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National Hispanic Heritage Month (US): Sept. 15 – Oct. 15

Native American Day (California and Nevada): Sept. 24 

Orange Shirt Day is held annually on September 30 in Canadian communities with students and staff being encouraged to wear an orange shirt to school. September 30th falls during the time of year when Indigenous children were taken away to residential school. Created as an observance in 2013 it’s also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Since 2021, in light of the revelations of more than 1,000 unmarked graves near former residential school sites, it was made into a statutory holiday by the Canadian government. Wearing the orange shirt represents remembering the history and abuse suffered by Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools in Canada and to symbolize that Every Child Matters, even if they are now adults.

For the residential school system, the government offered an official apology to the Indigenous people of Canada in 2008 and opened the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The findings of the commission are specific. It found that the residential school system disrupted the ability of parents to pass on their indigenous languages to their children, leading to 70% of Canada's Aboriginal languages being classified as endangered. It found that the deliberately poor education offered at the residential school system created a poorly educated indigenous population in Canada, which impacted the incomes those students could earn as adults, and impacted the educational achievement of their children and grandchildren, who were frequently raised in low-income homes. It also found that the sexual and physical abuse received at the schools created life-long trauma in residential school survivors, trauma and abuse which was often passed down to their children and grandchildren, which continues to create victims of the residential school system today.

The “orange shirt” refers to the story of Phyllis Webstad whose new orange shirt was given to her by her grandmother as she left for St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. But when she got there all her own clothes were taken away and her new shirt was never returned. Source: Wikipedia.

Some documentaries:

Every Child Matters: Truth - Act One

Every Child Matters: Reconciliation - Act Two

On October 11, 2020, CBC Television and APTN/Aboriginal Peoples Television jointly aired Every Child Matters: Reconciliation Through Education, a television special produced by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to mark Orange Shirt Day by highlighting the stories of various residential school survivors.

Our People Will Be Healed Alanis Obomsawin.

Focused on the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Center, an N-12 school in Norway House, Manitoba, where Cree students are taught about their own history and culture alongside the regular Manitoba school curriculum. Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki) had previously filmed at the school for We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, to document the story of Jordan River Anderson, a Cree child whose death became the basis of Jordan’s Principle, a federal government commitment to funding services for Indigenous children. This film shows the remarkable result when students are not deprived of the chance to develop their abilities and their sense of pride through education.

The Amendment
Experimental short documentary. Kevin Papatie (Algonquin/Kitcisakik). Produced by Wapikoni.
Four generations. Three residential schools. Two cultures. One extinction.

The Train Station Short documentary. Canada. Lyana Patrick (Stellat'en First Nation) Screening at film festivals. Not available streaming. In a beautifully animated documentary, the filmmaker narrates her family’s story of love and survival at Lejac Indian Residential School. Interview with the filmmaker taped at AFI Docs in June 2021:

Home from School: The Children of Carlisle US, Geoff O’Gara

Screening at film festivals. Available on PBS in October 2021.

The film follows the difficult journey of Soldierwolf and tribal elders as they delve into the controversial history of Indian boarding schools, patch together the historic record and personal stories of the relatives who were shipped away, and, finally, travel to Carlisle to reunite with, and ultimately retrieve, the lost children of their tribe.

Generations after Native American children were sent from their reservation homes across the country to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, family members seek to retrieve the stories and the remains of children who were buried far from home on the school grounds. The Carlisle boarding school was the 19th century brainchild of Capt. William Henry Pratt, who theorized that Indians could only be “civilized” if removed from their families and immersed in the culture and manners of the civilization that had conquered their people.

