Diné Flmmaker and Actors Worked Together on a ‘Spec Commercial’

“A spec is a ‘made-up’ commercial that filmmakers use to showcase their talent and potential. That is exactly what Diné filmmaker Christopher Nataanii Cegielski did when he created his New Balance spec called ‘For Any Run.’ A. Chavez, ICT

Colleen Biakeddy, who played the grandma, Cegielski and Micah Chee who portrays the grandson.

Excerpt: Behind the scenes: ‘Grandma! Sheep is running away’ Allyah Chavez, ICT

“The video is a product of the Commercial Directors Diversity Program, an organization that provides guidance, exposure and tools for minority directors who hope to work in the industry. Cegielski, 28, was selected out of more than 300 applicants to participate as a fellow of the program, the first Indigenous filmmaker. So over the course of six months, he attended workshops, shadowed industry employees and created mentorships. His final project: ‘For Any Run.’

For Cegielski, the story began with an idea of a Diné grandmother who chased her sheep and did flips. He worked for three months researching brands, writing scripts, putting together pitch decks, choosing a cast and even budgeting. In total, his one-minute commercial cost approximately $16,000.

In the initial phases the commercial advertised an ASICS shoe instead of New Balance. After further research, Cegielski observed that the tone of the ASICS brand was geared towards ‘serious’ athletes. He saw that New Balance had a more “playful” tone — and that it fit in line with his light-hearted and fun vision.

‘I had to think about everything the right way,’ Cegielski said. With this in mind, he says his goal was to create something that Indian Country could watch.

The commercial was shot in mid-August in Pinion, Arizona, where a large crew made up of actors, producers, directors and cameramen worked together. Photo by A. Banks.

‘For far too long there has been non-Native people making Native material,’ Cegielski said. “It’s always about oppression… I just wanted to change that.’

The commercial led him to meeting Diné actors Colleen Biakeddy, who played the grandma, and Micah Chee who portrays the grandson. In true Diné fashion, the trio discovered they all belong to the Ta’chii’nii, or Red Running Into Waterclan, after they met in person. The commercial was shot in mid-August over two days.

This was Biakeddy’s first acting role. But the fifty-year-old is not new to sheep herding. Her day starts with checking on her cattle near Big Mountain in Arizona, some 53 miles south of Kayenta…The role for her was important because of how it represents Diné grandmothers. She appreciated the attention to detail, noting that grandmothers in her community ‘really do’ cover their feet using tennis shoes, or whatever it takes to get work done…In case you wondered, Biakeddy did not do her own stunts (though she notes she had to do a somersault in her casting audition).

Her stunt double was Conrad Weitzel, a parkour athlete from Phoenix…The spec has now been seen throughout Indian Country, largely motivated by social media. The video on Instagram alone has been viewed more than 10,000 times since last Friday.”

Category: Culture, Films, Navajo

Chief Standing Bear (Ponca Tribe) Finally Gets Recognition in the U.S. Capitol

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), participate in the dedication ceremony for the statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear of Nebraska

Excerpt: The civil rights leader ‘almost nobody knows about’ gets a statue in the U.S. Capitol, Gillian Brockell, The Washington Post

“That act of grief and love set in motion a chain of events that would make Standing Bear a civil rights hero. On Wednesday, he was honored with a statue representing the state of Nebraska in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Standing Bear was born sometime between 1829 and 1834 in the Ponca tribe’s native lands in northern Nebraska. A natural leader, he became a chief at a young age, according to the Nebraska History Museum.

By 1858, the Poncas were forced to cede most of their land except for a small area by the Niobrara River, where they became farmers rather than buffalo hunters. But they did well, growing corn and trading with white settlers often. Ten years later, as described by Dee Alexander Brown in the classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the remaining Ponca land was mistakenly included in a treaty between the United States and the Sioux tribes.

Although the Poncas protested over and over again to Washington, officials took no action… The U.S. government finally took action in 1876 but not in the way the Poncas had hoped. Congress declared that the Poncas would be moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma in exchange for $25,000…when the Poncas declined the inferior land they were offered in Oklahoma, they were forced to leave anyway.

By the time they arrived in Oklahoma in 1878, it was too late in the season to plant; they also didn’t get any of the farming equipment the government had promised them. More than a third of the Poncas died of starvation and disease — including Standing Bear’s sister and his beloved son. Standing Bear and his burial party evaded capture while they traveled home but were caught and detained after visiting relatives at the Omaha reservation.

