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Feb. 16 - March 4, 2022

The observation on February 21 of International Mother Language Day focuses attention on various endeavors to support language revitalization and language diversity, including film screenings at the Mother Tongue Film Festival. Other festivals include Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and other sections look at a new webcast series, an ongoing podcast series a lecture rethinking the impact of the first Native American doctor, Suzanne La Flesche, and filmmaker honors.

FEB. 21


United Nations

In 2000 UNESCO launched the observation of International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21. This focused the international community on the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. UNESCO was asserting that within its mandate for peace, it is crucial to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others. 

“Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.” But also embedded in the use of Indigenous language is people’s joy in their culture and history and ideas, and the satisfaction of a sense of the continuation of the viewpoints that each language specifically carries.

In 2022 the theme is “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities,” which raises the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all.

The United Nations’ The General Assembly has taken this concern seriously and has proclaimed 2022‑2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, inviting indigenous peoples — as custodians — to initiate ideas for preserving this endangered facet of their cultural and social life.  

2022 UNESCO Webinar 

Feb. 21, 11 a.m. CET - 1 p.m. CET (Paris time) Explores enhancing the role of teachers and the potential for technologies in the promotion and support of quality multilingual learning. Register on website.

Smithsonian Institution - Recovering Voices

In the Smithsonian, Recovering Voices--a collaborative program of the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian and Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage--has been established to partner with communities around the world to revitalize and sustain endangered languages and knowledge. Founded in 2009, the program conducts research. Its Community Outreach Program works on access to the SI’s diverse collections—archival, biological and cultural--and these partners organize for the public the annual Mother Tongue Film Festival(see Film Festivals below).

The recent issue of the online Folklife Center Magazine provides links to a selection of short films, “Language Builds Legacies: Historical Picks from the Mother Tongue Film Festival” by Maddie VanOostenburg, February 7, 2022. “Highlighting themes such as historical trauma and survivance, familial disruption and reconnection, environmental protection, and more, this multilingual playlist asks us to reflect upon the universe of stories that form the foundations of our understanding.” The works hail from around the globe and feature ancestral tales in Indigenous and other languages: Bodewadmimwen (Potawatami), Zuni, Spanish, Nuu-chah-nulth, English, American Sign Language, Tok Pisin, Nahuatl, and Mohiks (Mohgehan). The regions represented include Aotearoa/New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Papua New Guinea, and the United States


Mother Tongue Film Festival

Feb. 17 – March 4/5. Free. Online on Eventive.

The 7th annual Mother Tongue Film Festival, organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian and Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world, highlighting the crucial role languages play in our daily lives. The festival centers around International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21, co-presented with the UN Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032).

A project of the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Initiative, this year’s festival takes its inspiration from the ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i phrase i ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope (through the past is the future). It features 36 films in 45 languages from regions across the globe. Most of the films will stream for the duration of the festival, although Opening and Closing Nights have brief windows. Roundtables are scheduled to premiere on particular days and times. Viewers should register in advance as online attendance to select film screenings will be limited. Many of the titles have trailers. All films have English subtitles.

Thursday, Feb. 17, 6:00 pm ET - Friday, Feb. 18, 6:00 pm ET
Opening Night - US Premiere

Bootlegger Narrative feature. Canada. Caroline Monnet. Looking to complete her thesis, Mani (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs) leaves Montreal for the Algonquin community where she spent her youth. Her reintegration is complicated by a conflict with Laura (Pascale Bussières), a settler bootlegger, and a contentious referendum over alcohol sales on the reserve. Trailer.

With Ixim Ulew, music video from the Maya hip-hop group Tz’utu Kan.

Friday, March 4, 4:45 pm ET - Saturday, March 5, 6:45 pm ET
Closing Night - Sneak Preview

The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu. Documentary feature. US. Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu. The closing event offers a single-night sneak preview of the director’s latest film. This will be her third screening at the Mother Tongue Film Festival, following the feature documentary Leitis in Waiting in 2019 and the animated short Kapaemahu in 2021.

