Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

by Emily Walsh

What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Do you remember the words: “In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? Mythology about Columbus and the “discovery” of the Americas continues to be many American children’s first lesson about encountering different Indigenous cultures. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October. This year Indigenous Peoples’ Day is today, October 12th.

The holiday originated in 1977 as a counter-celebration of Columbus Day, which honors Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that Native American people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America. Ultimately, the holiday urges Americans to rethink history by learning about Indigenous cultures in the United States.

In 1977 participants at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas suggested that Indigenous Peoples’ Day replace Columbus Day. Today more than 10 states across the United States recognize the holiday.

How Can You Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Teaching more accurate and complete narratives and differing perspectives is key to our society’s rethinking of history and is important in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Watching films with Indigenous actors, directors, and plots that highlight Indigenous issues is another great way to celebrate the holiday. The AU Library’s Indigenous Peoples of America streaming guide is a great resource and a great place to start looking.

What to Watch on Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, consider learning more about Native American cultures through movies at the AU Library. These lists of documentaries and feature films created by Indigenous and non-Indigenous filmmakers that discuss Indigenous issues are a great resource and excellent place to start. If you’re interested in learning more about Indigenous experiences outside of the United States, the National Film Board of Canada has a collection of over 200 films created by Indigenous filmmakers that can be accessed for free online.

Feature Films and Documentaries Made by Indigenous Filmmakers Available via the AU Library

Reel Injun, Directed by Neil Diamond (Cree)

Documentary, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“Hollywood has an impressive track record, one that spans more than 4,000 films, of blatantly misrepresenting Native people and their cultures. Featuring interviews with filmmakers and activists such as Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch and Russell Means, Reel Injun delves into the fascinating history of the Hollywood Indian with razor-sharp insight and humor, tracing its checkered cinematic evolution from the silent film era to today.”

This May Be the Last Time, Directed by Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek)

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

This May Be the Last Time traces the heartfelt journey of award-winning filmmaker Sterlin Harjo as he interweaves the tale of a mysterious death in 1962 with the rich history of the powerful hymns that have united Native American communities in times of worship, joy, tragedy, and hope. Investigating the stories of these songs, this illuminating film takes us on an epic tour as we travel with the power of the music through Southwest America, slavery in the deep South, and as far away as the Scottish Highlands.”

Drunktown’s Finest, Directed by Sydney Freeland (Navajo)

Feature Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“On a beautifully desolate Navajo reservation in New Mexico, three young people, a college-bound, devout Christian woman; a rebellious and angry father-to-be; and a promiscuous but gorgeous transsexual woman, search for love and acceptance. As the three find their lives becoming more complicated and their troubles growing, their paths begin to intersect.”

On the Ice, Directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Iñupiaq)

Short Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“In Barrow, Alaska, teenagers Qalli and Aivaaq find their bond tested when a seal-hunting trip goes wrong, resulting in the death of their friend.”

Miss Navajo, Directed by Billy Luther (Navajo/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo)

Documentary, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“Reveals the inner beauty of the young women who compete in the Miss Navajo Nation beauty pageant. Not only must contestants exhibit poise and grace as those in typical pageants, they must also answer tough questions in Navajo and demonstrate proficiency in skills essential to daily tribal life: fry-bread making, rug weaving and sheep butchering. The film follows the path of 21-year-old Crystal Frazier, a not-so-fluent Navajo speaker and self-professed introvert, as she undertakes the challenges of the pageant.”

Kanehsatake: 270 years of resistance, Directed by Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki)

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“On a hot July day in 1990, an historic confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Québec, into the international spotlight and into the Canadian conscience. A powerful feature-documentary emerges that takes you right into the action of an age-old aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades, providing insight into the Mohawks’ unyielding determination to protect their land.”

Smoke Signals, Written by author Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene)

Feature Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“Story of the journey of two Coeur d’Alene Indian boys from Idaho to Arizona. Victor is the stoic, handsome son of an alcoholic father who has abandoned his family. Thomas is a gregarious, goofy young man orphaned as an infant by a fire which Victor’s father accidentally started while drunk. Thomas is a storyteller who makes every effort to connect with the people around him; Victor, in contrast, uses his quiet demeanor to gain strength and confidence. When Victor’s estranged father dies in Arizona the two young men embark on a journey to recover his ashes.”

Feature Films and Documentaries About Indigenous Life, History, and Issues Streaming via the AU Library

Amá, Directed by Lorna Tucker

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“Amá is a feature length documentary which tells an important and untold story: the abuses committed against Native American women by the United States Government during the 1960’s and 70’s: removed from their families and sent to boarding schools, forced relocation away from their traditional lands and involuntary sterilization.”

