Carbondale-made documentary ‘Whitewashed’ to premiere at Shining Mountains Film Festival
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Whitewashed: The Ethnic Cleansing of America’
Where: Shining Mountains Film Festival, Wheeler Opera House
When: Sunday, Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m.
How much: $15
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; aspenshowtix.com
More info: Co-producers Anuk Bald Eagle and Dave Taylor will be on-hand for a post-screening Q-and-A. The 55-minute film is part of a four-movie program; wheeleroperahouse.com
SHINING MOUNTAINS FILM FESTIVAL
Sunday, Oct. 7, 3:30 p.m.
‘The Original Coloradans’
‘The Ute Bear Dance Story’
‘Conspiracy to be Free’
Special guests Roland McCook, ex-Chairman of Northern Ute Tribe, Larry Cesspooch, Skyler Lomahaftewa, Scott Means
Sunday, Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m.
‘Defend the Sacred’
‘The Last Battle of Lakota Indians’
Panelists Anuk Bald Eagle, Dave Taylor, James Kleinert, Kyle Bell, Phyllis Bald Eagle, Amos Cook
Monday, Oct. 8, 6 p.m.
‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog’
Q & A with Phyllis Bald Eagle, Anuk Bald Eagle, Amos Cook
A new documentary digs into the U.S. government’s disenfranchisement and abuse of indigenous peoples and how those traumas have reverberated through generations.
It looks at historical events like the so-called “boarding school era” — which forced hundreds of thousands of children off of reservations and peaked in the 1970s — and the ban on traditional Native American religious practices, which was law until 1978, along with other key events that many non-native Americans don’t know about.
Titled “Whitewashed: The Ethnic Cleansing of America,” the film was co-produced by Anuk Bald Eagle, of Woody Creek, who has a long career both in front of and behind the camera in the film industry, and Dave Taylor, of Carbondale’s Cool Brick Studios in Carbondale.
“It’s about acknowledgment of what happened,” Bald Eagle said this week. “It’s about my people being able to see what happened and to acknowledge it themselves.”
The film will premiere Sunday at the first annual Shining Mountains Film Festival at the Wheeler Opera House. The festival will showcase 10 new movies by and about Native Americans — touching on history, activism, spirituality, loss and victory in indigenous American culture.
The festival, produced by the Wheeler and the city of Aspen, runs Sunday and Monday. It coincides with Indigenous People’s Day, which the city began celebrating — in place of Columbus Day — in 2017.
The festival opens Sunday with a blessing by Roland McCook, former chairman of the Northern Ute Tribe. Other titles include documentaries like “The Original Coloradans,” about the Utes’ legacy, “Conspiracy to be Free,” about the Oglala Lakota activist Russell Means and features like “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” based on the book by Kent Nerburn. “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” stars Anuk Bald Eagle’s father, the Lakota chief and actor Dave Bald Eagle, in his final film role. He died in 2016.
The idea for “Whitewashed” was born three years ago, when Anuk Bald Eagle and the Cherry Creek Singers — a South Dakota-based Native American musical group — were recording an album of traditional song at Taylor’s music studio in Carbondale.
Talking to Bald Eagle about Native American history, Taylor recalled, he was ashamed his did not know about the American Indian boarding schools, through which the government aimed to assimilate young Native Americans by force, or the hundreds of broken treaties between the U.S. and native tribes, or the ban on native rituals.
“This was all new to me,” he said. “When I started doing the research I was shocked, amazed and outraged at what I found.”
So the pair sought to make a film together that would speak both to a Native American audience and to all Americans about a history that’s left out of most school curricula.
“I want this to be educational for people who don’t know what has happened — who don’t know this hidden and suppressed history,” Taylor said.
After this weekend’s premiere in Aspen, Bald Eagle and Taylor are planning to screen the film at other film festivals around the world and they hope to bring it to schools.
Bald Eagle grew up on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation in South Dakota and went to school in Idaho from age 8 to 18. In the summers with his family, he recalled, he absorbed the native traditions, but during the school year he was disconnected from it. His insider’s and outsider’s perspective, he said, allowed him a unique perspective on Native American culture and history.
“As I got older I started to really look at the situation and how I missed out on my traditions, my culture,” he said. “I started really looking into that. It was a strange experience. I got involved with writing stories about my people.”
Bald Eagle started digging to find the roots of the dysfunction he found on reservations — substance abuse, suicide, mental health issues, poverty.
“I looked at the situation with my people, that we have problems that are not solved yet and continuing problems that have been ongoing for decades,” Bald Eagle said.
As they gathered material for “Whitewashed,” the pair integrated the latest scientific research on inter-generational trauma — how the abuses of the past have psychological effects through centuries.
“I could see the reasons why we would still have trauma today,” he said.
Late in the editing process, Bald Eagle entreated the famed Cherokee actor Wes Studi to come to Carbondale and narrate for the film. He recorded the narration in late September.
Studi’s career spans three decades in Hollywood and includes iconic roles like the desert man in “The Doors” and Magua in “Last of the Mohicans,” along with parts in “Geronimo,” “Heat,” “Avatar” and “Hostiles.” Bald Eagle knew Studi through his work in the industry.
Having Studi attached, the producers hope, will make festival programmers and distributors take notice of “Whitewashed.”
“Getting him to narrate was awesome,” Taylor said. “It added another dimension to the film as well as real credibility.”
Despite the disturbing content of the documentary, the filmmakers are hopeful for the future. Bald Eagle pointed to the impactful activism of today’s young Native Americans, including the young people who sparked the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, as reason to believe that the next generation — the “seventh generation” of Native American prophesies — can make the world a better place.
“That’s the youth today,” he said. “And it’s not only the native youth — it’s young people of all races. Look at what they did in Washington (at the rally after the Parkland school shooting) and what they started at the DAPL in Standing Rock. That was started by kids.”
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