Filming Sundance: Tradition, technology, and journalism collide.

A few weeks ago I was invited to help at a sundance ceremony that was being organized and run by friends of mine in the Native American community. Sundance is a sacred ceremony common to a number of Native American tribes (mostly from the Northern Plains) that is held annually during Summer.

True to indigenous form, this was a “learn-by-participating” experience for me and essentially nothing was described or explained to me beforehand. The one thing that was made clear though was that it was forbidden to take pictures or film the ceremony in any way.

So one can imagine my surprise yesterday when I discovered that the Aboriginals People’s Television Network (APTN) was releasing a several part feature on the sundance ceremony. APTN was invited to observe, film and report on the Sprucewoods sundance by its leader, Chief David Blacksmith, and they had accepted.  APTN reporter Shanneen Robinson and her film crew attended and filmed the sundance ceremony. APTN is now releasing the feature in a series of episodes.

The controversial decision to photograph and film a sundance and publish this series immediately sparked a lot of conversation in the Native American community. It evoked strong emotions including dismay and outrage from many who were shocked APTN would do this. 

As a non-Native I have attempted to generally speaking stay out of this discussion because this is not my culture’s ceremony. However, due to some interactions on Twitter I felt I should articulate my opinions (despite how little they might matter) to clarify what I think and do not think about the situation.

I am aware some will agree with the points I’m going to make, some will disagree with them, and I’m might be wrong in some of my points. As usual I welcome comments and criticisms and am more concerned with discussion than “proving myself right.”

APTN: APTN should have known better than to do this.

I get that teachers teach, and car mechanics fix cars, and reporters report on things and a news organization being invited to report on something interesting and pertinent to their main demographic would naturally agree to do the report. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should and it doesn’t mean you are justified in doing so.

Agreeing to film a ceremony, even though this is forbidden, is a rather serious breach of cultural respect. I do not think the permission of Chief Blacksmith absolves APTN of this because he is only one among many sundance leaders. This would be like freely photographing all Amish people (who refuse to be photographed outside of very specific conditions) given the word, consent and invitation of one Amish community leader. (If there was a tribal level decision to allow for the filming of a sundance, I might feel differently and there is even a precedent for it.)

I would actually be more inclined to be sympathetic if a white/mainstream news organization did this.  I would assume such a network simply failed at being culturally aware.  But APTN is an indigenous news network. They should have known better and they did but they went ahead with the report anyway.

Was APTN being a brave broadcasting company, unafraid to push the envelope to spark much needed dialogue and conversation?

Now I get that reporters at times push the envelope and make people uncomfortable to spark dialogue (or drive up ad revenue). This is not inherently unethical or in bad taste. Some have suggested APTN’s feature is pressing for much needed conversation regarding ceremony, the origin of the ban on photographing ceremonies, technology and ceremony, how to reach out and include Native and First Nations youth in ceremony, etc. However, I don’t think we can characterize APTN’s decision only in this light for a number of reasons.

First, instead of directly addressing why they decided to participate in the breaking of this protocol, or even address the fact that photographing a sundance is forbidden, APTN coyly hinted at the fact that they knew of the ban but were going on with the reporting anyway. I say this because comments like “unfettered access” and “secret ceremonies” appear in their feature. This taints the piece with a sensationalist and exploitative tone, not the tone of reporting on something held sacred by many.

Second, they have invited people not just to watch their feature but to weigh in on their controversial decision after the fact. In this they appear to be seeking to use the controversy to their advantage (like all news agencies do) presumably to drive up website traffic and ad revenue while advancing careers.

Third, even if the conversations sparked by this feature were necessary for Native American communities to have, a simple article that required no actual photography, reporting or filming of a sundance would have sufficed. APTN could have tapped a writer to write a piece discussing the conundrum of being invited to film a ceremony that is not to be filmed, explaining the reasons for this invitation being extended, and calling for conversation about the issue. This conversation could have happened without actually violating the ban on photography.

Fourth, is it even a news agencies place to determine what conversations should happen around ceremony? Is it their place to decide when and if there is a need to discuss something about ceremony that is so important that it sanctions the breaking of a widely held to ban on photography?