Spirits for Sale, Directed by Folke Johansson

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“When Annika is given an eagle feather by a Native American visiting Sweden, she realizes it is a sacred object which should probably not be in her hands. These days Native American ceremonies are being commercialized for “outsiders,” arousing resentment in the Native community. Annika sets out to find the feather’s rightful owner, a quest which takes her to American Indian communities in Albuquerque, San Antonio and to Bear Butte in South Dakota. She meets many Native Americans who are bitter, believing they are “the forgotten people.” But others are fighting to preserve their culture and their faith as well as to protect their land.”

The First People: The Last Word, Produced by Torsten Jansen and Hanne Ruzou for the Danish Broadcasting Service

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“For the first time since their land was taken, many Native American tribes have the opportunity to take over the rights to the land they live on and create a cultural consciousness. The filmmakers travel around the United States, talking to an Indian attorney, a movie director, an artist, a nurse, and others. The question remains – will Native Americans be able to maintain their unique culture now that they are participating in the American dream?”

Roma, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Feature Film, streaming via Netflix and DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“With his eighth and most personal film, Alfonso Cuarón recreated the early 1970s Mexico City of his childhood, narrating a tumultuous period in the life of a middle-class family through the experiences of Cleo, the indigenous domestic worker who keeps the household running. Charged with the care of four small children abandoned by their father, Cleo tends to the family even as her own life is shaken by personal and political upheavals.”

Standing on Sacred Ground, Directed by Christopher McLeod

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“Native Hawaiians and Aboriginal Australians resist threats to their sacred places in a growing international movement to defend human rights and protect the environment. In Australia’s Northern Territory, Aboriginal clans maintain Indigenous Protected Areas and resist the destructive effects of a mining boom. In Hawaii, Indigenous ecological and spiritual practices are used to restore the sacred island of Kahoolawe after 50 years of military use as a bombing range.”

Honorable Mention:

 También la Lluvia (Even in the Rain), Directed by Icíar Bollaín Pérez-Mínguez

Feature Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“In the year of our Lord 2000, Spanish director Sebastián and his executive producer Costa are shooting a motion picture about Christopher Columbus, his first explorations, and the way the Spaniards treated the Indians. To get the film made within the limitations of their modest budget, Costa has chosen the Cochabamba area of Bolivia, the cheapest and most Indian of Latin American countries as the location. They hire many supernumeraries, local actors, and extras, and things go more or less smoothly until a conflict erupts over the privatization of the water supply, sold to a multinational. The trouble is that one of the local actors is a leading activist in the protest movement. 500 years after Columbus, a David vs. Goliath conflict erupts into the infamous Bolivian Water War, catching the filmmakers firmly in the middle.”

In Spanish or Gallego (Galician) with optional subtitles in English

Movies for Independence Day

I’m usually wary of nationalism and patriotism, especially in the current political climate, but July 4th is the one day of the year where I indulge in a bit of “Heck yeah, America!” I eat a hot dog, watch 1776, and try and find a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence to attend. This … Continue reading “Movies for Independence Day”

I’m usually wary of nationalism and patriotism, especially in the current political climate, but July 4th is the one day of the year where I indulge in a bit of “Heck yeah, America!” I eat a hot dog, watch 1776, and try and find a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence to attend.

This year there’s apparently going to be tanks rolling around DC, so I think it’s appropriate that we take the day to examine whether or not America is living up to its ideals of freedom and equality in addition to celebrating. With that in mind, here are some of Media Services’ picks for Independence day viewing:

1776 (DVD 4969): This is my traditional 4th of July movie. It’s a wonderfully cheesy musical, but where else are you going to see the Founding Fathers sing about how turned on they are by independence and their wives?

John Adams (DVD 4993): This prolific HBO miniseries is a must-watch, even if this John Adams doesn’t sing.

A League of Their Own (DVD 1384): Do you know how hard it is to find a patriotic movie that isn’t focused on white men? It’s very hard. But A League of Their Own is a classic, and you should definitely watch it.

Independence Day (DVD 3111): Watch Will Smith defeat some aliens in the name of America.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (DVD 6341-6346, and streaming): Truthfully, I could have put any of Ken Burns’ documentaries on this list, but I decided on the National Parks series because I think we need to be reminded of what we have a duty to protect.

