tjay

WE ARE NOT YOUR SAVAGES

A Documentary Film and Photography Project
[In Progress]

 

What comes to mind when you hear "Native American"? Is it feathers? Headdresses? War paint? Cowboys, horses, and shootouts? Powwows and frybread? If you responded "Yes" to any of these questions, you might be suffering from a highly narrow perception of Native American people. Please consult a Native right away.

 

For many Native American individuals, daily life hardly resembles that depicted in American media, iconography, history, myth, and popular culture. When depicting Native Americans, non-Native Americans present American Indians as savages, “vanishing” Indians, and impediments to American progress.

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These misrepresentations have established a model for depicting Native Americans, one which has become the standard for how non-Native Americans view Indigenous people: horse-riding, feather-wearing, tee-pee-dwelling, mystical people of wild, unconquered territories.

 

We Are Not Your Savages brings new perspectives to America’s vision of Native American people — especially those located in Montana — by giving a voice to their experiences. Although there is a significant Native American population in Montana, the state is 88.9% percent white. It is not difficult to see how a lack of diversity and representation in Montana contributes to structural inequality and violence toward Montana Indians.

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We Are Not Your Savages interrogates the historical roots of misrepresentations of Native American people in American mythology and popular culture, examines the impact of these misrepresentations on a selection of contemporary Native American individuals living in Montana, and documents the efforts of Montana Indian artists, filmmakers, and photographers to contest these misrepresentations through their art.

 

We Are Not Your Savages deconstructs inaccurate, oversimplified depictions of American Indians by non-Native Americans by depicting Native American people in a more nuanced light. We Are Not Your Savages shows non-Native American audiences more multifaceted — more human — portrayals of Indigenous people, while also allowing Native American audiences to identify with the complicated, layered characters we see on screen and in photographs, a privilege, historically, we have been denied.

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Daily life for the subjects of We Are Not Your Savages includes making custom cowboy hats, riding Arabian horses English style, working as a convenience store clerk, being a father, being a scholar, and being a rap musician.

 

We Are Not Your Savages expands our definition of Native Americans and obliterates constraining constructs created by non-Native Americans that define and limit who Native American people were historically, who they are today, and who they can be in the future.

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tjay

For Native Americans in Montana, a state that is often hostile in nature — geographically, climatically, and culturally — survival is paramount. The subjects of this documentary film and photography project are focused on staying safe, staying sober, staying out of jail, providing for their families, being parents, being creative, being entrepreneurs, being scholars, and navigating, negotiating, and maintaining their connection to their cultural heritage and ancestry.