Fifth, the dynamics of the situation appear to be tailor made to absolve APTN of responsibility for a decision they knew would be controversial. APTN will reap whatever benefits come from this “breaking-the-taboo” hype, and as they face well-deserved criticism for their decision they will undoubtedly point to the leader that invited them to film the sundance and hide behind his character and reputation. I have seen a number of their defenders already employ this strategy. Saying, “But we were invited by the reputable leader of this sundance…” is not exactly the cry of a brave journalist who is accepting responsibility for their controversial decisions due to their stalwart conviction regarding the merits of that decision. This sounds like someone angling to get away with what they did and shifting responsibility to someone else.

Chief David Blacksmith: was this his decision  to make?

I don’t know Chief Blacksmith but many who do say he is a great man who has devoted his life to serving his people. He has personally prayed with and done ceremony for family members of people I trust who speak for his character. So let me be clear; I’m not contesting these claims about his character or attempting to discredit him in anyway. I have no cause to assume he is not a good man and a good leader. Quite to the contrary, because I’m an outsider, on any Native American issue, including those surrounding ceremony, my default would be to defer to him.

However, what I will say is that good people who serve their communities can still make mistakes and I think Chief Blacksmith did make one by inviting APTN to film his sundance, whatever the merits of his reasons.

I say this because it is one thing for a leader to make a controversial decision that impact the community he or she is responsible to and for.  It is an entirely different thing for a leader to make a controversial decision that impacts many communities he she has no relationship with, responsibility to, or reputation with.

If Chief Blacksmith had, with the informed consent of his sundance community, allowed for the filming and recording of their sundance to create material that would not be widely available but used personally be him to reach out to Natives (especially urban Natives) who would otherwise remain disconnected from ceremony on the land, I would have no issue with his decision. Ultimately the community he is responsible to, and the community this decision impacts, would hold him accountable if there were any negative repercussions. 

However, this was not the decision he made. Chief Blacksmith invited APTN, a national news organization, to film and report on a ceremony that is held dear to many tribes and many communities. He knew APTN would then take this material and publish it online which inherently creates a number of problems beyond the violation of protocol, such as making it available to those that appropriate native culture, and using this controversial filming of a ceremony to generate ad-revenue for APTN (essentially commoditizing sundance), etc.

In this Chief Blacksmith made a decision that impacted many communities and this was not a decision he had the right to make.  Sundance is a ceremony common to many different tribes performed by many different communities within those tribes. While each sundance ceremonies might have idiosyncratic differences, as different sundance leaders do things differently, the ban on filming and photographing the sundance ceremony appears to be universal. To knowingly break this protocol, in this way, a way that literally broadcasts online what many believe should not even be photographed,  would require either a widespread consensus, which doesn’t exist, or some type of pan-tribal spiritual leader who was qualified to make such a decision, who also doesn’t exist.

In short, regardless of Chief Blacksmith’s personal character, knowledge and intentions, I think he made a decision he had no right to make because I am fairly certain no one has the right to make this decision unilaterally, even with the advisement of close council and good intentions in hand.

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About Kevin

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
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26 Responses to Filming Sundance: Tradition, technology, and journalism collide.

  1. Good Helper Woman says:

    That is really well thought out and well written. You did a really good job on getting the perspective out in a wise way.

  2. Frank Busch says:

    I completely disagree with your position! Having said that, this is very well written and your position is well articulated. I have been looking for a new nemesis, and I think you would do nicely. It won’t take up too much of your time, just the odd tweet and scathing blog post here and there. No name-calling or insights into challenges faced by the other person’s mother, etc. This is “civilized” warfare, a war of words if you will… What do you say?

    • Kevin says:

      Hey I always welcome well-communicated (and deserved/needed) criticism so I’m game.

    • Kevin says:

      Also, could you post your own thoughts on this situation?

    • Ryan Slater says:

      10 years ago I did a documentary on the Sundance in Pipestone Minnesota run by the American Indian Movement. I was contacted by someone who watched APTN and the backlash by viewers. With the end of one news story mentioning my documentary I did for a television series The Sharing circle in 2003 that showed the Sundance Ceremony. I am a Sundancer and attend other ceremonies. I was offended to be brushed with the same brush as APTN. I did not show the ceremony. I even appeared on the APTN live call in show “Contact” to stand by my work.

