Feb 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-3: How to Build a Dream, Media Reviews

FRAMES FROM HOMELANDVideo documentary by filmmakers Jilann Spitzmill and Hank Rogerson
One hour
Independent Television Service, San Francisco

Review by Woody Kipp

This video is aesthetically pleasing, with wonderful scenes of the rolling prairies of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The storyline, however, is an old, tired tale that we see over and over again–the grinding poverty of the Pine Ridge residents. The filmmakers know what white America wants to watch: Native Americans in dire reservation poverty, scratching desperately to hold on to a semblance of humanity. If we want to watch this type of video, let’s watch the one made last year or the year before that. All we do is provide a venue for a new filmmaker to establish a name for himself through our poverty, poverty his grandparents helped create.

These documentaries may fascinate the white mainstream audiences for whom they are intended (Homeland was shown on PBS in November). However, the people who are struggling to break the malevolent Indian stereotypes portrayed in the video are ignored: the native people with college degrees, the native middle class who go to work every day as any responsible white person would but who also have the duty of rebuilding the foundations of the traditional culture. These people are not heard on this type of video. Apparently they’re not poor enough.

I think this type of video hurts us more than helps us today. Young people buy into this motif of “learned helplessness.” There have been plenty of these types of videos done in the past 25 years. Enough already.

Woody Kipp is an enrolled member of the Pikuni Blackfoot Nation in Montana. He currently teaches literature and history at Little Priest Tribal College on the Ho-Chunk Reservation.

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