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‘Imagining the Indian’: A Documentary Making a Difference

‘Imagining the Indian’: A Documentary Making a Difference

Imagining the Indian” a new feature-length documentary film, is a comprehensive and deep-dive into the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive.

The film showcases the issues through archival footage and interviews with those involved in the fight. The psychological research is clear, the use of Native American mascots is detrimental, not only to Native people but to marginalized groups everywhere.

Finalists Revealed For Prestigious 4th Annual Library Of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film

Finalists Revealed For Prestigious 4th Annual Library Of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film

Six finalists (including “Imagining the Indian”) were announced today for the richest prize in documentary film—the 4th Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film.

A grant of $200,000 will go to the winning film to support final production, distribution and marketing of the documentary. In addition, a runner-up will receive $50,000, and up to four finalists will earn a $25,000 grant. The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress, and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation established the award in 2019 to recognize “one late-stage documentary that uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that bring American history to life using archival materials.”

Sacheen Littlefeather Talks About What Really Happened Before, During And After Rejecting Marlon Brando’s Oscar

Sacheen Littlefeather Talks About What Really Happened Before, During And After Rejecting Marlon Brando’s Oscar

Before Chris Rock and Will Smith and the Oscars slap heard ‘round the world, there was Sacheen Littlefeather.

Littlefeather became a household name overnight back in 1973 — a viral moment long before TikTok and other social media made those common. She did it by politely commanding the stage at the 45th Academy Awards, refusing to accept the Oscar on behalf of legendary actor Marlon Brando for his role in The Godfather and speaking out against the shameful treatment of Native Americans onscreen and off.

‘Dark Winds’ Review: Murder Most Foul in the Navajo Nation

‘Dark Winds’ Review: Murder Most Foul in the Navajo Nation

The natural way to lead a review of “Dark Winds,” which premieres Sunday on AMC, would be to note that it is a series written, directed and performed largely by Native Americans; set in the Navajo Nation and filmed on location in New Mexico; and bringing to screen the tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee from Tony Hillerman’s best-selling mystery novels.

Or you could cut to the chase and just say: Oh thank God, someone finally gave Zahn McClarnon his own television show. Read More

‘Imagining the Indian’: A Documentary Making a Difference

Imagining the Indian Continues its Film Festival Run

Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting will make its Boston premiere at the Boston International Film Festival (BIFF) The film will be screened Monday, April 18, at 2:30 p.m. ET at the AMC Boston Common 19 Theatre (175 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02111) Tickets for Boston International Film Festival – FilmFreeway, with a screening, and post-screening discussion with the film’s directors and producers. View the Trailer

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San Manuel commits $1 million to film denouncing American Indian mascots in pro sports

San Manuel commits $1 million to film denouncing American Indian mascots in pro sports

For more than half a century, American Indian tribes and their advocates tried in vain to persuade professional sports teams to drop names offensive to Native peoples.

But the movement finally gained traction in recent years. Washington’s pro football team dropped its Redskins moniker in 2020 after decades of protest, and last month announced it had adopted the name Commanders. In July, the Cleveland Indians, which dropped the club’s Chief Wahoo mascot in 2019, announced it was changing its name to the Guardians. The Major League Baseball club had been the Indians for more than a century, since 1915.

Imagining the Indian to World Premiere  at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival

Imagining the Indian to World Premiere at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival

View the Trailer

Feature Documentary Film details the past, present, and future of insidious Native American-themed mascots and imagery, including the Washington Football Team 

For Immediate Release:

Washington, D.C.Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting will make its world premiere at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival. The festival highlights the best of current films from American Indian filmmakers, producers, directors, and actors working through Indian Country. Imagining the Indian will close out the Festival on Sunday, April 3rd 2022 with a screening, Q&A, and post-screening reception. View the Trailer

“We are so proud to premiere this film at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival. We made this film for the good of Indian Country and with the support of Indian Country, and we are excited to debut at a festival focused on Native films and filmmakers,” said Co-Director Ben West. 

Imagining the Indian is a comprehensive examination of the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive. Included among those is the former name and imagery of the Washington Football Team. While the filmmakers are encouraged by the Team’s announcement to move away from the racist name they profited from for decades, they realize that the fight against Native American Mascoting is far from over. 

The Kansas City National Football League (NFL) Team, the Chicago National Hockey League (NHL) Team, and the Atlanta Major League Baseball (MLB) Team remain adamant that they will not change their team names or practices, including the insidious Tomahawk/Arrowhead Chop. Additionally, close to 2,000 secondary schools throughout the country still have harmful Native themed mascots. Imagining the Indian seeks to shine on a light on these harms. 