      What APTN did was basically my story I did 10 years ago the only difference was I didn’t need to show the ceremony. We filmed up to the point of the tree being raised and stopped. The next day the ceremony started. I focused on the history, the outlawing, why people dance, the preparations and got views from dancers who were doing it for the first time, youth and our elders.

      I had 8 elder’s women and medicine men who I went to ceremony with advising me on what I should do. They were Anishinabe, Dakota and Cree who all told me the same thing, don’t show anything that is ceremonial What is sacred is to be kept sacred. I respected their wishes and was able to do my story without showing the ceremony.

      Why did I do my documentary, was for those who don’t know about the Sundance and live in the inner cities across Canada and the U.S, not to gain notoriety or make a name for myself or be the first to film one even though I was offered to film it.

      My documentary was just a small glimpse of one Sundance and to spark interest in those looking for what exists out there. If you want to learn go and see, ask questions, help when and where you can and most of all listen because it is us and our young ones who will need to know these ceremonies when the ones who show them to us pass on, we will keep the way the ceremonies are meant to be shared and passed on so they will be always here.

      I accepted what I did and stand by it and even went on live TV to listen to peoples comments. What APTN did was open up a door for people to look at one Sundance and assume this is the only way it’s done for those who don’t know and will neglect their own Nations Sundance lodges. From my own personal experience with my traditional family we like to joke, my younger brother texted me and asked what I was doing. I responded editing. A few minutes later he texted back and said he was learning how to Sundance with his son’s online jokingly. I had to laugh because it is who we are.

      Is this the way you want your kids to learn about the Sundance, is this the way you want to learn about it?

      I have also done documentaries on traditional healing and medicine without ever showing the medicines, why is because it only opens it up to be exploited like our ceremonies. I have also done documentaries on our Warrior societies because of mainstreams media portrayal of who they are.

      Why was I allowed to do these stories? Respecting the wishes of those involved and again if you want to learn about these things you have to go and see, ask questions, help when and where you can and most of all listen.

      Meegwetch
      Ryan Slater

      • Frank Busch says:

        Looking at the demographics, and the “Aboriginal Baby Boom” it is not feasible for our remaining Elders to teach all of our youth one-on-one. I heard an estimate (and am still trying to find the math) that every elder (not just the tradish ones) would have to teach 2,000 children in the next 20 years. I am sure that is an overblown number, but it does make me wonder if it is possible to teach enough of our youth for our culture to survive. Calvin Helin’s book “Dances with Dependency” describes the “demographic tsunami” in the aboriginal community and how unprepared we are for it. Since 50% of our population is under the age of 25 and those over the age of 55 make up less than 6% (and are still dealing with the effects of the Indian Residential School System) we could estimate that there are probably less than 2,000 bonafide elders and approx 425,000 First Nations youth (according to Stats Canada) http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/hlt/97-558/index.cfm?Lang=E that would indicate that right now, every elder would have to be training 212 youth right now, never mind those still to be born over the next 20 years! The reality is that we will have to look to new media to teach our children the culture, spirituality and language if we are to survive as a people.

    • Ryan Slater says:

      Hi Frank Busch seeing we are rom the same community I would really like to hear your opinion on the subject. With your comments, I take it you too attend ceremony and are a Sundancer. So lets hear what your stance and logic behind your opinion is?

      Meegwetch

      Ryan Slater

      • Ryan Slater says:

        Sorry but I didn’t ask about numbers all i asked what our position is on the issue. Do you Sundance and attend ceremonies and what your position is. For the last 4 years I have been living and working on a series which makes it Mandatory that all Students from grades 9-12 in Manitoba to learn about the Residential School Expierence and the effects. The Sixties Scoop and loss of Culture. I know the numbers. But the the one point I like you raised is what is the definition of an elder? someone who is old, my mom is in her 70 but does not call herself an elder, she considers herself a senior. Or is it someone who has knowldege of traditions and ceremonies and who may not be old maybe in thier 40’s or 50’s? And yes my Mom and Aunts did attend Residential School so I am a part of that history. Not trying to be rude but just wanted your position on the issue. This month along with 6 other men and 3 women we will be presenting our stories to the TRC in Vancouver this month as children of Parents who attended Residential School.

