Kristin Dowell


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.

Sovereign Screens

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.

Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast. Photograph of Book Cover. 2013. Author: Kristin Dowell. Book cover for Sovereign Screens. Cover image courtesy of Gord Hill (Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw) and the Indigenous Media Arts Group (IMAG).

Photograph. 2004. Kristin Dowell with Cleo Reece (Cree/Métis) at the Indigenous Media Arts Group (IMAG), Vancouver, Canada, March 2004. Photo credit: Vera Wabegijig (Bear Clan from Mississauga First Nation/Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve).

Photograph. 2013. Kristin Dowell with filmmaker Odessa Shuquaya (Kluane First Nation) at the book launch for Sovereign Screens. Vancouver, Canada, November 2013. Photo credit: Jeff Beekman.

Photograph. 2015. Kristin Dowell moderating a panel discussion about Indigenous women’s filmmaking at the Native Crossroads Film Festival, University of Oklahoma, March 2015. Panelists include: Yolanda Cruz, Kimberley Weiser, and Lindsey Claire Smith. Photo credit: Karl W. Schmidt.

Photograph. 2019. Indigenous Moving Image Arts Panel, Native American Art Studies Association (NAASA) conference, Minneapolis, October, 2019.  Organized and curated by Kristin Dowell. Panelists included filmmakers (left to right): Marcella Ernest (Ojibwe), Jules Koostachin (Attawapiskat First Nation), (Kristin Dowell), and Adrienne Huard (Couchiching First Nation).

Photograph of Promotional Flyer for “Ethics of Place” Short Film Screening. An example of my film curatorial practice. “Ethics of Place”, co-curated with Dr. Karrmen Crey (Stó:lō) for the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) Film and Media Festival, Vancouver, November 2019.

Photograph. 2018. Cover page of an article by Kristin Dowell about the experimental stop-motion animated films of Amanda Strong (Michif) that was published in a special “Openings and Retrospectives” section focused on Indigenous Media Futures.

Filmmaker Amanda Strong (Michif) with Kristin Dowell at ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Festival in Toronto, October 2018, just prior to the screening of Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes). Photo credit: Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxv and Klahoose Nations).

Photograph of the poster for Global Indigenous Film Showcase. The graduate students in the Global Indigenous Cinema course curated, organized and hosted their Global Indigenous Film Showcase in April 2019. The poster shows the short films selected for their film showcase. Poster designed by: Cindy Evans, Haylee Glasel and Nicole Hu.

Photograph of the Global Indigenous Cinema class at their film event. In the Global Indigenous Cinema course students learn about film curatorial theory and put that into practice by curating, organizing and hosting their own Indigenous film event. The graduate seminar from spring 2019 here on the evening of their Global Indigenous Film Showcase. Students (from left to right): April Webb, Olivia Morris, Toyé Durrah, Haylee Glasel, (Kristin Dowell), Cindy Evans, Julia Kershaw, Rebecca Peters, Ileana Olmos, and Ari Hakkarainen. Nicole Hu was not present in the photograph. Photo credit: Jeff Beekman.

Cedar Tree of Life. Director: Odessa Shuquaya (Kluane First Nation). 2018. 10:35 minutes. Canada. Digital video. Clip duration 01:12. Clip courtesy of Odessa Shuquaya.

?E?anx: The Cave. Director: Helen Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot’in). 2009. 10:42 minutes. Canada. Vtape. Digital video. Clip duration 01:04. Clip courtesy of Vtape.

Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes). Director Amanda Strong (Michif). 2018. 19:15 minutes. Canada. Winnipeg Film Group. Digital video. Clip duration 00:45. Clip courtesy of Winnipeg Film Group and CBC Short Docs.


Art History

Connect With Kristin


While there is no overarching theme that unites every faculty member in this exhibition, everyone is connected to someone else through a web of ideas and provocations. We encourage you to use these tags to navigate from one scholar to the next, while understanding that these concepts do not fully account for the depth and nuance of the work you are encountering.

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