Some narrative films:

Indian Horse Narrative feature. Canada. Stephen Campanelli.
Streaming on Netflix and other platforms.
Stripped of his heritage at a residential school, an Indigenous student finds refuge on the rink when he discovers a passion for hockey. Trailer:

Rhymes for Young Ghouls Narrative feature. Canada. Jeff Barnaby (Mi’kmaq) Streaming on Amazon Prime, AppleTV, Kanopy (public and university libraries) Set on the fictional Red Crow Mi’kmaq reserve, where a sadistic residential school is located, the film is a story of a bright and skillful teenage girl named Aila, and her audacious revenge against “Popper” the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school. Trailer:

Moose River Crossing Narrative feature. Canada. Shirley Cheechoo (Cree) Only the trailer is streaming

A feature film based on the play that asks the question “Does time heal all wounds?” Six childhood friends and former residential school students meet at the train station to travel to their school reunion. As the travel is delayed these young adults flash to the past, the loves, the lies, the pain of childhood lost. Grounded in the director/playwright’s own experiences. Trailer: fPeCTMSEN6_7WWmcLbL_jtKho8-FqXNSYrFiEUQ

Savage Narrative short/music video. Canada. Lisa Jackson (Anishnaabe) 

The 1950s. A little girl in a car being taken to residential school. A mother sadly, desperately, singing a lullaby in Cree. A classroom of zombie-fied children sharing their rebellion. 

59th New York Film Festival

September 24 – October 10

El gran movimiento Narrative feature. Bolivia. Kiro Russo. A monumental, gently mystical portrait of the contemporary central South American cityscape and those who work within its bowels and environs, set in the alternately harsh and beautiful terrain of La Paz, Bolivia and its surrounding rural areas.

Ste. Anne Narrative feature. Canada. Rhayne Vermette (Métis) In her evocative, collage-like 16mm film, Vermette immerses the viewer in the sounds, textures, and atmosphere of her native Manitoba to limn the outer edges of a twilight-toned narrative centering on a long-missing young woman’s unexpected return to her Métis community.

Tonalli Experimental short. Mexico. Los Ingrávidos. Drawing on the ancient Nahuatl concept of the animating soul or life force, Tonalli engages the ritualistic powers of the cinema, summoning fire, flowers, and many moons into a frenetic and mesmerizing in-camera collage. In Currents: Vibrant Matter

2021 Woodstock Film Festival

Woodstock, New York
Sept. 29 – Oct. 3
In-person. Streaming only in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Catch the Fair One US.Josef Kubota Wladyka. In an absorbing revenge thriller executive a Native American woman embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister. The former boxer intentionally gets entangled in a human trafficking operation in order to retrace the steps of her kid sister and work her way up the chain of command to find the man responsible. Real life US boxing world champion Kali Reis (Mashpee Wampanoag) plays the protagonist, delivering a raw breakout performance in a role that she co-wrote with the filmmaker.

Son of Monarchs Mexico. Alexis Gambis. Filmmaker and biologist Alex Gambis constructs the quiet life of two brothers, orphaned in a flood in Mexico, as their paths diverge and then return with stunning beauty and insight. Tenoch Huerta Mejía stars as the younger, wide-eyed brother who moves from his hometown in Mexico to New York to study the genetics of color on the wings of Monarch butterflies. His work drives him to confront his own metamorphosis, from orphaned expatriate scientist to haunted, loving brother, when he returns to his home in the majestic butterfly forests of Michoacán.

Daughter of a Lost Bird US. Brooke Pepion Swaney (Blackfeet, Salish descendant). Adopted at birth by a white family, Kendra sets out on a journey of discovery. The filmmakers peel off the mystery of Kendra’s adoption layer by layer, as she finds her birth mother, is introduced into the Lummi Nation culture and meets the tribal members who welcome her with open arms. Throughout the film, Kendra seeks the answer to one burning question: What does it mean to be Native? A story of intergenerational trauma that documents not only Kendra’s odyssey, but also the pain inflicted on many families by the Indian Child Welfare Act and Indian Adoption Project that lasted from 1958 to 1967. 

37th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Los Angeles
September 23 – October 2
Films in-person. Panels online nationally.

Films by Asian and Pacific Islander artists from across the globe in a festival organized by Visual Communication are in-person and panel discussions are on the festival’s social media channels. Films with Indigenous themes and with Indigenous creators include:

Cane Fire Documentary feature. US/Hawai’i. Anthony Banua-Simon Examines the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi, interweaving four generations of family history, numerous Hollywood productions, and troves of found footage to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as “extras” in their own story.