      • Frank Busch says:

        Yes, I practice the Way of the Pipe and the Sundance, you might say that I am “on the journey”. I have not been to David Blacksmith’s Sundance, though I know I would be welcome there and some of my cousins appeared in the APTN video. I think it is imperative that we start recording our ceremonies (tastefully and respecting all participants wishes). APTN originally aired with a sunrise Pipe Ceremony which my elders Jules and Margaret Lavallee conducted. We told them that they could film everything but the lighting of the pipes. I sang a pipe prayer song which was filmed. It is my great hope that some of the “Lost Children” saw this and were inspired to seek out their culture.
        This was all fairly new to me, at the time, but I had good teachers. In the context that the word “Elder” is generally used, I would rather say “Traditional Teacher” which would be anyone who holds the Traditional Teachings and is willing to share them. I have Elders or Mentors for other facets of my life such as career and hobbies, so I try to use other terminology with those I believe would understand. I would not hesitate, however to refer to my “Career Mentor” as “Elder” in the right setting. We are all just learning and healing. I too am a 2nd generation survivor of the Indian Residential School System and base most of my opinions on the Reconciliation process. I would like for natives and non-natives to be able to live in peace on equal ground. A radical idea, I know.

  3. Mysha says:

    My thoughts on this are from having lived 3 years in a first nation fly in reservation where the community is trying to recover the culture that was stolen and stomped into the ground. Biased on the opposing view I admit freely.
    David Blacksmith openly announced that the filming would be happening and invited those not comfortable to leave. He also has opened the Sundance to all nations, and any non native people who are whole heartedly into giving their all in this process.
    His goal is to reach the young people who are committing suicide, who have no hope, and TV and YouTube are the way to reach the young people. If it gives one person the strength to carry on, then it will have done more than any government program.
    As a Sundance Chief David Blacksmith has prayed over this decision wrestled with it, spoken to elders and made his decision, APTN is helping the youth by being their vision. I support his decision.

    • Kevin says:

      Mysha, I am sympathetic to the challenge of connecting and ensuring a resurgence of ceremony. Even as an outsider, I see this as one of the best things that can happen for indigenous communities, especially youth. With 80% of indigenous people on Turtle Island living off the land, and more indigenous youth being in foster care (being raised away from their culture) than were in residential schools, this is a pressing challenge. But can this be accomplished without filming or photography? (Some argue that it cannot and point to the precedent of the film the Circle of the Sun.) Even if filming is used, can the resulting material developed (photos and videos) be kept private and limited in their publication?

      Again with regards to Chief Blacksmith I think he did everything with the best of intentions. If the filming had been more contained in its use and not widely published I would be more inclined to see this situation differently. However, the decision that was made I see as fundamentally impacting other groups as well, which I think is a problem.

      • Mysha says:

        I spent time at a sundance with Chief Blacksmith, this summer, I listened to him speak about letting people of all tribes join in, I listened to his words. You realize the only cultural information available to the people in remote northern communities is limited. By making these teachings available to everyone it battles the misinformation that the government has spread for over 300 years.

      • Kevin says:

        Mysha, thanks for adding your perspective. I agree that reigniting and sharing cultural knowledge, ceremony and tradition among various indigenous communities is a worthy goal. Colonialism has attempted to stamp out these teachings and the resulting cultural displacement has had severe consequences for indigenous communities. Some of these communities are hard to reach because they are remote and others are hard to reach because they are removed from the land (such as urban indigenous people and those caught up in foster care).

        I see how this situation was designed to address this issue, and maybe in the long-run it will prove to be a good thing. However, I still think there may have been better ways. Ryan Slater’s discussion of his work in the comments sections would be an example of something I would see as less controversial while still aiming at the same goals.

  4. Joseph Mercredi says:

    chief Blacksmith invited APTN to the ceremony he conducts – NOT to the ceremonies others conduct. In the Cree world, ALL are equal, All have a say, ALL have rights. If others choose to keep their ceremonies secret (or hidden from non-members’ eyes) that is their choice. One question arises (for me) – If “Christian” ministries can air hours-long ‘services’ (services that used to be considered sacred) on air for profit, why can a Cree not show the process of his ceremony for free? for the education of the masses?

