Distributed by Native American Public Telecommunications, 1800 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503; 402.472.3522
Produced by Sean P. Hutchinson, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and Painted Sky
DVD, color, 57 min.
Jr. High - Adult
Native American Studies, Performing Arts
Reviewed by Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado
Date Entered: 9/20/2010
For the Generations profiles an impressive group of Native American performing artists, chiefly dancers and singers. Hailing from many tribes across Canada and the United States, the documentary’s featured performers include: singer and songwriter Jana Mashonee (Lumbee); ballet dancers Michael Greyeyes (Cree) and Santee Smith (Mohawk); musician and composer Bill “Birdsong” Miller (Mohican); members of two Portland, Oregon dance troupes, the Northstar Native Youth Dance Company and Moveo Dance Company; musician Arlie Neskahi (Navajo); singers of the touring group Women of the Four Winds--Martha Redbone (Choctaw/ Shawnee/Cherokee), Tracy Bone (Ojibway), Wayquay (Ojibway/Anishnabe), and Davidica Little Spotted Horse (Oglala Lakota); and finally, singer Robert Mirabal (Taos Pueblo). Some of the above artists also employ their talents as instrumentalists, actors, songwriters, choreographers, graphic artists, teachers, and producers. The film focuses on the struggle of the individual artist, yet it also acknowledges organizational support of the arts. Representatives of two organizations appear in the documentary. The non-profit group Painted Sky sponsors the Portland dance troupes and Northwest Indian College is a tribal college in Bellingham, Washington.
The documentary is an engaging mix of footage from interviews, practice sessions, tours, and performances. The interviewed performers shed light upon the creative process. With soul-baring honesty they discuss all that their artistry encompasses, from socio-cultural aspects to physical health implications to spiritual facets. The artists describe the complexity of their motivations, influences, and experiences. While they tend to be firmly grounded in history and tradition, they are also very forward-looking (as evidenced, for example, by the fusion of hip hop and native dance). These performing artists are diverse in background; some have rural or reservation roots, others come from an urban environment. Each one is connected to a community, yet driven by individuality. Many express a feeling of responsibility toward the young people in their audience. They sense their importance as role models and they desire to break down Native American stereotypes.
The film should have wide applicability and appeal. While it obviously could be used to support curriculum in the performing arts and Native American studies, it also addresses a broad swath of issues in the humanities, social sciences, and public health. For the Generations: Native Story and Performance is an inspiring and sensitive testament to the importance of performing artists within our culture. The documentary demonstrates that the creative expressions of the “Native Story” ensure the continuing vitality of both the individual and the entire community.