Hidden Figures (DVD 13951): Space Race! Hidden Figures is a great film, and strikes the right tone between celebrating what the US has achieved and examining it– we know we can (and need to) do better.

All the President’s Men (DVD 1789): Celebrate the 4th of July by celebrating the fruits of a free and independent press.

National Treasure (DVD 11187): I mean, come on:

The Sandlot (Streaming): This has a great 4th of July scene, and it perfectly captures what summer is about when you’re a kid.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (DVD 102): Good triumphs in the end, right?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DVD 111478): Ra ra America…. wait a minute. I love this film for a lot of reasons, and I think it’s important to watch on Independence Day because it asks an important question: how much freedom are we willing to sacrifice for ‘safety?’

The Myth of Kanopy

We here at Media Services recently changed our Kanopy subscription. Before this semester, library users could watch any Kanopy film at any time, no questions asked. Though Kanopy looks (and markets itself) as the educational equivalent of Netflix or Amazon Prime, instead of paying a flat fee of x dollars/month, the library paid $150 per … Continue reading “The Myth of Kanopy”

We here at Media Services recently changed our Kanopy subscription. Before this semester, library users could watch any Kanopy film at any time, no questions asked. Though Kanopy looks (and markets itself) as the educational equivalent of Netflix or Amazon Prime, instead of paying a flat fee of x dollars/month, the library paid $150 per title.

The cost of Kanopy ate up most of our budget, which is why we switched to a request-only model for two Kanopy collections– Criterion and Kino Lorber. Now, when you want to watch a film from these collections, it has to be approved by our media librarian.

This article from Film Quarterly sums up the Kanopy conundrum quite nicely, and shows that the AU Library isn’t alone in our current predicament.

https://filmquarterly.org/2019/05/03/kanopy-not-just-like-netflix-and-not-free/

Correction 5/15/19- Updated to reflect that only two AU Kanopy collections are request-only. All other Kanopy collections we subscribe to are available for instant viewing.

Frustrated with Netflix? Check Cinesift!

Cinesift, a movie rating aggregator and competitor to Rotten Tomatoes, has an awesome service that will tell you which quality films are available on Amazon Prime and Netflix. If you’re bored and the lesser dregs of Netflix will not satisfy your viewing needs, try their new search features to find a film worth watching that’s … Continue reading “Frustrated with Netflix? Check Cinesift!”

Cinesift, a movie rating aggregator and competitor to Rotten Tomatoes, has an awesome service that will tell you which quality films are available on Amazon Prime and Netflix. If you’re bored and the lesser dregs of Netflix will not satisfy your viewing needs, try their new search features to find a film worth watching that’s available now!

Kanopy Highlights: Ajami

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection. This week, we’re focusing on … Continue reading “Kanopy Highlights: Ajami”

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we’re focusing on Ajami, a 2009 nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

Ajami is a mixed-religious neighborhood in Jaffa, Israel, where tensions understandably run high. The film tells a crime story in those streets, intercutting between five different stories told from Jewish and Arab perspectives. The film doesn’t use its interleaving and grittiness just for show; it reveals and humanizes the tensions of a community divided by religion and class.

You can follow this link to watch the film instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

Kanopy Highlights: Smash & Grab

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection. This week, we’re focusing on … Continue reading “Kanopy Highlights: Smash & Grab”

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we’re focusing on Smash & Grab, an experimental documentary about international jewel thieves.

Smash & Grab follows The Pink Panthers, a gang that has reportedly stolen billions in jewelry around the world. Director Havana Marking blends reality and fictional filmmaking techniques in startling ways. The film uses real surveillance footage of The Pink Panthers (we don’t understand how she obtained it) to ratchet the tension, and her interviews with the gang members (which, again, we’re baffled as to how she arranged) are presented as rotoscoped animation. This a documentary that gets close to its subjects – through the heightened lens of a partially-animated heist film.

You can follow this link to watch the film instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

Kanopy Highlights: Wild Style

Still from Wild Style About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection. This … Continue reading “Kanopy Highlights: Wild Style”

Still from Wild Style

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we’re focusing on Wild Style, a 1983 film credited with bringing hip-hop to the big screen.

Here’s Kanopy’s description…

Wild Style follows the exploits of maverick tagger Zoro (real life graffiti artist Lee Quinones), whose work attracts the attention of an East Village art fancier (Patti Astor) who commissions him to paint the stage for a giant Rapper’s Convention. A document of the earliest days of hip-hop in the boroughs of New York, everything in Wild Style is authentic – the story, style, characters, and most of the actors, are drawn from the community. It features a pantheon of old-school pioneers, including Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee, The Cold Crush Brothers and more.