The man who caught them, Brig. Gen. George Crook, had been fighting Native Americans for decades, Brown wrote, but he was moved by Standing Bear’s reasons for leaving the Indian Territory and promised to help him.

Crook went to the media, which spread the story of the plight of Standing Bear and his fellow prisoners nationwide. Then two lawyers offered to take up their case pro bono, and asked a judge to free the Poncas immediately.

Though Crook was sympathetic to Standing Bear, since he was the official carrying out the federal government’s orders to detain them, the civil rights case that resulted was called Standing Bear v. Crook.

The U.S. attorney argued that Standing Bear was neither a citizen nor a person, and as such did not have standing to sue the government.

On the second day, Chief Standing Bear was called to testify, becoming the first Native American to do so.

Chief Standing Bear in his formal attire in 1877. (National Anthropological Archives:Smithsonian Institution

He raised his right hand and, through an interpreter, said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same god made us both. I am a man.

The judge agreed, ruling for the first time in U.S. history that the Indian is a ‘person’  and has all the rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. The judge also ordered Crook to free Standing Bear and his people immediately. Standing Bear returned to the land by the Niobrara River and buried his son alongside his ancestors. When he died there in 1908, he was buried alongside them, too.

A few decades later, in 1937, the state of Nebraska sent two statues to the U.S. Capitol. Each state is allowed to pick two historical figures to represent them in National Statuary Hall, and Nebraska chose politician William Jennings Bryan and Arbor Day founder Julius Sterling Morton…In recent years, Nebraska lawmakers voted to replace both statues. Bryan was replaced by Chief Standing Bear; soon, Morton will be replaced by a statue of [American] author Willa Cather.

At the dedication ceremony Wednesday, which included Ponca tribal leaders and members of the House and Senate, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said it was an honor to recognize ‘one of the most important civil rights leaders in our country that almost nobody knows about.”


Category: Culture

The Seminole Tribe Sending Supplies to the Bahamas

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida has airlifted some 35,000 cases of bottled water over the past five days. Now relief efforts are moving to the sea in light of rapidly changing weather conditions.” S.H. Schulman, ICT

Photo credit-Seminole Tribe-ICT

Excerpt:First by air, now by sea; Seminole Tribe boosts relief effort as new storm forms By Sandra H. Schulman ICT

“Tribal spokesman Gary Bitner says for the past five days water was trucked using Seminole Gaming vehicles and then flown to the Bahamas by Sheltair Aviation. Now it’s being loaded onto shipping containers and shipped by boat.

The urgent delivery took a turn Friday when the government of the Bahamas issued a tropical storm warning for the region. The Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence are expecting tropical storm conditions, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The new storm first referred to as “potential tropical cyclone nine” which later became Tropical Storm Humberto, may produce total rain accumulations of two to four inches and maximum sustained winds near 30 mph through Sunday with as much as seven inches in the northwest and the central Bahamas. This is frightening news for the islands that experienced such massive devastation and flooding earlier this month…The tribal council will be meeting next week after the storm has passed to re-evaluate relief efforts and the best ways to provide them.

The tribe’s aviation department had been making three roundtrip flights a day since last week with two helicopters and a single-engine Pilatus PC-12/45 airplane. Deliveries were made in cooperation with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which operates the Grand Bahama International Airport at Freeport.

‘The Seminole Tribe has a long and important history with the people of the Bahamas, and we are committed to helping them in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian,’ said Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged by Hurricane Dorian, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

As for now the Seminole Tribe of Florida say their eyes are now on the coming tropical storm.”


Category: Culture, Social | Tags:

“2020 Presidential Hopefuls Embrace Indigenous Movement Against Unwanted Pipelines”

“The Indigenous-led movement against pipelines, waged against Keystone XL and Dakota Access for years, has finally emerged as a critical component of the 2020 presidential campaign.” A. Agoyo, Indianz.com

Presidential candidate Cory Booker.


Excerpt: By Acee Agoyo, Indianz.com:


“At least among Democrats, that is. Trump, who is running for re-election, and his Republican allies continue to support both projects despite widespread objections from tribes who fear negative impacts on their water, treaty rights and ways of life.

But for the party hoping to reclaim the White House, engaging in consultation with Indian Country isn’t enough. Tribes must have a decision-making role in pipelines and other energy infrastructure that affects their communities, several Democratic candidates for president are asserting as they seek the Native vote.

