Mike Martz

Lincoln, Neb.: Spirit in Glass: Plateau Native Beadwork provides a rare opportunity to experience Plateau culture through the eyes and hearts of the artists themselves. Narrated by Nez Perce storyteller Nakia Williamson, the film focuses on bead artists from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama Reservations. The talented individuals behind this spectacular beadwork share their history, motivation, and the key role that beadwork plays in binding their culture together. This half-hour documentary from Mimbres Fever Productions and Vision Maker Media will air on Public Television stations nationwide with broadcast rights beginning October 24.

Truly an American story, the very essence of this art form and its story of survival is indeed a glimpse at the heartfelt tradition of a people. The documentary was filmed throughout the culturally rich northwest Plateau and mid-Columbia River regions with the mission of celebrating the Plateau People while respecting the vital role that their adaptability has played in their cultural diversity and maintaining of a tradition.

The beadwork tradition began to flourish during the restrictive times of the Reservation Period. Deeply rooted in the basketry traditions, skilled artists moved from geometric basket designs to floral motifs.

“Creativity and individuality is a shared Plateau cultural value. It is expressed in the woven flat bags and other artistic traditions,” commented Penny Phillips, director and producer of the film.

Adventurers, traders, and settlers began traveling through the area in the 1840s, bringing small glass beads in a variety of colors to trade for Native goods. Grandmothers started using beads as a medium to create and offer gifts to family members and trading partners, reinforcing traditional values while developing a new, artistic tradition. Beadwork became a way to show identity and to maintain culture.

One of the more memorable aspects of beadwork is the uniqueness of each beaded piece. For each beadwork creation holds special meaning for the person who made it and for the person for whom it was made.

“In the Indian way, when you give that special piece, it’s a way to heal your heart,” shared Rose Scott, a bead artist from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Pictorial beadwork is unique to the area. Since this style of beadwork started in a time of catastrophic upheaval, it serves as a metaphor for the vibrancy and survival of the Native culture. In order to keep their culture alive, the elders adapted by beading individual images and stories. And today, many artists have made a particular beadwork creation their specialty–as a contribution to their generation.

Spirit in Glass: Plateau Native Beadwork–which received major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Vision Maker Media–is an offering of the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA). This half-hour documentary will be available to public television stations nationwide on Friday, October 24, 2014. This program is suggested for scheduling for Native American Heritage Month. For viewing information in your area, please visitwww.visionmakermedia.org/watch.

Lincoln, Neb.: All-star filmmaking duo–Comanche producer and director Julianna Brannum and executive producer Johnny Depp (TranscendencePirates of the CaribbeanThe Lone Ranger)–bring the story of politically influential Native American leader LaDonna Harris to Public Television stations nationwide with broadcasts beginningNovember 1.
LaDonna Harris reshaped Indian Country both in America and abroad. A Comanche from Oklahoma, she helped convince the Nixon administration to return sacred land to the Taos Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, founded the Americans for Indian Opportunity in 1970, and became a vice-presidential nominee in 1980.

LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 is a reflection of her political achievements, personal struggles, and the events that led her to becoming a voice for Native people. Raised on a farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, LaDonna did not attend college. However, she studied and learned alongside her husband, Fred Harris, who would become a U.S. Senator. Upon his taking office, she too undertook a public service role.

LaDonna is best known for her work in U.S. civil rights when she set the tone with a landmark legislation initiative that returned land to the Taos Pueblo Tribe and Native tribes of Alaska. She also served a pivotal role in helping the Menominee Tribe regain their federal recognition.

Her trailblazing efforts began when President Lyndon B. Johnson selected her to educate both the executive and legislative branches of U.S. government on the unique relationship that American Indian tribes hold within our nation. This education course was affectionately called “Indian 101″ and was taught to members of Congress and other federal agencies for over 35 years.

La Donna Harris: Indian 101 is the first documentary about the Native activist and national civil rights leader, LaDonna Harris. Brannum commented, “LaDonna’s unique and bi-partisan approach to political and social issues made her a much-loved and well-respected icon in Washington. Not only was she a major force in Indian Country, but the media loved her and high-level politicians sought her input.”

Held in the highest regard by her colleagues for countless social and historical achievements, LaDonna is now passing her knowledge on to a new generation of emerging Indigenous leaders. With participation from students worldwide, LaDonna has created an educational program that trains Native professionals to incorporate their own tribes’ traditional values and perspectives into their work while building a global Indigenous coalition.

LaDonna Harris: Indian 101–which received major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Vision Maker Media–is an offering of PBS Plus. This one-hour documentary will be available to public television stations nationwide on Friday, October 31, 2014, with rights beginning November 1, 2014. This program is suggested for scheduling for Native American Heritage Month. For viewing information in your area, please visit www.visionmakermedia.org/watch.

About Vision Maker Media
Vision Maker Media shares Native stories with the world that represent the cultures, experiences, and values of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Founded in 1977, Vision Maker Media, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) which receives major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, nurtures creativity for development of new projects, partnerships, and funding. Vision Maker Media is the premier source for quality Native American and Pacific Islander educational and home videos. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media–to be the next generation of storytellers. Located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we offer student employment and internships. For more information, visitwww.visionmakermedia.org.

About PBS Plus
PBS Plus is an optional programming service for public television stations, providing fully underwritten series and specials. Over 99% of PBS stations subscribe to this service-reaching 100% national TV households. Annually, stations are provided with approximately 600 hours of programming.

As a new school year begins, I wanted to share with you an editorial from retired general Colin Powell and his wife Alma on the importance mentors can have in the lives of our young people, especially  those struggling with school and other problems.  General Powell speak very elequently about encouraging us all to learn more about how to help and get involved with our young people to help them graduate and lead fulfilling lives.