Thursday, Feb. 17, 6:00 pm ET - Friday, March 4, 10:45 pm ET
Representation in Film - Sneak Preview

The Mainland Narrative short. US. Conrad Lihilihi. Aspiring actor Ikaika is struggling with the trendy facade of diversity spreading through Hollywood when his small-town cousin, Kekoa, unexpectedly visits from Hawai‘i, bringing him a much-needed dose of ohana and aloha.

Thursday, Feb. 17, 6:00 pm ET – Friday, March 4, 8:00 pm ET

Centering Women’s Voices
Six short films by women directors from Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and the US focus on community, saving language--in drama, documentary, animation and music. Films are in Brazilian Portuguese; Mandarin and English; Spanish, Yucatec Mayan, and Yucatec Mayan Sign Language; Dine; English and Taino of Wahiyani Eyeri; and Ombeayiuts/Ikoots.

Remaking the World
The Book of the Sea. Feature documentary. Russia. 85 min. Aleksei Vakrushev (Siberian Yup’ik). In Siberian Yup’ik, Chukchi, Russian. Weaving together two story lines with animation, the film is highly creative visually and great storytelling. Trailer.  Preceded by short films that focus on the ways communities engage one another through making drums, cloth, books, and tipi, and how in doing so, they challenge both outsiders and themselves to see the world differently. Films are in Haitian Creole; Gujerati; English and Hindi; Spanish and Shipibo; Maxakali; English.

Survivance I
Mashkawi-Manidoo Bimaadiziwin/Spirit to Soar. Documentary. Canada. 46 min. Michelle Derosier (Eagle Lake First Nation), Tanya Talaga. A closer look by a journalist into the deaths of seven Indigenous students in Thunder Bay. Trailer.  

Survivance II5 short films that portray a combination of “survival” and “resistance” from US, US and Guatemala, US and Mexico, and Canada.

Ways of Learning and Reclamation
Chasing Voices. Documentary. US. 57 min. Daniel Golding (Quechan). Chasing Voices tells the story of early 20thcentury ethnographer John Peabody Harrington and how Californian tribes are accessing his notes today—reviving their languages and bringing together a new generation of language learners. Trailer.  Preceded by 5 short films on Menominee, Torwali, Mohawk, Inuktitut, Sencoten from US, Canada, and Pakistan.

Music of the Mother Tongue
Four short films from Brazil, Samoa, Guatemala, and Mexico show how communities express themselves through music in their mother tongue.

I Had a Dream
I Had a Dream (Bir Rüya Gördüm). Documentary. Turkey, Norway, France, Caucasia. 66 min. Burcu Esenç, Cantekin Cantez. After the death of Tevfik Esenç—the last person to speak the Ubykh language—in 1992, the Ubykh language disappeared from the world. His granddaughter Burcu Esenç went on a journey following her grandfather's footsteps. Trailer.

Panels and Roundtables

Monday, Feb. 21, 3:30 pm ET - Tuesday, March 8, 8 pm ET
Representation in Film - Directors Panel
Kālewa Correa, curator of Hawai’i and the Pacific at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, speaks with filmmakers Conrad Lihilihi (Mainland, 2020) and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu, 2022)

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 1:30 pm ET - Friday, March 4, 8 pm ET
Archival Legacies of the Yanomamo Series: Preservation, Digital Restoration and Return
This two-part roundtable considers the complicated legacies of the Yanomamö Film Series (1969–1976), a groundbreaking ethnographic media project that expanded the boundaries of documentary. Distributed by Documentary Education Resources (DER) and archived in the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archive, the series emerged from a collaboration between anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon (1938–2019), filmmaker Tim Asch (1932–1994), and Yanomamö communities in southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. The program explores both the making of the films, the value of the footage to the community and the sometimes painful legacy of ethnographic studies.

Friday, Feb. 25, 11 am ET - Friday, March 4, 8 pm ET
Ways of Learning and Reclamation - Education Roundtable
The annual education panel addresses approaches to language learning and reclamation in North America. Carly Tex, director of the Advocates for Indigenous California Languages Survival, featured in the film Chasing Voices, will lead the live discussion with Ron Corn Jr., (Living Language: Menominee Language Revitalization); Olivia Uvilik(Inuktitut Dialects in the 21st Century) and Renée Sampson (Heli, set ŧte sќál Ƚte/Bringing Our Language Back to Life).

