Indigenous People's Day Interview with Tracy Rector of Longhouse Media

Interviews
10/08/2018
KEXP

On the second Monday of October 2014, Seattle became the third place in the United States to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day, a proposal that was originally made to the United Nations by the American Indian Movement in 1977. In the past four years, it has spread to over 70 places in the United States and has locally become a day to celebrate global Indigenous cultures.

We'll be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day on KEXP by highlighting Indigenous musicians throughout The Afternoon Show with guest host Gabriel Teodros and on El Sonido with DJ Miss Ashley, in addition to special interviews like this one with Tracy Rector of Long House Media.


Introduction

Tracy Rector: Well I've been a filmmaker for about 16 years and I first started on the Skokomish Reservation with the help of Bruce Miller and Katie Jennings and I was asked by Bruce Miller to take this knowledge out into the world. And at that time I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but it guided me to go to the Muckleshoot reservation and start my graduate program and as part of that program I started Longhouse Media with Annie Silverstein in January 2005. Our main goal was to bring the tools of media making to youth across western Washington in their homelands. It's pretty amazing. We did that for 10 years and then in the last couple of years we've really been focusing on doing just more media production. 

Also, I found a new passion for creating opportunities for other adult-aged filmmakers. Realizing for a lot of filmmakers, in general, but especially Indigenous filmmakers, there's not a ton of help after you're an emerging artist and people are really interested in you and sending money or resources your way. Once you get going, oftentimes that support just drops off. So I've been really passionate about figuring out how to create cohorts and collaborative models where mid-career Indigenous filmmakers can get the help and support they need. That's what I'm loving right now. I'm really excited about helping others. We're always showcasing at Northwest Film Forum a film series called indigenous showcase and they're films made by native people, by indigenous people. And I think it's really important to support that artwork because indigenous creatives need those dollars for sustainability but also it's important to uplift their voices. So I just want to say check out indigenous showcase at Northwest Film Forum. 

On Indigenous Women Filmmakers

One thing I would like people to remember on Indigenous Peoples Day is that we have so many amazing indigenous women creating art. And I would like to read you a list of some of my very favorite women out there creating films and movies. Sandy Osawa, Alex Lazarowich, Erin Lau, Razelle Benally, Tazbah Chavez, Christian Marquez, Ciara Lacey, Helen Haig Brown, Lisa Jackson, Ivy MacDonald, Brooks Sweeney, Heather Raye, Ramona Emerson, Colleen Thurston, Raven Two Feathers, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Rose Stiffarm, Diedra Peaches, Tantoo Cardinal, Courtney Montour, Zoe Hopkins, Sarah Del Seronde, Marcella Ernest, , Luana Ross, Caroline Old Coyote, Monique Michelle Verdin, Laya Hill, Princella Redcorn, Mariah David, Tasha Hubbard, Beth LaPensee, Amanda Spotted Fawn Strong, Sara Ortiz, Yvonne Russo, Jane Meyers, Autumn Billie, Alicia Woods, Carla Ulrich, Marilyn Thomas, Elizabeth Day, Missy Whiteman, Sarah Weston and there's many more out there.

On The "You Are On Indigenous Land" Posters

I think it was 2015 when there was a Syrian refugee crisis. I was just watching the news and those people were protesting having Syrian refugees come to these lands. Got to thinking, unless you're part of that 2 percent of indigenous peoples to these lands, how is it even ethical to be denying these people [who] need refuge? I thought about all of those ancestors of all the people here who needed that refuge. So again, unless you're part of that 2 percent or if your ancestors were forced here through slavery, I think that we've got to recognize the need for safety when others ask for it. I was imagining, what if there is protocol when people came to these shores and all of these immigrants through time, all these settlers through times, all these refugees, if they were greeted in a traditional way and recognize that they a part of this fabric – part of this community – they were choosing to belong to these lands. I guess first before we flip that script, it's just important to acknowledge whose land we're on and to remind people that these are unceded territories and that there have always been humans living here pre-coloniser. And I decided that visuals would be really strong. Just visual reminders. Simple. Part of what came to is thinking about how often times people stare at Native peoples or essentialize indigenous people. You know, in many ways, they're just taking and appropriating. And so I thought it would be amazing to have faces stare back. Stare back unapologetically indigenous. So with that, simply reminding people whose land they're on, have these empowering images from all these different tribal nations just looking back people across the city. It started really in 2015 and 16 and now it's nationwide with posters in at least 50 cities across these lands now called the United States, reminding people whose land they are on.

Some of the responses have been interesting. When we first put posters up, Mel Ponder and I co-created, we got a lot of push pushback from some people. Especially some Caucasian people who thought that it was a challenge. People would approach me as I was putting up posters and ask what my intention was. "Are we expecting reparations?" And I thought that the defensive response was interesting to note rather than just taking it in, reflecting, assuming that it was an attack or it was an offensive move of some sort. It just told me about kind of the state of our country too, how there's a lot of tension. Some people feeling as though it's an offensive attack or it's a form of aggression. But for most people, there's been a lot of positive feedback and new awareness. I would say the majority of people are actually unaware and are grateful. Grateful to be reminded, grateful to learn new knowledge, grateful to understand better one another as neighbors and who their indigenous neighbors are. And we get requests from indigenous people all over the country for the posters who feel it's very affirming to be able to put something up at their workplace at their local coffee shop in their home and just simply and beautifully state: "We are on Indigenous land." It's a good reminder. Always.

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