LOS ANGELES – Now that Los Angeles has been the first city to make American Indian Heritage Month an official celebration, it’s time to roll out the red carpet in honor of those who make a difference in Indian country and introduce Angelinos to the diversity of its Native residents.
Joanelle Romero, founder of Red Nation Celebration, a nonprofit group funded by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, said the city’s first-ever American Indian Heritage Month honors Edward Albert Jr. (1951 – 2006).
During his lifetime, Albert served as commissioner of the American Indian Affairs for California; was the co-founder and commissioner of the Malibu American Indian Task Force and was an award-winning actor, community activist and Red Nation board member.
“He is deeply missed,” Romero said. “Each year we’ll honor someone new.”
Jimi Castillo, Tongva and a pipe carrier, water-pourer and healer, said he hopes the events of American Indian Heritage Month reach Natives and non-Natives alike. “I will always bring an awareness and correct the non-Native community on stigmas attached to Indian people,” he said. “I hope we’re able to reach all of the two-legged community.”
Humor, too, is the lifeblood of Native people. Indian people possess a sense a humor that sometimes eludes many non-Natives, but Romero said the Indian brand of humor could appeal to a mass audience.
On Nov. 5, Native comedians got their chance to make a diverse audience chuckle at the Improv on Melrose Boulevard. The line-up featured Native comedians Marc Yaffee, Dine’; J.R. Redwater, Standing Rock Sioux; and Jim Ruel, Ojibwe.
“For the industry to understand our sense of humor, we need to be in front of a diverse audience,” Romero said.
Several events remain on the calendar to round out the month-long celebration.
An afternoon of Native music is planned for the Acoustic Concert Series at Amoeba Music on the Sunset Strip on Nov. 11. The jam session, featuring an array of artists called the Red Nation Band of Friends, is set to start at 2 p.m. and last until it’s over. “It’s just going to be a diverse group of traditional and contemporary musicians,” Romero said.
At the crux of the celebration, the 3rd Annual Red Nation Film Festival will showcase the best in Native filmmaking and acting talents at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. This year, the three-day long event, Nov. 13 – 15, features films about environmental issues and sacred sites, as well as features and documentaries that examine issues in Indian country.
One day of the festival is dedicated to award-winning Cheyenne/Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre, who has directed and/or produced more than a dozen movies in his career spanning nearly 13 years. Eyre said he has tentative plans to attend the festival so he can talk to moviegoers about his films and current projects.
Eyre recently wrapped up production work on the supernatural thriller “Imprint,” a film directed by Michael Linn. “Imprint” tells the story of a prominent Oglala Lakota attorney (Tonantzin Carmelo, Tongva) who returns to her childhood home on the Pine Ridge Reservation only to find out it’s haunted. See the trailer at www.imprintthemovie.com/trailers and look for the movie at upcoming film festivals.
“It’s a small, but good, movie made entirely on an independent film budget,” said Eyre, 38. “Tonantzin is great, she carries a movie well and she’s really beautiful and watchful.”
The film festival’s closing night will feature a special film and surprise guests.
Wrapping up the American Indian Heritage Month celebration is the red-carpet dinner and gala celebration, “Honoring Our Legends – American Indians in Philanthropy Media Environment,” at the Kodak Hollywood Ballroom on Nov. 16.
Romero said indigenous rights activist, actor, artist and author Russell Means, Oglala Lakota, will receive honors. A young person will be honored as well. This year, Romero’s son, Montano Rain, who was featured at age 8 in the film “Matrix Reloaded,” will receive honors as the founder and coordinator of Help The Earth youth environmental nonprofit organization.
Help The Earth encourages youths and adults alike to recycle, take care of animals and preserve the earth for future generations to come.
“Every year were going to honor a youth,” Romero said.
Times and events are subject to change. For more information, visit www.rednation.com.