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The Power of Indigenous Documentaries

Karen Werner, PhD, MEd's picture
BA in Individualized Studies Blog
The Power of Indigenous Documentaries

A highlight for me of the Spring 2013 Port Townsend Undergraduate residency was our guest presenter Tracy Rector (photographed above by David Conklin.) Tracy is Executive Director and Co-Founder of Longhouse Media whose mission “is to catalyze indigenous people and communities to use media as a tool for self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change.”

Tracy showed us an excerpt from “Clearwater,” (below) Longhouse Media’s feature length documentary-in-progress. The film emphasizes the need for adaptation:

For nearly 15,000 years the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest...have time and again had to adapt to environmental, social and political changes in order to survive. And now, faced with unprecedented environmental challenges that threaten the very chemistry of these ocean waters, they are forced to adapt again. In fact, we all are.

Tracy described her own journey from Native herbal apprentice to filmmaker. After leading us in an exercise on collaborative creativity, Tracy spoke to the power of Indigenous documentaries as a means of social activism and change. She screened additional short pieces produced by Native American youth in the Northwest. Here’s to Longhouse Media and Tracy Rector’s inspiring documentary work and mentorship!

The theme of adaptation also stays with me--when should I try to adapt to powerful circumstances? When should I focus instead on changing those circumstances? These are sincere questions for me.

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