    • Kevin says:

      Hello Joseph,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

      I realize that individual communities do things differently and that sundance leaders have a certain amount of discretion in how they do things. I have been taught to defer to the person running the ceremony, even if it is different than what I am used to. One could say I’ve even been a beneficiary of this situation because I know some sundances would never let me near their ceremony because I am non-indigenous.

      As you point out it is true Chief Blacksmith did not give people permission to film other ceremonies, however, I think by the nature of the decision he made, namely allowing a ceremony to be filmed and then broadcast widely, that decision impacts more than just his sundance. Maybe we simply disagree on this issue.

      You bring up an interesting issue with your comparison to Christian ministries. My gut reaction is that comparing a Sunday service and a sundance ceremony is comparing apples and oranges. They are very different in their nature and the historical context surrounding them. Also, there are aspects of Christian practice that are meant to be private and they still are not televised or filmed, such as the Catholic practice of confession. Additionally I, as a former Christian, am very wary of Christian worship or services being used to generate money. I view this as something that fundamentally cheapens the act and reduces it, like so many things are reduced in the capitalistic Western culture, to a financial commodity.

      As for filming it for educational purposes, that has already been done to an extent. A film detailing the sundance ceremony and explaining it already exists. Also, maybe there are other ways to educate people about sundance beyond film, though some would argue it is necessary in certain contexts.

      Some good things to think about. Thank you for sharing.

    • Frank Busch says:

      Bang on Joseph Mercredi! I feel that by allowing Euro-Christian ceremonies to be filmed make it appear that they are “okay”, while banning First Nations ceremonies only makes them look “taboo”. This is almost a self-fulfilling prophesy, whereby the Euro-Canadians no longer need to suppress our culture through legislation, we have been trained to do it to ourselves.

      • Ryan Slater says:

        Thanks Frank I guess to simplify the question or statement, do ceremonies need to be filmed or shown to teach or gain an understanding of what they are all about. No offense but are we becoming that assimilated into white society to justify airing them for all to see like some Gospel Christian Hour? Have people become that lazy that instead of going to watch, listen and help like all ceremonies that need people to do and know what their responsibilities are.

        Why go when I can just turn on a TV station or watch it on-line. What is that teaching our youth? I can hear the excuses already “No need to go i watched the series so I know it all now”! What’s next live streaming video of ceremonies!

        I can see it being used as a medium with respecting all ceremonies, give them a little of the teaching so they want to go see and learn, instead of “here you go this is all you need to know and what its all about”! whether we like it or not our people who are traditionalist will always have thier view of what is sacred is off limits. Instead of bringing people together it will cause a divide that will set it back another generation!

  5. Ryan Slater says:

    10 years ago I did a documentary on the Sundance in Pipestone Minnesota run by the American Indian Movement. I was contacted by someone who watched APTN and the backlash by viewers. With the end of one news story mentioning my documentary I did for a television series The Sharing circle in 2003 that showed the Sundance Ceremony. I am a Sundancer and attend other ceremonies. I was offended to be brushed with the same brush as APTN. I did not show the ceremony. I even appeared on the APTN live call in show “Contact” to stand by my work.

    What APTN did was basically my story I did 10 years ago the only difference was I didn’t need to show the ceremony. We filmed up to the point of the tree being raised and stopped. The next day the ceremony started. I focused on the history, the outlawing, why people dance, the preparations and got views from dancers who were doing it for the first time, youth and our elders.

    I had 8 elder’s women and medicine men who I went to ceremony with advising me on what I should do. They were Anishinabe, Dakota and Cree who all told me the same thing, don’t show anything that is ceremonial What is sacred is to be kept sacred. I respected their wishes and was able to do my story without showing the ceremony.

    Why did I do my documentary, was for those who don’t know about the Sundance and live in the inner cities across Canada and the U.S, not to gain notoriety or make a name for myself or be the first to film one even though I was offered to film it.

    My documentary was just a small glimpse of one Sundance and to spark interest in those looking for what exists out there. If you want to learn go and see, ask questions, help when and where you can and most of all listen because it is us and our young ones who will need to know these ceremonies when the ones who show them to us pass on, we will keep the way the ceremonies are meant to be shared and passed on so they will be always here.