Fujin Documentary short. US/Hawai’i. Rachel Makana’ Aloha O Kauikelonai Nakawatase. The filmmaker’s great-grandmother and aunties get ready for a night out. This footage is a glimpse into femininity and womanhood among aging Indigenous Asian women, free of the western ethnographic gaze that has haunted many portrayals of bodies of color.

The Fourfold Experimental short. Canada. Alisi Telengut (Mongolian-Canadian) Based on the ancient animistic beliefs and shamanic rituals in Mongolia and Siberia, the film explores Indigenous worldview and wisdom: Nature is the homeland of human being, Tengri is the deity and the father sky, Earth is the mother with rivers nourishing all beings, and pagan and pantheist gods co-exist with all mortals.

Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust Feature documentary. US. Ann Kaneko. “Beginning in Payahuunadü (“the land of flowing water”), also known as Owens Valley, the film lights the colonial legacy of injustice shared at the site of Manzanar. This documentary is a contentious memorial to the internment of Japanese Americans and the little known grounds where indigenous communities have fought for their rights to the lands and water that sustain them. Poetically weaving memories of Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists, this film is an embodiment of solidarity you will not want to miss.” by Micki Davis

Pacific Cine Waves program. Short films from Hawai’I and Guam. Fana’guyan by Dakota Camacho, Hawaiian Soul by ‘Aina Paikai, How to Catch a Taotaomona by Neil Tinkham, Longing for Hawai’i by Katia Barricklow, Mahalang by Caili Quan, Elliot DeBruyn, Nathaniel Brown, River of Small Gods by Bradley Tangonan. 

8th Icaro International Film Festival in New York

Guatemala and other nations
Sept. 28 – 30
Daily programs. Stream free of charge, only in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Texas

A festival showcasing films from Central America, held annually in Guatemala in November and replicated locally in each Central American country and with limited streaming in the US. Programs are free with registration.

On September 30 Shorts Program III includes Desde Nuestro Muxu’x Documentary short. Guatemala. Juan Pablo Rojas. Mayan songwriter and singer Sara Curruchich crosses Guatemala to bring her music to remote Indigenous communities. A través de carreteras, ríos y volcanes, la compositora y cantante maya, Sara Curruchich cruza Guatemala para llevar su música a comunidades remotas. 

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NAFA International Ethnographic Film Festival

Nordic Anthropological Film Association
Lisbon, Portugal
Sept. 29 – Oct. 2

In Search of the Shaman Feature documentary. The Philippines. Pierre Boccanfuso. A shaman dies in the Philippines forest. Bulldozers, backhoe machines are opening a track through the forest to the Palawan villages. And the community members are looking for a new shaman.

Reindeer Rider Feature documentary. Russia. Ivan Golovnev. The Tungus tribes came to Kamchatka from Eastern Siberia about two centuries ago. Initially these taiga and tundra wanderers used the reindeer as a means of transport, a "saddle animal". And since then the reindeer people have been migrating with their herds along the same route. The film is based on the archive records of the Soviet-era reindeer herders' team leader and the video-diary of a modern herder describing the cultural traditions and innovations of the Evens people, an ethnic minority living in the far east of Russia. 

OPENING WEEKEND: First Americans Museum

Oklahoma City
Sept. 18- 19

The First Americans Museum opened this past weekend after long anticipation. The museum honors the 39 tribes of Oklahoma, and was launched with a great celebration. To find out more read “10 Highlights of Oklahoma City’s New First Americans Museum” by Brandy McDonnell in The Oklahoman, September 17, 2021.

Vision Maker Media at the 18th Lincoln Music Festival

Lincoln, Nebraska
Friday, September 24

With its mission to create Lincoln’s most diverse, inclusive, sustainable cultural event, in 2021 this 3-day music festival will include 75 bands, a Night Market featuring vendors, makers and artists, and community conversations. In a special partnership, this year Vision Maker Media has curated a Native musician showcase to include Indigenous, Raye Zaragoza, Classic Roots, and ANTOINE. 

