain his people’s way of life against an ever-expanding westward movement of white settlers.

Two of the most respected historians of the American West served as historical advisors: Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull; and Donald Fixico, professor of American Indian History and prominent Native American.

Monday, November 18 at 10 p.m.

The hope and determination of modern-day American Indian life is revealed in this documentary from Independent Lens about what it takes to win one of the world’s most dangerous forms of horse racing.

From the bitter cold of winter on the Rocky Mountain front to the heat and mayhem of the summer’s championship races in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon, Indian Relay follows teams from three American Indian communities as they prepare for and compete across a grueling Indian Relay season. With heart-stopping racing footage, the film sweeps you up in the glory and honor of winning the National Championships.

Monday, November 25 at 10 p.m.
In a small town in the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation, Sunny Clifford, her twin sister Serena and their neighbor, Brandon Ferguson, share a common dream of helping to create a better future for their tribe. When South Dakota passes a law criminalizing abortion, tribal President Cecelia Fire Thunder challenges it with a threat to build a clinic on the reservation. This draws Sunny, Serena, and Brandon into a political storm that changes the course of their lives.

Friday, November 29 at 1 p.m.

Injunuity is a collage of reflections on the Native American world, its shared past, its turbulent present, and its undiscovered future. From Columbus to the western expansion to tribal casinos, Native Americans are taught that the Native way, while at times glorious, is something of the past, which needed to be replaced by a manifest destiny from across the ocean. Injunuity takes the alternative point of view that there is no time like the present to look to Native wisdom for guidance.

The film is a mix of animation, music, and thoughts from people exploring life from a Native American perspective. Every word spoken is verbatim and every opinion is real—told in nine short pieces and covering such topics as language preservation, sacred sites, and the environment. Rather than revisit history, Injunuity focuses on the path that lies before us.

Indiana Public Media is a producer and distributor of public media from WFIU Public Radio and WTIU Public Television at Indiana University including your favorite programming from NPR and PBS.


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