Systemic oppression of indigenous people and documentary film storytelling from an Absaalooge paradigm

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


In this paper, I propose that contemporary documentary films that depict Native American cultures should tell the story from that culture's perspective, centering relationality instead of perpetuating hierarchal thinking. My methodological approach to both this paper and my film 'The Roads of Healing' is based on the work of Indigenous Research Methodology scholar Shawn Wilson, whose work prioritizes relationality and aims to have the final product benefit the community. I have done my best to respect and follow the Absaalooge protocols taught to me by my relations. In this paper, I will discuss the colonial impact of Eurocentric documentary representations of Indigenous people on Native Americans through an analysis of 'Beyond Standing Rock' (2018) and 'What Was Ours' (2016). I will then demonstrate how aspects of the Indigenous worldview can be expressed in documentary filmmaking through an examination of 'Fast Horse' (2018) and 'Return to Foretop's Father' (2019), concluding my study with an analysis of my own film 'Roads of Healing', which I propose as a model for documentarians who are working to decolonize Eurocentric nonfiction filmmaking. In doing so, I will illustrate how systemic racism perpetuated by euro-centric documentary filmmaking practices can be challenged by embracing an Indigenous paradigm.


The Roads of Healing is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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