National Museum of the American Indian

The Other Slavery: Histories of Indian Bondage from New Spain to the Southwestern United States
Sept. 24 – 27
Virtual symposium available on demand

This 4-day symposium explores the hidden histories of enslaved Indigenous peoples, focusing on the legacy of Spanish colonization in the Americas and Asia and its impact on what is now the southwestern United States Panelists will discuss the legacies of Native American enslavement—coerced labor and peonage and the long-term impacts—with Indigenous community leaders and cultural activists. For a thoughtful commentary by Dr. Andrés Reséndez that provides an overview of the complexities of Indian slavery, go to the website.

The symposium is presented by the Smithsonian Latino Center, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in association with the Smithsonian’s initiative, Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past.

Contact and Globalization of Indian Slavery
Opening remarks; Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution

Session 1: Global and National Contexts for Indian Bondage with Philip Deloria, Tiya Miles, Andrés Reséndez, Scott Manning Stevens

Session 2: Slavery in the Spanish Empire: The Philippines and Southwest Borderlands with James F. Brooks, Ramón A. Gutiérrez, Tatiana Seijas, Gabrielle Tayac

Session 3: Living Cultures: The Genízaro Tradition Today with Chavela Trujillo, Delilah Trujillo, Dexter Trujillo, Virgil Trujillo, Patricia Trujillo

Living Cultures: Performance with Las Inditas del Pueblo de Abiquiú, Genízaro Community Members of Abiquiú, New Mexico

Symposium Perspectives: Kevin Gover, UnderSecretary for Museums and Culture, Smithsonian Institution

Legacy of Indian Slavery in the United States
Opening remarks: Eduardo Díaz, Director, Smithsonian Latino Center, and Interim Director, National Museum of the American Latino

Session 4 Indo-Hispanos; Contemporary Indigenous and Hispanic Intersections with Ana X. Gutiérrez Sisneros, Isabel War Trujillo, Patricia Trujillo, Simon Romero

Session 5 Kinship and Genocide in California with Benjamin Madley, Erika Perez, Christina Maria Salazar, Helen Louise Salazar, Anthea M. Hartig

Session 6 Legacies of Indian Bondage with Vanelle Blackhorse, Mary Elliott, Brandie Macdonald, Royleen J. Ross, The Honorable Brian D. Vallo, Michelle Delaney

Closing Reflections: Mary Elliott, Curator of American Slavery, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Future Conversations: Greg Sarris, Tribal Chairman, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Curriculum Teach-In

“Indigenous Land: Stewardship, Relationship and Responsibility” National Museum of the American Indian
Saturday, September 25, 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm ET
The teach-in is online on Zoom

How can we honor the land? What relationships with the land can we mend through Indigenous thinking? In this teach-in designed for teachers, the Smithsonian’s NMAI and Teaching for Change host a day of online sharing and ideas exchange. Museum

experts, Teaching for Change, and K -12 teachers share strategies and explore NMAI’s Essential Understandings for teaching about Indigenous peoples’ histories around land justice. Workshops feature classroom resources from NMAI’s online education portal, Native Knowledge. The keynote speaker is Dr. Kelsey Leonard (Shinnecock), Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Sustainability and Assistant Professor in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo.

2021 NFI Film Club and Online Course: “Leaders of Tomorrow” Big Sky Film Institute
Boseman, Montana
Online nationally

Big Sky Film Institute invites educators from across the US to enroll in the Institute’s Native Filmmaker Initiative (NFI) Film Club The curriculum has been developed for the Montana specific Indian Education for All standards (which many educators far and wide have shown interest in) in addition to National Core standards. This brings classrooms from across Montana and the US together with renowned filmmakers to explore modern-day Indigenous stories all through the powerful medium of documentary film. Registration is free to educators and includes a screening link to the film, details to join a live Q&A w/ Big Sky Film Institute, Montana Indian Education Specialists and respective filmmakers, accompanied curriculum and access to the NFI Film Club Online Course.

Interested in taking an even deeper dive into Indigenous storytelling and documentary filmmaking? The NFI Film Club Online Course is an expansion of club activities for teachers and students alike. A collaboration with Indian Education specialists and world-class Indigenous filmmakers, the course combines Indian Education for All content with documentary film production.