    I accepted what I did and stand by it and even went on live TV to listen to peoples comments. What APTN did was open up a door for people to look at one Sundance and assume this is the only way it’s done for those who don’t know and will neglect their own Nations Sundance lodges. From my own personal experience with my traditional family we like to joke, my younger brother texted me and asked what I was doing. I responded editing. A few minutes later he texted back and said he was learning how to Sundance with his son’s online jokingly. I had to laugh because it is who we are.

    Is this the way you want your kids to learn about the Sundance, is this the way you want to learn about it?

    I have also done documentaries on traditional healing and medicine without ever showing the medicines, why is because it only opens it up to be exploited like our ceremonies. I have also done documentaries on our Warrior societies because of mainstreams media portrayal of who they are.

    Why was I allowed to do these stories? Respecting the wishes of those involved and again if you want to learn about these things you have to go and see, ask questions, help when and where you can and most of all listen.

    Meegwetch
    Ryan Slater

    • Ryan Slater says:

      Just to follow up on my comment I a Anishinabe/Ojibwe and my documentary did air on A-Channel and APTN in 2003. And it is only one Sundance out of the hundreds that happen every summer. Not one is the same, each is conducted by a Sundance Chief who was taught ot given a vision on how things are done.

      I do believe David Blacksmith and APTN had good intentions but they can only speak for themselves. We all have the gift of choice, was it right or wrong is not for us to judge, One day we all will have to answer for what we did. Our individual beliefs is what our elder’s and teacher’s have taught us and it is us who choose to follow and believe what we are taught.

      Meegwetch

      Ryan Slater

    • Kevin says:

      Ryan,

      Thanks for speaking up with your experience and your work. For what it’s worth I see what you did and what APTN did as two very different things. Your work sounds like it handled the intersection of ceremony, journalism, the desire to engage youth with their culture and an awareness of the dangers of appropriation and exploitation well.

      -Kevin

  6. Rainey Gaywish says:

    Greetings.. I very much respect and appreciate what Ryan has said. the sharing of information to make people aware of ceremonies, understand something about them, etc. can be done with an ETHIC, with integrity and respect, without filming/recording the ceremony.
    I’ve yet to see the film, and haven’t seen a response from David Blacksmith. I appreciate that the controversy is important, and that discussion should continue. We can look to the past and see some of the impact that the move to secrecy has had on our ceremonial traditions. The vitality of any cultural practice is a demographic issue: if there are fewer and fewer people who know it, who practice it, the less chance it has to survive over the long term. This reality is graphically apparent in the threat that Indigenous languages currently face.
    I do believe that in the time we are in today, it is critical that enough information about our knowledge traditions, our spiritual ways of life, needs to be shared to let our young people hear, be shown a path to engage in learning about their rightful inheritance as Anishinabe, whatever their nation or tribal heritage. I can’t criticize David Blacksmith, I don’t know how he came to his decision to allow for his ceremony to be recorded and televised. I have wondered if the dancers and helpers who were participating in his sundance were involved in the decision, or if their rights to not be filmed were respected. There is a specific time in each ceremony when the Spirit has been petitioned, when I believe that we, as Anishinabe people, are taught to put away all things that would draw our attention away from that which we are there to do. I believe in the teachings about the Opposite Spirit, who will always seek to distract us….
    We can’t see the future, maybe there is a greater reason we are not aware of for why David did what he did. The concerns and criticisms I’ve heard expressed about this all which speak to a larger concern of Indigenous People that we must protect our knowledge traditions, our ceremonies, from exploitation and commodification by the Western world/colonizer societies.
    Yet, I will share this: I know of another well-respected knowledge keeper who was roundly and soundly criticized by his peers and elders for translating and providing a basic understanding in English of the Anishinabe Creation Story. That person is Edward Benton Banai, the translation was provided in The Mishomis Book. He told me that some of his peers who were critics of his having published The Mishomis Book have since come to him and thanked him for it; and told him that it was through his book that their grandchildren began to show interest in learning about their Anishinabe history, identity, etc. I will add that Benton Banai, as Gichi’Ogimah of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge does not allow filming/recording of the Midewiwin ceremonies that he leads.
    Well, those are my thoughts for this morning, Migwetch! Ekosani! Rainey Gaywish

