I am a settler scholar deeply committed to a decolonial research practice that centers and amplifies the work of the Indigenous filmmakers and artists with whom I have collaborated for twenty years. My book, Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast (2013), is the first monograph of the vibrant Indigenous media world in Vancouver. My research investigates the active processes through which Indigenous filmmakers and artists visualize Indigenous stories, cultural knowledge, and aesthetic traditions. I focus on their use of experimental forms of art and media in their efforts to express and enact visual sovereignty through their on-screen aesthetics and off-screen production practices. I am immensely grateful to my collaborators for the opportunity to work alongside them and for the generous ways in which they have shared their knowledge with me over the years.
Public-facing engagement through film curation has always been an integral aspect of my research practice. I have worked for several Native film festivals including those sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and the IMAGeNation Aboriginal Film and Media Festival in Vancouver. I co-founded Native Crossroads Film Festival at the University of Oklahoma where I served as film curator for three years. Indigenous people face both a profound invisibility within mainstream media as well as the damaging legacy of stereotypical images in films made by non-Native outsiders. It is an act of self-determination and resurgence when Indigenous filmmakers pick up the camera to tell their own stories. As a film curator I have witnessed the profound transformative power when Native American and Indigenous audiences see themselves and their stories reflected back at them on screen. My commitment remains to facilitate as many of these opportunities as possible. Over the last two decades I have been fortunate to see the growth and expansion of the dynamic field of Indigenous cinema, which counts among it the most inventive and visionary filmmakers working in the film industry today.
Indigenous cinema brings greater visibility to Indigenous stories and creates a platform to support social justice for Indigenous filmmakers and their communities. Indigenous film festivals remain the primary venue in which Indigenous cinema is viewed, and these events are critical for building collaborative relationships between Indigenous filmmakers from around the world. As a professor, I teach students about film curatorial theory and ethical ways to conduct film events, through opportunities for them to curate, organize and host their own Indigenous film festivals. It is deeply meaningful to see them carry forward the lessons that my mentors and collaborators shared with me. In this way I am honored to help support Indigenous filmmakers and the next generation of art historians and film curators.