2020 Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. photo: Jim Watson :AFP : Getty Images

‘As President of the United States, Cory Booker will ensure that all people and all communities, especially those who have been traditionally left behind like indigenous communities, share in our progress,’ the U.S. Senator from New Jersey’s campaign told Indianz.Com on Tuesday…He is among several hopefuls who are promising to rescind the presidential permits for both the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. ICT

Both projects were approved by the Trump administration with little to no input from those affected in Indian Country. The final Dakota Access permit in North Dakota, for example, was approved while the leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies next to the $3.8 billion pipeline, was on a plane on his way for a meeting at the White House. The meeting was canceled since the decision had already been made.

Likewise, the first time Trump approved Keystone XL, he did so without conducting additional consultations among tribes along the route in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. And after Indigenous activists won a major court decision, he simply went around the judiciary and issued another permit rather than address the deficiencies raised in the lawsuit.

Biden was part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to help Indian Country and he participated in the 8-year promise to meet with tribal leaders. (Photo- Vincent Schilling)

But the politicians hoping to go up against Trump in 2020 are embracing an entirely different approach. A Booker administration will ‘require free, prior, and informed consent from tribal nations for all future major energy projects on federal lands,’ his campaign said on Tuesday, echoing a concept advanced by Faith Spotted Eagle, a respected elder from the Yankton Sioux Tribe, during the recent presidential forum…’We have a collective responsibility and commitment to stop Keystone XL from being built and we will not stop,’ said Lewis Grass Rope, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe who is hosting the Wiconi Un Tipi Resistance Camp on his family’s homelands in South Dakota as part of the Indigenous movement against the unwanted pipeline…Dakota Access likewise is back in the news even though it’s been up and running for more than two years.

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. Aug. 20. Sarah Mearhoff : Forum News Service

The operators are planning to nearly double its capacity, a move opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose water resources, subsistence sites and sacred and historical places are impacted by the pipeline, which already carries more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day through its homelands in North Dakota…Like other Democratic candidates for president, Cory Booker’s environmental platform isn’t just about pipelines. Among other actions, he’s vowing to clean up every abandoned coal and uranium mine, including the more than 1,200 on the Navajo Nation and near the tribe’s homelands.”

Category: Native Rights, Politics

Tlingit Master Carver Creates a Totem to Shame Trump and Dunleavy !

“Tommy Joseph, a Tlingit master carver, carved a totem pole meant to shame Trump and Dunleavy…‘We’re calling it a ridicule pole, a shame pole, for our governor of Alaska, Dunleavy, and the president of the United States, Trump’ says Tommy Joseph.” B. Hohenstatt, Juneau Empire

Shaming Pole.

Description of Totem Pole: “Designed and created by Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph and his wife Kristina Cranston, the pole features an image of Trump at the base and one of Dunleavy at the top. A baby’s pacifier is held in Trump’s right hand and a bone spur protrudes from his left foot. A separate wooden pacifier in the president’s mouth can be removed and replaced by viewers.

In the middle, two Twitter birds and an area above them made with black chalkboard paint provide viewers with a place to write Trump’s recent tweets or to write their own comments. On the reverse side is a red necktie that runs the entire length of the pole.” ICT

Excerpt: Gut fish, not Alaska’: Totem pole ridicules Trump and Dunleavy- Ben Hohenstatt, Juneau Empire

‘I’m compelled, motivated and feel the need to say what I have to say,’ Joseph said in an interview.

While the pole has contemporary subject matter in the sitting president and governor of Alaska, it’s made in the spirit of traditional shame or ridicule poles. Shame poles were totem poles meant to tell the story of a misdeed or unpaid debt.

Famously, a pole shaming William Seward, who negotiated the Alaska Purchase, was carved in the 1880s after Seward did not reciprocate gifts and honors received while visiting an Alaska Native village…Joseph compared ridicule poles to the practice of posting a bounced check near a cash register.

Tlingit shaming totem pole featuring images of Trump and Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy.

Traditionally, Joseph said once the wrong depicted by a totem pole was righted, the pole would be destroyed, and the story would not be told again.‘Will that ever happen?’ Joseph asked. ‘I don’t know.’