“Changing the Washington Football Team’s name is long overdue, but the victory is only piecemeal until the other pro and amateur teams also choose new names,” said Co-Director Aviva Kempner. 

“And eradicating Native American mascoting will rid us of its perniciousness, which is that exposure to it is at the root of negative stereotyping and treatment of all people of color,” said Co-Producer Kevin Blackistone. 

The filmmaking team behind Imagining the Indian look forward to premiering the film at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival. The film is made possible by generous support from Executive Producers Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Co-Executive Producers Jessica and Steve Sarowitz. 

The film is Produced by the Ciesla Foundation, Co-Directed and Co-Produced by Aviva Kempner and Ben West (Cheyenne), and Co-Produced by Kevin Blackistone, Yancey Burns, and Sam Bardley. Interviewees include Activist Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), Olympic Gold-Medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indian W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), Washington Football Team Legend Charles Mann, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Broadcaster Bob Costas, and NAACP President Derrick Johnson, among many others.

For more information on Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting and California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival, visit www.imaginingtheindianfilm.org and https://www.caiiff.com/

Press Coverage

Witness the films traction, as several news outlets, subject matter experts and concerned citizens voice their support.

‘Imagining the Indian’: A Documentary Making a Difference

‘Imagining the Indian’: A Documentary Making a Difference

Imagining the Indian” a new feature-length documentary film, is a comprehensive and deep-dive into the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive.

The film showcases the issues through archival footage and interviews with those involved in the fight. The psychological research is clear, the use of Native American mascots is detrimental, not only to Native people but to marginalized groups everywhere.

Kevin Blackistone: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting

Kevin Blackistone is a columnist for the Washington Post, a regular panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn, and often a guest on NPR and the PBS News Hour. A professor of the practice at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, he has recently released a new documentary film that he co-wrote and produced about the Native American “mascoting” in sports. Join him in a 60-minute video of his presentation on September 29, 2022 at Roger Williams University moderated by Brian Hendrickson.

Finalists Revealed For Prestigious 4th Annual Library Of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film

Finalists Revealed For Prestigious 4th Annual Library Of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film

Six finalists (including “Imagining the Indian”) were announced today for the richest prize in documentary film—the 4th Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film.

A grant of $200,000 will go to the winning film to support final production, distribution and marketing of the documentary. In addition, a runner-up will receive $50,000, and up to four finalists will earn a $25,000 grant. The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress, and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation established the award in 2019 to recognize “one late-stage documentary that uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that bring American history to life using archival materials.”

Best Things To Do This Week in Los Angeles And SoCal: July 11- 14

Best Things To Do This Week in Los Angeles And SoCal: July 11- 14

Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting
The Autry Museum in Griffith Park
4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park

Attend the L.A. premiere of a documentary that follows the movement to eradicate the words, images and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive. The film examines history through archival footage and interviews and talks with those involved in the current fight. Pre-screening reception at 6:30 p.m. Included with museum admission, though ticket reservations are recommended. More Info

‘Imagining the Indian,’ Documentary Co-Produced by Merrill’s Kevin Blackistone, Appearing on Film Festival Circuit

‘Imagining the Indian,’ Documentary Co-Produced by Merrill’s Kevin Blackistone, Appearing on Film Festival Circuit

Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting” — co-produced by Kevin Blackistone, Professor of the Practice at the University of Maryland‘s Philip Merrill College of Journalism — won the Best Documentary prize at the Boston International Film Festival, and continues its film festival circuit by making its Washington, D.C., premiere at Filmfest DC.

“It’s time for a reckoning.”

“This is an important subject and an important film.”

“Racial slurs shouldn’t be a regular part of everyday conversations, let alone cherished and institutionalized. It’s time for sports fans to open their eyes.”

Tribal Council

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
Northern California

Committed to
Our Mission

Our goal is to raise awareness of the issue of Native American Mascoting, expand the understanding, and appreciation, of Native American culture, and empower a movement towards widespread social sensitivity.

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Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Lead Executive Producer  |  Website

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians 

Executive Producer  |  Website

Jessica and Steve Sarowitz

Co-Executive Producer 

Aviva Kempner

Director & Producer  |  View Bio

Ben West

Director & Producer |  View Bio

Sam Bardley

Producer  |  View Bio

Kevin Blackistone

Producer  |  View Bio

Barbara Ballow

Editor  |  View Bio

Yancey Burns

Producer  |  View Bio

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