Chadron Native Film Fest Offers Insight Into Contemporary Culture

Jul 13, 2015

Joyzelle Gingway Godfrey tells a traditional American Indian story at the Chadron Public Library's annual Native American film festival.
Credit Photo by Jim Kent

The Chadron Public Library held its second annual Native American film festival this past weekend. The goal of the “Trading Stories: A Native American Film Festival” is to bring another perspective to the “Fur Trade Days Celebration” held each summer in the western Nebraska town. 

“Pow Wow Highway” was among the first films made by Native Americans about Native Americans that sought to break the stereotypes engrained in a century of Hollywood celluloid.

Chadron Public Library Foundation board member Marguerite Vey-Miller says the focus of the festival is primarily small independent films created by Native Americans.

“We’re trying to show what happens through Native filmmakers…current Native filmmakers,” comments Vey-Miller. “You know, the art now that they’re producing in terms of making films. And also they’re showing some of the stereotypes or embedding that in some of their films…which is really great. And also showing some documentaries to help educate people.”

Films at the festival included “Smoke Signals”, “Dreamkeeper” and “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English” as well as “We Are a Horse Nation” – produced on the Rosebud Sioux and Pine Ridge Reservations.

Vey-Miller explains that the goal is to expand a little each year.

“Last year centered on films that were made primarily in this area because Pine Ridge area is used a lot for filmmaking,” says Vey-Miller. “And we also had local filmmakers as well. Native filmmakers. But this year we branched out a little bit more and tomorrow and Sunday we’re showing a film that…it’s totally Inuit made. It’s called “Atanarjuat The Fast Runner”.

In order to enlarge the educational aspect of the event, coordinators included Native visual arts and story tellers to this year’s film festival.

Vey-Miller notes that contemporary films made by Native Americans add to the reality of their long cultural history. 

Related story: 

Traditional Storytelling At Chadron Native Film Fest