Grace Dillon, PhD speaks about films shown at ISU on April 19. (Sara Broncho photos)
By SARA BRONCHO
POCATELLO — Grace Dillon, PhD, Portland State University Native American studies professor did a presentation on Native Science Fiction (sci-fi) films at Idaho State University (ISU) Friday, April 19 in the Rendezvous building.
She presented on Native American Indian oral storytelling and film adaption and then presented Science Fiction Literature and film on Friday.
Dillon is Anishinaabe tribe and she delves in her interests of science fiction and traditional cultures, from the combination of both are born the field of indigenous futurism, a new area she thrives in.
She is author of an Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, Walking the Clouds (2012) in which she explores this new sci-fi arena with others.
Dillon stated her purpose for being at ISU was to foster indigenous and First Nations sci-fi artists. She brought inspiration in the form of films introducing them to students as a glimpse at projects among Natives that have come to light.
Presented were films by Native filmmakers, including all Native casts on various topics. Because of a narrow time slot there wasn’t room for much discussion, but the films gave multitudes of visual information.
The film “Horse, Talking to my Horse” with Gary Owen by Archer Pechawis, a member of the Mistawasis, First Nations of Saskatchewan had a film shown which was moreover a narrated story that debuted in 2007 at the Vancouver, BC Talking Stick Festival.
Imagine being a member of Black Kettle’s band of Southern Cheyenne at the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1868 against General George Armstrong Custer of the seventh Calvary. The description of war and chaos and unraveling of the events is described as the horses take on the human characteristic of speaking. The advice of the horse eventually ends the war.
“The following story should be true,” said Pechawis as he began the story. Pechawis rewrites the events that happened at the Little Big horn in his sci-fi video and highlights the power and importance of man and his relationship to the horse. The film deals with a theme of post-humanism between human and robots working to restore the relationship between humans and animals Dillon points out.
Another film titled “Savage,” by Lisa Jackson was debuted in 2011, received the Genie Award, and was commissioned by imagineNATIVE film and Media Arts Festival in 2009 as part of The Embargo Collective, a special collaboration between seven international indigenous artists.
This film visits the issue of the boarding school era with a child being taken from the home. The mother sings in her Cree language the heartfelt yearning of her now missing child. The child leaves with strangers, is given a bath, hair cut, and placed in school clothing in a classroom of zombie students. The dead looking children bust out into a synchronized dance routine as the teacher leaves the classroom, as in Michael Jackson’s Thriller. As the teacher returns the children stop. This film takes an unexpected turn, but strangely intriguing.
Switching gears to another film titled The Path Without End by Elizabeth Lameman was an animation. Lameman is Anishinaabe and also Gracie Dillon’s daughter, and the film is a story retelling of Anishinaabe stories of Moon People who traveled here from the stars by canoe. The film is a non-verbal play of images of, copper, beads, shell, leather, bone and rocks.
The array of sci-fi films were each unique in that it dealt with familiar Native issues, but embodied an new way of thinking, a new voice and Dillon encourages those new voices.