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Talli Nauman
Buffalo’s Fire Contributing Editor

SPEARFISH, S.D. — After a couple years of presenting virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 13th Annual Black Hills Film Festival finally goes live May 31 through June 6. True to form, it features Native speakers and independent movies from the Northern Great Plains.

The six, jury-selected films that address Indigenous issues explore the vast and nuanced panorama of Native cultural disintegration and regeneration in contemporary Turtle Island.

Black Hills born and raised Sicangu Lakota filmmaker Gemma Lockhart is scheduled to speak with her feature documentary “The Way Home” at a screening in Hill City the afternoon of June 4. The 45-minute movie depicts the first time a tribe in the United States obtained the return of human remains from the Smithsonian Institution.

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National Museum of the American Indian Repatriation Program Manager Jim Pepper Henry calls repatriation “a healing between the Indian and museum communities.”  In “The Way Home”, the viewer sees how meaningful such reintegration is to individuals of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate.

North Dakota Native filmmaker Justin Deegan, who captivated previous festival-goers with enthusiastic conversation about making “Totems”, is invited back to talk with his documentary feature “The Long Game.” Showing the afternoon of June 5 at both Hill City and Hot Springs, the 45-minute film tells the story of a cultural regenerative effort in the creation of the MHA (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara) Interpretive Center.

The innovative facility is located across the bridge from the tribal headquarters of the Three Affiliated Tribes in New Town, N.D. Overlooking Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River, it serves as a cultural center dedicated to education, preservation, retention and revitalization of language, culture and historical perspectives of the Upper-Missouri agricultural Native nations.

Accompanying “The Long Game” in ticket sessions are:

“Iniskim” — Shot on the real-life Blackfeet buffalo drive and inspired by a true story. The American Indian Film Institute’s Best Live Short nominee, Daniel Glick’s “Iniskim” portrays a young woman’s journey from trauma to recovery. Connecting with the ancient power of the buffalo, the timeless landscape of her ancestors, and the wisdom of her culture forever changes the life of the character, interpreted by Miss Blackfeet crown bearer Alia Heavy Runner.

“Into the Circle” — Winner of Best Short Documentary at this year’s Black Hills Film Festival. This 17-minute production by Meg Griffiths and Scott Faris shows how an Albuquerque public charter school, the Native American Community Academy, helped a Lakota family reclaim its heritage.

“Johnny Crow”– Winner of Best Short Narrative at this year’s festival. In a poetic, musical animation of Cree muralist Jesse Gourney’s spray-paint art, this Canadian collaborative production reflects a young man’s physical, mental, and spiritual struggle to return to his son through the criminal justice system.

“Above Boy” — A short documentary about the life of Godfrey Chipps, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, who bears the family name of Crazy Horse’s medicine man. Starting In 2014, international Believe Media founders Luke Thornton and Liz Silver traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the South Dakota Badlands with German directors to produce this unprecedented and unsettling view of a family heritage.

Numerous other genuine indie films are also being showcased, such as this year’s Winner of Best Feature Documentary “The Sound of Us.” The two-hour movie will screen at Hill City and Spearfish. In it, writer-director-producer Chris Gero sustains that music is the sound of truth and hope, unity and courage — the great, universal language critical at this time in history. “The Sound of Us” tells a wide-ranging set of stories that exemplify the power of music and the triumph of the human spirit.

Among filmmakers and special guests is Lee Chambers, premiering his latest short film “Wicked Plans”. Chambers is a popular guest speaker with invitations to festivals in Grand Caymans, Australia, Portugal, England, Canada, the United States and Iraq.

Session tickets, each including several shows, are available at the live venues: May 31 – Matthews Opera House, Spearfish; June 3-5 – Historic Hot Springs Theatre, Hill City High School Theatre; June 6 – The Elks, Rapid City. Hill City and Hot Springs also will have Venue Passes for sale for all the sessions at their locations only.

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Talli Nauman is the director of Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness. Contact her at

This article was published via AP Storyshare.