    • Ryan Slater says:

      Thanks Rainey, it was Eddie who I have interviewed many times, when it came to the filming/recording of anything to do with The Three fires Midewiwin Lodge it was him who told me “You know what you can film and you you know what’s off limits”. Having respect for the teaching and songs of the lodge that my traditional family has taught me and my family it was him who at one point I asked if I could film around the lodge, not the ceremonies but the footage I needed for those involved in my documentaries helping and doing what thier responsibilities were, not the songs but just the preperations and helping. I remember his words which he said to me “It’s not up to me, it’s up to the lodge” He asked me to get up and ask the Lodge members and if one person disagreed the answer was no. I got up in front of the lodge and explained myself. a few people said no. And that was it, What humbled me was when Charlie Nelson stood up beside me and said “I know this young man and have been to Iraq with him, I know his work and intentions and support what he does”. This humbled me, but out of respect for those who did not want anything filmed we didn’t and when Eddie was ready he gave us time for an interview.

  7. I have had the honor and priveledge to have participated in one of Sundance Chief David Blacksmiths ceremonies.
    Speaking as a visibly pale skinned man who was adopted at the age of five, and has no clan, tribe or known race to speak of. … The traditional ways and the ceremonies i have been traditionally , socially and spiritually adopted into saved my life. I stand behind Chief Blacksmiths decision to make the life openly accepted as the amount of tribes or reserves present at only just one of his many branches of dances accross Canada and some of the northern usa…was just to awesome to ignore. I dont know whos sacred law says no folm or camera ..the camera has only been around since shortly before the outlawing of Native ceremonies, and the video cameta a half century later. With a minimum 560 reserves representing 1.4 million Aboriginals in canada and another 570 or so reserves in usa , a great number of these having their own different views on what is right.

    • Could someone please explain to me how by not allowing the growth of traditional and cultural practice amongst all tribes are all of us as a human race and as part of the circle of life to benifit. I realize at one time things were different….however again after seeing firsthand the beauty of twenty to twenty five tribes each with fifty to a hundred persons from their respected communities and supporting their dancersdancers

      • For four days it was the most peaceful place i have ever had the honor to experience. So many tribes and so many people gathered together united for one cause with one voice , praying , dancing, singing, crying, laughing..how could that be wrong in any world. Im sorry but I stand behind in front beside and around Chief Blacksmiths vision anyday. .. It cost me absolutely nothing finsncially to experience the most peace ive ever had in my life. That being said i love and respect everyones decisions or beliefs

  8. I respect David Blacksmith for his sacrifice and dedication to the Sundance ways. It is a hard way of life. APTN and specifically Jeannette Robinson used the rational that the filming and subsequent release of the film to video and the internet was to reach out to the youth to bring them into the ways and to teach them. I have a problem with the rational. To me, using the internet media was the lazy way to reach out. If you really wanted to reach out to these kids, get out there. Go to where THEY are and make the effort. There is so much misinformation on the internet, how are people to know what is right, what is wrong. So how is a kid, say in Vancouver, BC supposed to ask questions and receive answers? This is something that has to be done face to face. The decision by one leader to allow that one Sundance to be filmed affects EVERY Sundance out there. People, even though it was stated the filmed Sundance was not the way other Sundances were conducted, that have no idea how these ceremonies are to be conducted will think they now have a blueprint on how to do Sundances. Much like the (ahem) gentleman in Arizona that was having $10,000 seminars on native american ceremonies and ended up killing two people in the “sweat lodge” ceremony, Now there will be people out there with no training, no experiences and no spiritual guidance running sundances. (Notice I did not capitalize this time because it would not actually be the ceremony, but only a mockery). You’ll have people trying to do things in the middle of that circle that could get them killed. Then it comes back around to who should participate and who is allowed to run these ceremonies. The cat is out of the bag, I guess, and there is no stuffing it back in. However, wrong is wrong is wrong. APTN should remove the videos and let what is sacred, NOT SECRET, I said SACRED, remain where it should be. On the Sundance ground for those called and for those willing to travel and speak to get out the word to the youths.

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