Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 22, 2021

Watch Now Free! Six Native Films 'New Mexico is More than Desert'

New Mexico is More Than Desert

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

From the White Mountain's 'Apache 8' women firefighters, to Laguna Pueblo's 'Grab' day of food giveaways and 'Return,' the renewal of ancient foods of Santa Clara Pueblo and beyond -- there's incredible cinematography and storytelling in the six Native films now streaming.

'Metal Road,' isn't about heavy metal, its about the Dine' who built the railroads. Share in the heart-warming stories of Dine' artist B. Emerson Kitsman who returns home to Tohatchi in 'A Return Home,' and the Navajo and Hopi cross country runners in the canyonland high country in 'Racing the Rez.'

'Return: Native American Women Reclaim Foodways for Health and Spirit,' shares the voices and foodways of Santa Clara Pueblo, Tlingit, Muckleshoot, Oglala, Menominee, and Seneca.

From the colonization of boarding schools and the throw away food of white flour to diabetes and today's food revolution, 'Return,' is history and reclaiming.

"They knew without our foods we would be nobody," says Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot in the Pacific Northwest, describing how her people knew the importance of the land, and the salmon, for survival. 

Roxanne Swentzell, Santa Clara Pueblo, advocating for pre-contact traditional foods, says, "Win yourselves back." 

During this reclaiming of ancient foods at Santa Clara, Hopi taught the traditional way of preparing piki bread, the paper thin bread of ground corn cooked on a hot stone. 

Far from being fry bread, these ancient foods were wild foods, and were not cultivated, and wild game. There were salt gatherings and the journeys for salt.

The film series, 'New Mexico is More than Desert,' is the best of the Southwest, now streaming from Vision Maker Media.

Vision Maker Media said New Mexico is More Than Desert is a curation of six Native American films from the southwest region of the United States.

"This film program features themes of activism, traditions, women empowerment, history, health and wellness. These themes highlight the histories and identities of the southwest tribes."

Watch now online:

Apache 8
(USA, 2011, 57 min., White Mountain Apache) English Closed Captions Available

The all-women wildland firefighting crew from the White Mountain Apache Tribe have been fighting fires on the Reservation and throughout the United States for more than 30 years. With humor and tenderness, four extraordinary women from different generations of the Apache 8 crew share their personal stories.
Producer/Director/Writer Bio: Sande Zeig
Sande Zeig has directed and produced six films including the short Central Park, the feature film The Girl ( 2001), the documentary Soul Masters: Dr. Guo & Dr. Sha (2008), Apache 8, Sister Jaguar’s Journey (2015), and The Living Saint of Thailand: Venerable Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta(2019). Zeig was the founder and president of Artistic License Films, a film distribution company that distributed over a hundred films, including films by Ismail Merchant, Michel Negroponte, Jim Stark, Kore-eda Hirakazu and D.A, Pennebaker. Zeig is a co-founder of Artistic License Creative Corp., a social impact and full service digital marketing agency.
Executive Producers: Heather Rae (Cherokee) & Andrew Rosenthal
Producers: Dolly Hall Victoria Westover
Co-Producers: Vicky Wight & Susan Lazarus
Director of Photography: Maryse Alberti
Editors: Melody London & Mari Keiko Gonzalez

RETURN: Native American Women Reclaim Foodways for Health and Spirit
(USA, 2019, 27 min., Santa Clara Pueblo, Tlingit, Muckleshoot, Oglala, Menominee, and Seneca) English Closed Captions Available

RETURN: Native American Foodways for Health & Spirit is about empowering people to overcome their current circumstances through eating as their ancestors did — nutritiously and locally. RETURN explores the food-sovereignty movement occurring across the country through the stories of women championing the return to traditional food sources.
Producer/ Director/ Writer Bio: Karen Cantor
Karen Cantor of Singing Wolf Documentaries, Inc., has been at the helm of three acclaimed documentary films over the last 15 years: The Danish Solution (2003) about the rescue of the Danish Jews in 1943; Last Rights: Facing End-of-Life Choices (2009) follows four families as they recount grappling with the final days of beloved family members; and Invitation to the Muse (2011) looks at artists’ inner journeys.
Creative Consultant Bio: Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo)
Roxanne Swentzell is a well-known sculptor and co-founder of Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute. Created in 1987, Flowering Tree is an organization that is based on the theory of ecological design which seeks to build sustainable human living and agriculture.
Producer/Director/Writer: Karen Cantor
Co-Writer & Story Editor: Fernanda Rossi
Editor: Giacomo Lampariello
Creative Consultant: Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo)
Director of Photography & Editor: Tristan Love
Associate Director of Photography: Dylan McLaughlin (Navajo/Diné)

Beautiful film with scenes from Tohatchi, N.M., recommended by Censored News

A Return Home (USA, 2009, 31 min. Navajo/Diné) NO Closed Captions Available
After 37 years of living in the city, artist B. Emerson Kitsman learns how difficult life can be returning to the reservation. But, through her art she learns how to bridge the gap of absence and return.

GRAB (USA, 2011, 57 min., Laguna Pueblo) English Closed Captions Available
Indian Giver is redefined, as an intimate portrait of the little-documented tradition of Grab Day in the villages of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe where water and food items are thrown from the rooftop of a home to the community standing below them. As a community-wide prayer of abundance, thanks and renewal, Grab Day intertwines traditional Native and contemporary Western cultures. Grab follows three families as they prepare for the annual event, chronicling their lives for the year leading up to this celebratory day.
Director/Producer: Billy Luther
Co-Producer: Ashley York
Executive Producers: Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato

Racing the Rez (USA, 2012, 57 min., Navajo/Diné & Hopi) 
English & Spanish Closed Captions Available
In the rugged canyon lands of Northern Arizona, Navajo and Hopi cross-country runners from two rival high schools put it all on the line for tribal pride, triumph over adversity, and state championship glory. Win or lose, what they learn over two track seasons will have a dramatic effect on the rest of their lives, as they strive to find their place as Native athletes and the American culture surrounding them.
Director/Producer/Camera Bio: Brian Truglio
Brian Truglio is a former cross-country runner, editor, and documentary filmmaker with over 20 years experience in film and television. Racing the Rez is his first feature length documentary.
Editor: Sean Sandefur
Executive Producer: Shirley K. Sneve (Lakota)

Navajo workers replace steel rails on the Santa Fe railway. Photo from Kansas State Historical Society.

Railroad worker Jennifer Sandoval with her mom, started work at 25 out of Crownpoint.

Metal Road (USA, 2017, 27 min., Navajo/Diné)
Closed Captions Available

For decades, thousands of Navajos worked the railroads, maintaining the trans-continental network. Metal Road explores the dynamics of livelihood, family, and the railroads through the lens of one Navajo trackman.
Director/Producer: Sarah Del Seronde
Writer/Producer: Leighton C. Peterson

Watch now!

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