Ya?’a?t’e?e?h shi Dine?, shi’ke?h, do?o?ta?hano?tso. Shí’eí Alzado Jonesyinishye?.
Kin?ichi?i’nii do?onee?’ nish?i??,do?o? Ta’neeszahniiba?shi?shchiin. Ta?chii’nii dashi?cheido?o? Bit’ahnii dashi?na??i?. Ákót’éego diné nish???. Hello my relatives and friends.
My nameis Alzado Alexander Jones. I am of the Redhouse people clan, born for theTangle people clan. The Red-Running-Into-Water Clan is my maternalgrandfather’s clan and the Folded Arm people are my paternal grandfather’s clan(Jones, 2017). I am the son of Cornelia and Alex Jones. I’m from Oaksprings,Arizona on Dine?tah, homelands of the Navajo people.Beginning of the course in the classsyllabus, on the course description” examines the unique structures and functions ofNative governments from pre-contact times to the present day. Tribal governments are the original and mostsenior sovereigns. They serve aspolitical entities, business entities, and cultural entities as well.
This course focuses on how Native peoplesmanage their lands, resources, judicial systems, and educational systems” andthe outcomes were knowing the acquired rights through the studying of treatiesand how tribal governments work. Knowing the characteristics of colonialism anddependency, it also mentioned the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and how itimpacted tribal governments. There were some uninteresting chapters at times,but I feel there is one chapter in particular we didn’t have a chancediscussion or responding to- chapter nine. Chapter nine talks about NativeAmericans portrayed in media. “The National Collegiate AthleticAssociation objects to institutions using racial, ethical, and national originreferences in their intercollegiate athletic programs…several institutions havemade changes that adhere to the core values of the NCAA Constitution pertainingto cultural diversity, ethical sportsmanship and nondiscrimination. We applaudthat, and we will continue to monitor these institutions and others. All institutionsare encouraged to promote these core values and take proactive steps at everyNCAA event through institutional management to enhance the integrity ofintercollegiate athletics related to these issues.”- NCAA Executive Committee,2005 (Wilkins and Stark, 2018)Throughout history, AmericanIndians have remained one of America’s most insignificant minorities.
With theminority population, American Indian population’s challenged the struggles andprogressive strides are reflected in popular culture. Hollywood and theAmerican film industry have long represented Indians in a negative perspective.In much the same manner that American colonists forced Indians off their nativeland, filmmakers have often relegated Native American characters to roleswherein they have been typecast as minor characters displaying stereotypical,historically inaccurate behavior. That is not to say that American Indians havenot been present in film.
Native Americans haveexisted as staple characters for a large portion of the twentieth century,especially in the popular Western genre. Native American characters intwentieth century films have ranged from stereotypes including thebloodthirsty, raging beast to the noble savage. Still other Indian characters,be they heroines, villains, or neutral, were flat characters with little to nocharacter development or dynamic range in their personalities.
In thesestories, the Native American population was seen as bad, though individualmembers could be represented as good. These stereotypes continued for years.This marginalizing of the population has been manifested in the creation ofharmful and one-dimensional stereotypes. American Indian filmmakers have had tofight to create an artistic voice for themselves and carve a space forexpression through film.The American governmentrecognizes 562 Indian tribes, and while 229 of them are based in Alaska, therest are located in 33 other states (NCAI 2). With each of these tribes comedistinctly different traditions and histories that cannot be generalized, butare repeatedly compressed to one ambiguous culture for the purposes of film.Additionally, realistic and whole images of Indians and their stories aredrastically underrepresented in films throughout history and in present day.Modern Indian filmmakershave made positive progress with representation of native peoples since thedays of popular Western films featuring cowboys pitted against or aided byone-dimensional Indian characters.
Unthinking Eurocentrism, discusses the noblesavage convention and elaborates on the habitually harmful practices of castingand portraying Native American characters. Though it may be simple to arguethat the stereotypes of noble savage and bloodthirsty savage are a relic of thedistant past and now widely seen as outdated, it remains important to recognizethat the author of Last of the Mohicans was not entirely truthful but is acritically acclaimed film.Amajor reason why these indigenous voices are sparse in film is because Nativefilmmakers have traditionally been few and far between.
White males have longdominated the film industry, and since they are at the creative helm, they haveserved their own interests, told their own stories, and been bound to popularcommercial demands. Yet, Indian filmmakers have been on the rise in recentdecades. These storytellers have headed up successful documentaries withaccurate facts and integrity in artistic voice, and have moved into morenarrative storytelling as they have gained traction, as exhibited by successfulfilms such as Smoke Signals (1998) and Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013). Thesecreators will strive to tell truthful and multifaceted stories that allowNative Americans in film to not be defined solely by a stereotype or theirracial identity, but rather to represent a complete experience of a human beingwho has lived within that culture.The same statement applies toIndians taking agency over their own cinema. Agency is one of the mostimportant facets of social change.
An individual must first feel that they havethe capacity and power to effect change in a larger context in order to producesocial progress. This idea certainly holds true in the context of socialmovements, and it is important to view film and imagery in popular culture as atool to effect social change. As a mirror for society, popular culture is alsosubject to social change. Creating a political and social dialogue aboutAmerican Indians goes hand-in-hand with achieving greater representation.Native peoples have worked hard inthe past decades to create narrative stories in the context of their culture.The digital age has created many new opportunities for filmmaking in general,all of which American Indian directors and storytellers can take, and havetaken, advantage.
Today, an individual can buy a relatively low-priced digitalsingle-lens reflex camera to shoot footage, use professional editing softwareon a personal computer, and choose from one of many sharing platforms such asYouTube and Vimeo to share a product with the world. Because the means of filmproduction and distribution are more accessible, a greater number of Nativefilmmakers are able to tell their stories using film as the medium.The mass media occupies a harsh rolein any democracy that includes tribal democracies and have important effects ona publics opinion.
The media views with deep suspicion because of both our pastand present role that perpetuated native stereotypes. Imagesof Native Americans in film throughout American history have told a great dealabout the social position of the population. Ugly stereotypes persisted foryears, yet waves of activism and a newfound sense of agency allowed Nativefilmmakers to take control of telling their own stories. The Native film worldhas flourished in recent years, and trends indicate an encouraging incline inIndian film production. Society must support Native people as they push formore true and accurate representation and foster a climate in our nation wherepopular culture represents the interests, cultures and lives of every member ofits population.Practicallycoming to Northwest Indian College has been a journey. Upon my arrival myexpectations of campus were shot down, it was completely different.Transferring from a university to a college- that meant my social interactionswere going to be different, courses will revolve around cultural knowledge, myview of myself were going to be challenged.
I had to remind myself of thepurpose I came here and that was to find cultural identity. Searching tobelong, belong and feel connected to my tribal community; restore that lostknowledge of our people, and most challenging of all- who I am. Asfor knowing who I am culturally and traditionally, I’m still on that path.Coming here is a step to indulge into my cultural heritage. Before I didn’tknow my origin story of my tribe, but now I take into consideration that thiswas attracted into my life as a huge learning lesson for me, to grow and expandas a strong resilient indigenous individual.