Monday, Feb. 28, 12 pm ET - Friday, March 4, 8 pm ETI Had a Dream (Bir Rüya Gördüm): Conversation with the Director

Thursday, March 3, 1 pm ET - Friday, March 4, 8 pm ETCentering Women’s Voices - Directors Roundtable (TBA)

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Feb. 18 – Feb.27. In-person in Missoula, Montana and Feb. 21 - March 3. Online. Available everywhere

The 19th Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is offering more than 100 documentaries, workshops, live events and Q&As and offering its DocShop filmmaker's forum through the festival's virtual cinema platform. This year’s festival includes 7 feature films and sixteen short films with Indigenous themes. Various passes are available to multiple screenings and events, and individual tickets cost $10. Feature documentaries and their online dates are listed below; short film programs stream for the entire festival. Check the website for the details of in-person screenings.


Monday, Feb 21 - Thursday, Feb 24

Daughter of a Lost Bird. US. 66 min. Dir. Brooke Pepion Swaney. Prod. Kendra Mylnechuk Potter, Jeri Rafter. Kendra Mylnechuk Potter, a Native woman adopted into a white family, reconnects with her Native identity and begins to view herself as a living legacy of U.S. assimilationist policy. Trailer.

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy. Canada. 125 min. Dir. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. Prod. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, David Christensen, Lori Lozinski. An intimate portrait of the impacts of the substance use and the overdose epidemic on the Blackfoot reserve in Alberta. The film follows community members with substance-use disorder, first responders and medical professionals as they adopt radical harm reduction practices. Trailer.

One of Ours. Canada. 89 min. Dir. Yasmine Mathurin. Prod. Jennifer Kawaja, Laura Perlmutter, Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith. Josiah was adopted as a baby in Haiti and raised in an Indigenous family in Calgary, Canada. Years later, when Josiah is racially profiled at an Indigenous basketball tournament and refused the right to play a sport he loves deeply, his experience makes the news. A nuanced examination of adoption, belonging, and the complexities of identity. Trailer. 

Tuesday, Feb. 22 - Friday, Feb. 25

Inhabitants. US. 76 min. Dir. Costa Boutsikaris, Anna Palmer. Prod. Ben-Alex Dupris. For millennia Native Americans have successfully stewarded and shaped their landscapes, but centuries of colonization have disrupted their ability to maintain their traditional land management practices. In the face of a changing climate, Native communities across the US are recovering their ancient relationships with the land. This film follows five Native American tribes across deserts, coastlines, forests, and prairies as they restore their traditional land management practices. Trailer.

Newtok. US. 97 min. Dir. Andrew Burton, Michael Kirby Smith. Prod. Marie Meade. As the permafrost rapidly melts, the Indigenous village of Newtok, Alaska is quickly eroding into the ocean. After decades of government abuse and inaction, the Yup’ik people fight to keep their community intact. Villagers are forced to decide between abandoning their traditional lands or relocating their community. The film is a powerful story of a community attempting to preserve their way of life in the face of devastating climate change.

Wednesday, Feb. 23 - Saturday, Feb. 26

Bring Her Home. US. 57 min. Dir. Leya Hale. Prod. Sergio Rapu. The film follows three Indigenous women — an artist, an activist and a politician — as they work to vindicate and honor their relatives who are victims in the growing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. As they face the lasting effects of historical trauma, each woman searches for healing while navigating the oppressive systems that brought about this very crisis. Trailer.

Friday, Feb. 25 - Monday, Feb. 28

Oyate. World Premiere. US. 91 min. Dir. Brandon Jackson, Emil Benjamin. Prod. Brandon Jackson, Emil Benjamin, Jennifer Martel, Sandra Evers-Manly. In the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Indigenous people across the nation are using their newfound platform to shed light on the wide array of injustices committed against them in an effort to wake up the world and embark upon the process of decolonization. Following key figureheads of the #NODAPL movement, the film weaves together the story of colonization and the battle for decolonization that continues after the news cameras have stopped rolling. Trailer.

Monday, Feb. 21 - Thursday, March 3

The Reciprocity Project
7 short films by Indigenous directors produced by the Reciprocity Project, a co-production of Nia Tero Foundation and Upstander Project. Producers: Taylor Hensel, Adam Mazo, Kavita Pillay, Tracy Rector.

