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Wiping the War Paint off the Lens

Wiping the War Paint off the Lens: Native American Film and Video

Beverly R. Singer
Foreword by Robert Warrior
Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Wiping the War Paint off the Lens
    Book Description:

    Native Americans have thrown themselves into filmmaking since the mid-1970s, producing hundreds of films and videos, and their body of work has had great impact on Native cultures and filmmaking itself. Wiping the War Paint off the Lens traces the history of Native experiences as subjects, actors, and creators, and develops a critical framework for approaching Native work. Singer positions Native media as part of a larger struggle for "cultural sovereignty"-the right to maintain and protect cultures and traditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8920-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)

    In the summer of 1998, I sat in a Tempe, Arizona, movie theater packed with several hundred people from the Native American Journalists Association’s annual meeting for a sneak preview of Chris Eyre’s breakthrough filmSmoke Signals.Most of the people at that screening were American Indian teenagers. The film was much anticipated among those who have charted the progress of Native American film, so I watched eagerly.

    Though far from being a perfect film,Smoke Signalsfeatures impressive direction, some wonderful performances, and masterful use of a small budget. But I became just as interested in watching the audience...

  4. Prologue in Three Parts
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    Tsikumu is a special mountain to the people from Santa Clara Pueblo, my community of origin. It sits among the Jemez Mountains, which are part of the Rocky Mountains, in north central New Mexico. I remember annual hikes to Tsikumu peak in my youth with my parents and four younger siblings. We hiked there to thank the Spirits for our well-being and to petition for rain to bless our community. Our prayers were always answered. Tsikumu is a divine presence in my memory as old as Creation.

    A memorable leader from Santo Domingo Pueblo named Mateo Aragon passed to the...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Thinking Indian Thoughts
    (pp. 1-4)

    One of the most important issues facing American Indians concerns the question of identity: What is an Indian? The historical misrepresentation of “Indians” has been outside of tribal control and perpetuated by American cultural, political, academic, and social institutions that promote, produce, and communicate information to the public. Indians have been misrepresented in art, history, science, literature, popular films, and by the press in the news, on radio, and on television. The earliest stereotypes associating Indians with being savage, naked, and heathen were established with the foundation of America and determined by two factors: religious intolerance for cultural and spiritual...

  7. 1 Bringing Home Film and Video Making
    (pp. 5-13)

    In 1989, Charlene Teters (Spokane) attended a University of Illinois basketball game with her son and daughter. After watching a half-time performance by the university mascot named Chief Illiniwek, her life was radically altered. The mascot was a student dressed in Plains Indian regalia wearing an eagle feather headdress and “Indian” war paint who pranced around the arena to ersatz “Indian tom-tom” music played by the university band. Teters, a graduate student at Illinois at the time, recalls seeing her children slump in their seats as the befeathered mascot led a crowd of cheering fans. She was acutely aware that...

  8. 2 The War-Painted Years
    (pp. 14-22)

    The prominence of stereotypes of American Indians in early Hollywood westerns sacrificed the humanity of Native people. The western movie genre, an outgrowth of the dime novels that were published up through the early 1900s, exaggerated the Western frontier as a confrontation between good and evil, and characterized it as civilized white man against wild Indian savages and outlaws.¹ To make matters worse, early Hollywood filmmakers often relied on the labor of real Indian actors for portrayals of “savage Indians.”

    The hiring of real Indians by Hollywood movie producers to appear in their movies was the result of the participation...

  9. 3 Toward Independence
    (pp. 23-32)

    The Civil Rights movement and Black and Chicano activism in the late sixties and early seventies were influential for Native Americans, inspiring many to generate an indigenous version of these movements. Widespread and raging poverty had contributed to the debilitating spread of alcoholism and anomie on Indian reservations and urban enclaves as well. The “war on poverty” programs initiated by the Johnson administration between 1964 and 1968 were designed to provide grants to improve the living conditions of all poor in the United States. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service were the federal agencies responsible for...

  10. 4 Native Filmmakers, Programs, and Institutions
    (pp. 33-60)

    Filmmaking is the white man’s craft that betrayed Native Americans and promoted our demise. Filmmaking is a novel art for Native Americans, considering the antiquity of Aboriginal, American Indian, and Alaska Native art traditions that existed long before European contact. But during the last thirty years, Native Americans have been learning how to produce, direct, and write films and video programs, and we now have over a thousand titles to our credit. Native filmmakers have documented the social and cultural reaffirmation among indigenous people that has taken place since the mid-1960s. In this chapter I review the development of Native...

  11. 5 On the Road to Smoke Signals
    (pp. 61-91)

    When Chris Eyre sat in the director’s chair forSmoke Signalsin 1998, he was the first Native American to direct a major release feature film since Edwin Carewe’s brief career ended in the 1920s.Smoke Signals, distributed by Miramax, premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the Filmmaker’s Trophy and the Audience Award. The elite film audiences there who voted for the Native American film, and the support for the film by a major distributor, have helped to reposition Native American participation in filmmaking.

    Eyre’s success fulfilled a prophesy made by Steve Lewis (Lakota/Tohono O’odham) at...

  12. Conclusion: Continuing the Legacy
    (pp. 92-100)

    In his keynote address at the 1991 Two Rivers Native American Film and Video Festival, Roger Buffalohead (Ponca) discussed the shared responsibility that Native Americans have to keep their culture alive: “We are carriers of a rich tribal tradition, and our ancestors left us with a rich legacy that we are now responsible for.” While Native American filmmakers continue to work with non-Native institutions and individuals—such as the Center for Media, Culture, and History at New York University and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian—we also have begun to take even more responsibility for the rich...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 101-106)
  14. Index
    (pp. 107-110)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 111-111)