Individuals outside Montana can also view the films by registering on the Film Club site. The films are not geo-blocked to Montana. Select the film they are interested in viewing and click to register. Once they register (this just verifies that they are indeed an educator and lets the Institute know which grade level and subject area they teach), they will receive a screening link to the film and access to the Online Course. The course is open to all. Educators interested in learning more about this online course are encouraged to email Education Programs Coordinator, Julia Sherman at for more information.

HOW IT WORKS Running October through December, each of the three Film Club events will focus on diverse Indigenous subjects and topics. Consult the discussion guides to help adapt the Film Club activities into social studies, science, history or other areas of study. Films are available to view in advance of Film Club discussions and each classroom will receive access to discussion guides and instructions on how to join the live Q&A.

REGISTER YOUR CLASSROOM Registration for Film Club 2021 is now open. Register on the website for individual titles to sign up your classroom to participate. Registration includes a screening link to the film with details to join a live filmmaker Q&A (links are online at the website), accompanied curriculum, and access to the NFI Film Club Online Course.

The Water Walker. Wednesday, October 13th, 1:00pm MST Live Q&A w/ director James Burns, subject Autumn Peltier, producer Stevie Salas, and OPI’s Indian Education specialist Mike Jetty.

Fruits of Labor. Wednesday, November 17th, 1:00pm MST - Live Q&A w/ director Emily Ibanez, subject Ashley Solis, and OPI Indian Education specialist Mike Jetty Sweetheart Dancers. Tuesday, December 14th, 1:00pm MST - Live Q&A with director Ben Alex Dupris.

Sweetheart Dancers Adrian Stevens & Sean Snyder, and OPI Indian Education specialist Mike Jetty 


Jackson Wild Multicultural Alliance Fellowship

2021 Jackson Wild Summit, September 27 - September 30
Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Wild works to create an inclusive forum for storytellers to more deeply illuminate connections to the natural world and our collective responsibility to the wild. It holds an annual Summit in September to bring together scientists, media makers, environmentalists, journalists and others to discuss ideas and make connections across disciplines and media.

In partnership with the National Multicultural Alliance this year’s Summit has launched the Jackson Wild Multicultural Alliance Fellowship, created specifically for mid-career and established media professionals--who may have not previously been plugged into the natural history and conservation filmmaking sectors--to attend the Jackson Wild Summit. This is to enable more exploration by the fellows of potential pathways for telling stories about science, conservation, social justice and climate change. The Jackson Wild Multicultural Alliance Fellowship is made possible by the generous support from CAAM/Center for Asian American Media, LBP/Latino Public Broadcasting, PIC/Pacific Islanders in Communications, VMM/Vision Maker Media, HHMITangled Bank Studios and the Smithsonian Channel.

The inaugural Multicultural Alliance Fellows are:

  • Roni Jo Draper (Yurok), professor, community advocate for social justice and filmmaker (Scenes from the Glittering World)
  • Katsitsionni Fox (Mohawk) filmmaker (Without a Whisper - Konnon:kwe) Ann Kaneko, filmmaker (Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust) Sergio Mata’u Rapu (Rapanui) filmmaker (Eating Up Easter)
  • Stacey Rice (Tuscarora descent) showrunner (Reservation Dogs)
  • Laurie Sumiye, professor, artist and filmmaker
  • Colleen Thurston (Choctaw), professor, filmmaker (Sardis)

2021 Discovery Award

DGC/Directors Guild of Canada

DGC has announced the long list for its Discovery Award, which spotlights outstanding emerging talent whose films are screening at top festivals across Canada (and internationally, too). The awards will be presented online on Saturday, October 23, 2021. Among the 13 films listed, six are by First Nations and Metis directors. They are:

  • Trevor Mack, Portraits from a Fire
  • Danis Goulet, Night Raiders
  • Brettan Hannam, Wildhood
  • Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kimmapilyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy
  • Rhayne Vermette, Ste. Anne
  • Caroline Monnet, Bootlegger 
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