  • Diiyeghanaii Taii Tr'eedaa (We Will Walk the Trail of our Ancestors) US. 6 min. Dir. Princess Daazhraii Johnson. Assoc Prod. Alisha Carlson. A Gwich’in grandfather teaches his granddaughter how reciprocity is embedded in our lives. Trailer.
  • Ma’s House US. 9 min. Jeremy Dennis. Ma’s House was once the heart of a community. As Ma’s grandson, artist and photographer. Jeremy Dennis is on a quest to restore the family home to its central role as a community gathering place for a new generation of diverse artists. Trailer.
  • Pili Ka Moʻo US. 14 min. Dir. Justyn Ah Chong. Assoc Prod. Malia Akutagawa. The Fukumitsu ‘Ohana (family) of Hakipu’u are Native Hawaiian taro farmers. When a nearby corporation digs up the Fukumitsu’s familial burial ground to further their development plans, the ‘Ohana are drawn into a logistically and emotionally complex quest to preserve their ancestral land. Trailer.
  • SŪKŪJULA TEI (Stories of My Mother) US, Colombia, Venezuela. 8 min. Dir David Hernandez Palmer. Assoc prod. Fior Palmar. During a visit to her sister Amaliata, Rosa, a wise Wayuu woman, teaches Amaliata’s grandchildren the importance of reciprocity within their culture. Trailer.
  • Weckuwapasihtit (Those Yet to Come) US. 12 min. Geo Neptune, Brianna Smith. Revitalizing cultural practices kept from their elders, Peskotomuhkati young people lead an intergenerational process of healing through reclamation of athasikuwi-pisun, “tattoo medicine.” Trailer.
  • Weckuwapok (The Approaching Dawn) US. 14 min. Jacob Bearchum, Taylor Hensel, Adam Mazo, Chris Newell, Roger Paul, Kavita Pillay, Tracy Rector, Lauren Stevens. Songs and stories express gratitude to the sun, inviting us to accept the new day and putting behind us any harm done the day before. Trailer.
  • ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) US. 10 min. Dir. Brit Hensel. Assoc. Prod. Keli Gonzales. Filmed on the Qualla Boundary and Cherokee Nation, the film explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life through a story told by an elder and first language speaker. Trailer.

Other Indigenous shorts:

  • Above Boy US. 33 min. Jan Vogel, Sebastian Funke, Lucy Martens. In Shorts Block #11. Trailer.
  • Prairie Flowers Mexico. 19 min. Mariana X. Rivera. In Shorts Block #3. Trailer.
  • The Trails Before Us US. 13 min. Fritz Bitsoie. In Shorts Block #10. Trailer.
  • Two-Spirit Colombia. 16 min. Mónica Taboada-Tapia. Shorts Block #15. Trailer.

ROUNDTABLE  Kin Theory: Creating Impact Through Solidarity
Wednesday, Feb 23, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm MT. In person at the Missoula Public Library

With so many options for reaching audiences, who are you really telling stories to? Any why? This roundtable tackles guiding questions about audience and funding, supporting BIPOC creators telling their own stories, and crafting stories that speak to the masses while leveraging champions of your cause. Panelists are Gila Saedi Kiely, Director of FilmAid; Chloe Walters Wallace, Director of Regional Initiatives for Firelight Media, and Leya Hale, film director (Bring Her Home). Moderated by Jessica Ramirez, Creative Producer, Nia Tero.

Museum of Modern Art
MoMA Doc Fortnight

Friday, Feb 25 at 5:00 pm ET and Tuesday, March 1 at 4:30 pm ETIn-person in New York City. Online for MoMA members only.

"Doc Fortnight Shorts" includes Sky Hopinka’s Kicking the Clouds (US. 15 min.). “This film is a reflection on descendants and ancestors, guided by a 50 year old audio recording of my grandmother learning the Pechanga language from her mother.”