“Charlie Ahearn’s groundbreaking film about hip-hop, graffiti, break dancing, and rap in eighties.” -Sarah Cardace, New York Magazine

“It’s a fascinating time capsule, worth examining for anyone interested in the cultural roots of hip hop.” -Keith Phipps, AV Club

Wild Style is a cult classic – indisputably the most important hip hop movie, ever.” – David Mattin, BBC

Wild Style was a community breaking through into film, and its impact made its way back. Artists like Nas, MF Doom, and Jurassic 5 have referenced Wild Style. As the film makes its way to museum and retrospectives, it continues to shape perceptions of hip-hop culture.

It’s also a really good movie – and a must-watch if you haven’t already seen it!

You can follow this link to watch the film instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

Kanopy Highlights: Film canon classics

Still from Seven Samurai About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection. This … Continue reading “Kanopy Highlights: Film canon classics”

Still from Seven Samurai

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we’re focusing on classics from the film canon.

You can click the link on any of these films to watch them instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

The Battle of Algiers – “One of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo, vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s.”

City Lights – “City Lights, the most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin, is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street and mistakes him for a millionaire.”

El Norte – “Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. The personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism.”

Eraserhead – “In David Lynch’s ‘dream of dark and troubling things,’ Henry is left alone in his apartment to care for his deformed baby and has a series of strange encounters with the beautiful girl across the hall and the woman living in his radiator.”

M – “In his harrowing masterwork M, Fritz Lang merges trenchant social commentary with chilling suspense, creating a panorama of private madness and public hysteria that to this day remains the blueprint for the psychological thriller.”

Man with a Movie Camera – “This dawn-to-dusk view of the Soviet Union offers a montage of urban Russian life, showing the people of the city at work and at play Considered one of the most innovative and influential films of the silent era.” Includes accompaniment by the Michael Nyman Band.

Seven Samurai –  “One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, Seven Samurai tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits.”

Stagecoach – “John Ford’s smash hit and enduring masterpiece Stagecoach revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list and establishing the genre as we know it today. The quintessential tale of a group of strangers thrown together into extraordinary circumstances, Stagecoach features John Wayne’s first starring role for Ford.”

#BlackLivesMatter documentary now available streaming

Films on Demand is a useful database for finding documentaries on a range of subjects, from the environment to teaching math. Now you can add timely social issues to that list as well: you can now stream #BlackLivesMatter, one of the first feature-length documentaries produced about the ongoing protests of racial inequality and police violence. … Continue reading “#BlackLivesMatter documentary now available streaming”

Films on Demand is a useful database for finding documentaries on a range of subjects, from the environment to teaching math. Now you can add timely social issues to that list as well: you can now stream #BlackLivesMatter, one of the first feature-length documentaries produced about the ongoing protests of racial inequality and police violence.

This is (at least as far as I know) the first documentary in our collection about the Black Lives Matter protests. Although there have been countless critical essays and videos on the topic, this succinct, powerful documentary captures snapshots of the protests around the country and and contextualizes them with history and stories from protestors.

We recommend previewing this film if you’re teaching, learning, or just curious about the movement. Video can chronicle social change better than any words, and a well-produced documentary like #BlackLivesMatter is an especially great example.

Kanopy Highlights: Social justice documentaries

Still from Concerning Violence About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection. This … Continue reading “Kanopy Highlights: Social justice documentaries”

Still from Concerning Violence

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We’re happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we’re focusing on powerful documentaries for social justice.

You can click the link on any of these films to watch them instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.


5 Broken Cameras – “5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005.”

Body Typed series – “Body Typed is series of award-winning short films that uses humor to raise serious questions about the marketplace of commercial illusion and unrealizable standards of physical perfection.”

Concerning Violence – “From the director of The Black Power Mixtape comes a bold and fresh visual narrative on Africa, based on newly discovered archive material covering the struggle for liberation from colonial rule in the late ’60s and ’70s, accompanied by text from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.”

In Whose Honor? – “What’s wrong with American Indian sports mascots? This moving, award-winning film is the first of its kind to address that subject. In Whose Honor? takes a critical look at the long-running practice of “honoring” American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports.”

Screaming Queens – “Screaming Queens tells the little-known story of the first known act of collective, violent resistance to the social oppression of queer people in the United States – a 1966 riot in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn.”