The pole was carved in a roughly 48-hour flurry of activity Joseph said, and he was assisted by his wife and apprentice, Kristina Cranston…He said while he carved the shame pole, he reflected on the Dunleavy and Trump’s policies that he finds objectionable.

trump sucks on a pacifier, hair rendered canary-yellow. (KCAW:Sparling)

Those include environmental deregulation and Trump’s history of racially charged remarks.

‘I’m brown myself, and our brown people all over the world are being treated worse and less than,’ Joseph said…Joseph’s recently carved shame pole includes interactive elements, such as a chalkboard-like section that allows for messages to be written. Joseph also carved a pacifier that can be placed in the mouth of a likeness of Trump…He said the back of the pole will feature a long, red tie —a garment often associated with the president —that will be decorated with things Trump has said.’It’s not the big tie, it’s the big lie,’ Joseph said.

It’s not the big tie-it’s the big lie- Tommy Joseph

Additionally, Joseph, who is a full-time artist, said he has been impacted directly by Dunleavy’s budget vetoes that cut more than $400 million from a Legislature-approved budget.

One binkie wasn’t enough. (KCAW:Sparling)

The vetoes include slashing more than $130 million in funding for University of Alaska and eliminating funding for the Alaska State Council on the Arts. ‘I am directly losing jobs to these cuts,’ Joseph said.”


Category: Culture

The Amazon is Burning; Indigenous People Are in Serious Trouble; The President is to Blame!

“Scientists say the fires in the Amazon are human-made, and many claim fires were ultimately spawned by Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s anti-Indigenous agenda.”  B. Oaster, ICT

Amazon Women-ICT

Excerpt: As Amazon rainforest burns, Indigenous women call on world for support, By Brian Oaster, ICT

“Indigenous Amazonian chieftains warned the world about Bolsonaro. The right-wing authoritarian known as the ‘Trump of the Tropics’ took Brazil’s presidential office in July. And now the Amazon is on fire.

Scientists count 72,843 fires in the Amazon this year, the highest number in recorded history. Roughly 10,000 of these have erupted since Thursday last week. And no, it’s not climate change at work.

In the midst of the fires, Indigenous women leaders are calling out to the world in need of support. Many claim Bolsonaro’s ideologies are spawning race-based retaliations, and the Amazon is suffering.As Amazon rainforest burns, Indigenous women call on world for support

Scientists at Brazil’s national space research institute say they find no meteorological abnormality that could encourage the forest fires. During the month of June, however, the Brazilian Amazon suffered an 88 percent increase in deforestation, and the current number of wildfires is 83 percent higher than the same time last year.

‘There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,’  says national space researcher Alberto Setzer.  ‘The dry season creates favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.’

No accident, say Indigenous communities. Their reports point to cattle ranchers and profit-motivated companies — emboldened by Bolsonaro’s anti-indigenous hostility — who have been starting the fires with petrol bombs.

The Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest, provides us all with one-fifth of the oxygen we breathe, as well as one-fifth of our fresh water. It’s one of Earth’s biggest carbon sinks. It’s home to 6,000 animal species and 40,000 plant species. Although they’re responsible for two-thirds of cancer-combatting medicines, 99 percent of these rainforest plant species have still never been studied by western scientists for their healing power.

The Amazon is cared for by over a million indigenous people and at least 100 ‘uncontacted’ tribes, more than anywhere else in the world.

Last week, thousands of indigenous women in leadership mobilized to march in protest in Brasília.

‘We came to denounce the president’s hateful discourse, which has increased violence and destruction in our territories, which directly impacts us, women,’ said Sônia Guajajara, former vice-presidential candidate and current leader of Indigenous rights group the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation) or APIB.

‘For the first time in history, the indigenous women’s march convenes more than 100 different peoples in Brasilia with more than 2,000 women present, ‘ says the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasi’s Célia Xacriabá.’This is a movement that is not only symbolically important but also historically and politically significant. ‘

‘When they try to take away our rights, it’s not enough to only defend our territories. We also need to occupy spaces beyond our villages, such as institutional spaces and political representativity.’

Xacriabá is asking people outside of the Amazon to support their voices in opposition to Bolsonero’s campaign of terror and destruction. ‘We call on the international community to support us, to amplify our voices and our struggle against today’s legislative genocide, where our own government is authorizing the slaughter and ethnocide of indigenous peoples. This is also an opportunity to join our voices to denounce this government’s ecocide, where the killing of mother nature is our collective concern.”

Category: Culture