National Museum of the American Indian
Wampanoag Celebration

Last Day! February 28

Members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) in Massachusetts share their culture and history in a virtual celebration of food, art, traditional stories. Includes the screening of King Philip’s Belt – A Story of Wampum Documentary short. US. 20 min. Fermin Rojas

More Festivals with Indigenous Films - March

  • Denver’s Indigenous Film and Arts Festival, March 9. Online
  • Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, March 17-27. Online
  • Birraranga Film Festival, March 11 - 14. In-person in Melbourne, Australia
  • Maoriland Film Festival, March 16 - 20, In-person in Otaki, Aotearoa/New Zealand


New Mexico PBS
Indigi-Genius Web Series
Launched on Feb. 15, 2022

Indigi-Genius is a web series celebrating the innovative and creative spirit of Indigenous cultures worldwide. Each episode tells a unique story highlighting the clever strategies and practices Indigenous communities have used and mastered for centuries--farming techniques, bead making, pottery, seed saving, creation stories, or even technology (past and present).

Written and hosted by Dr. Lee Francis, Pueblo and self described Indigi-Nerd, and funded in part by VisionMaker Media, the series covers a range of global Indigenous topics and breaks down some of the science, culture, history, and “Indigi-Genius” knowledge that we may sometimes take for granted.

Nia Tero
Seedcast Podcast Series
Launched in September 2020

Seedcast is a story-centered podcast, produced by Nia Tero and hosted by Jessica Ramirez, available on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, and its own website. The series is focused on “where we dig up, nurture, and root stories of the Indigenous experience from around the world.” Topics of recent episodes are

  • The Boat of Dreams: How the Achuar Embraced Solar Power (Ecuador) February 2, 2022
  • Coming Soon: Seedcast Season 2 Jan. 19, 2022
  • “My people are my family” - Samoan island values in the Pacific Northwest Dec. 15, 2021
  • Indigenous women on the frontlines of climate change at COP26 Dec. 1, 2021
  • The Indigenous woman behind a new Native kitchen Nov. 17, 2021
  • 4th World filmmakers ‘doing the damn thing’ Nov. 3, 2021

American Philosophical Society
Indigenous Studies Seminar

“Transing the First Native American Doctor: Omaha Medicine, Gender and the Allure of Red Progress”
Friday, February 18, 3:30 pm ET. On Zoom.

Dr. Eli Nelson (Mohawk) will present his work to resignify and problematize the career of Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American doctor, as a woman who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and who advanced assimilation measures for her community at a time of great transition. This presents a chapter in Dr. Nelson’s upcoming book Sovereign Knowledge: Native Informants, Settler Occupation, and the Becoming of Native Science, “tracing the history of the impact on Indigenous science of US settler scientific regimes and of the transitioning Indigenous political formations in the 19th and 20th centuries.” The paper will be available prior. To attend the seminar and to receive a copy of the paper, please register via Zoom, link on the website.

This is the fourth Indigenous Studies Seminar of the 2021-22 academic year presented by the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) at the APS. The American Philosophical Society is the oldest learned society in America, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, and notable for its extensive archives of historical and linguistic materials.


2022 EFM DocSalon Toolbox Programme

The DocSalon Toolbox Programme, jointly developed between the Berlinale European Film Market’s DocSalon and EFM Diversity & Inclusion, focuses on entry-to-mid level feature-length documentary film producers. Indigenous participants are nominated by these supporting partners: FILM.GL (Greenland), Indigenous Screen Office (Canada), imagineNATIVE (Canada), International Sámi Film Institute, Maoriland Film Festival (Aotearoa/New Zealand), and a US Consortium: Sundance Institute, Pacific Islanders in Communication, Vision Maker Media, Nia Tero, and Indigenous Media Initiatives.

The US Consortium has announced the two Fellows it is sponsoring in 2022

  • Christen Hepuakoa Marquez is an Emmy Award-winning producer for her work on CNN's United Shades of America and the Independent Lens documentary Belly of the Beast, a feature documentary that tells the shocking story of incarcerated people who have been forcibly sterilized inside California's women's prisons.
  • Zack Khalil, filmmaker and artist, centers his work on Indigenous narratives in the present — and looks towards the future — through the use of innovative nonfiction forms. His current work-in-progress, Aanikoobijigan/{Ancestor/Great-Grandparent/Great-Grandchild}, follows the efforts of Indigenous repatriation specialists fighting for the return of ancestral remains and funerary objects. 
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