At-risk students need more help from us, not Washington

By Colin L. Powell, Alma J. Powell and Laysha Ward August 29, 2014

Colin L. Powell, a retired U.S. Army general and former secretary of state, was founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance. Alma J. Powell is chair of the group’s board. Laysha Ward is president of community relations for Target, which sponsored the “Don’t Call Them Dropouts” report.

Nico Rodriguez was 15 years old when he found himself living on the streets of Lowell, Mass., with no plans for a high school diploma, no home to call his own and, seemingly, no future. Rodriguez was a statistic: one of the 20 percent of students who do not finish high school on time, if ever.

These pages often carry arguments for education reform, but despite the importance of issues such as Common Core and teacher tenure, bad policy isn’t what drove Rodriguez from school, nor is it the biggest problem facing most of the nation’s non-graduates. According to the most recent America’s Promise Alliance report, “Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” which surveyed 2,000 such young people from across the country, the reasons students leave school early are primarily environmental — including chronic absenteeism, homelessness, unsafe neighborhoods, negative role models and the need to be caregivers for parents and siblings.

What young people like Rodriguez need most is not necessarily more action in Washington but more action from us: caring adults willing to engage in a developmental relationship and the ability to help them imagine — and work toward — a better future. In a perfect world, this would be the role of every child’s parents, extended family and community of friends, but this is not a perfect world. Too many young people make it all the way through their teens without having known a single caring adult.

This month in Los Angeles, city schools superintendent John Deasy welcomed back his administrators with an assignment: Look under your chairs, and you’ll find the name of a struggling student. “Find that youth,” Deasy said. “Stay with him or her until graduation. We are absolutely our brothers’ or sisters’ keepers.”

The Los Angeles effort is an investment in our shared future, because the numbers affect us all. Right now in the United States, about 2.5 million people ages 16 to 24 don’t have high school degrees and are not enrolled in school. With no high school diploma, these young people will be lucky to end up in dead-end jobs.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, were the United States to convert enough non-graduates into graduates to reach a 90 percent high school graduation rate, it would result in an additional $8.1 billion in increased earnings every year. Non-graduates are disproportionately African American and Hispanic, presenting much more significant risk for the communities of color that will make up the U.S. majority by 2043. This is not a winning formula for the United States’ future.

If you want to change the world, start with a single child. Look at the difference one caring adult made in Rodriguez’s life. After leaving school, Rodriguez found a mentor at a local teen center. Sakieth “Sako” Long, the director of Youth Success at the United Teen Equality Center in Lowell and once also labeled “at risk,” took Rodriguez under his wing and connected him with resources so he could manage the chaos in his life and begin to make time for success in school. Long helped Rodriguez toward a better future, one in which he was thriving, earning and contributing.

Rodriguez was resilient. He completed high school and is working two jobs and training to be a chef. He has started mentoring other young people and is making plans to buy his own home and start a business. More than anything, Rodriguez wants to be for his 3-year-old daughter the caring parent he never had for himself.

Imagine that you have an envelope beneath your chair, containing the name of a child in need and within your reach. He or she is heading back to school now but is at risk of not finishing. There are students like this in every community across the country, just waiting for someone to connect with them.

This school year, we challenge you to find your Nico Rodriguez: Reach out directly to your local school, parent-teacher association or a relevant nonprofit with an offer to volunteer. Go to GradNation.org and use the volunteering tool to identify opportunities within your Zip code, or find out about opportunities as part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Day on Sept. 27. Whatever path you choose, know that everybody can do something, starting today.

The young people you help are the promise for a strong, competitive and secure national — and, indeed, global — future. With our support, they can become leaders, teachers, scientists, engineers — and chefs. The question is: Do we have the courage and commitment to reach under our chairs and create that future?

New From Vison Maker Media

by Mike Martz on September 4, 2014

Now Available on DVD:
Our Fires Still Burn
The Native American Experience

The stories shared in Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience are powerful, startling, despairing and inspiring. This exciting and compelling one-hour documentary DVD invites viewers into the lives of contemporary Native American role models living in the U.S. Midwest.

Watch the Trailer | Purchase the Educational Version
Buy the Home DVD

How Will You Observe
Columbus Day?

In light of the upcoming Columbus Day, we are puttingColumbus Day Legacy on sale from now until October 13. We hope this will allow more teachers to show this important film in their classes and more people to watch it with friends or family. We also provide a Viewer Discussion Guide to help teachers with their lesson plans and to provide a greater understanding of the topics covered in the film.

Watch the Trailer | Purchase the Educational Version
Buy the Home DVD | Viewer Discussion Guide

Now Available on DVD:
Navajo Film Themselves
(Home Edition)

Sol Worth, John Adair, and Richard Chalfen traveled to Pine Springs, Arizona, in the summer of 1966, where they taught a group of Navajo students to use cameras in the production of documentary films.

Watch the Trailer | Purchase the Educational Version
Buy the Home DVD

American Film Showcase Selects
The Medicine Game & Urban Rez

Congratulations to The Medicine Game and Urban Rez on being included in the America Film Showcase. The America Film Showcase is a major touring film program bringing American documentaries, feature films and animated shorts to audiences worldwide.

The Medicine Game: Two brothers from the Onondaga Nation pursue their dreams of playing lacrosse for Syracuse University. With the dream nearly in reach, the boys are caught in a constant struggle to define their Native identity, live-up to their family’s expectations and balance challenges on and off the reservation.

Buy the Home DVD

Purchase the Educational Version

Urban Rez explores the controversial legacy and modern-day repercussions of the Urban Relocation Program (1952-1973), the greatest voluntary upheaval of Native Americans during the 20th century.

Buy the Home DVD

Purchase the Educational Version

Educational Resources including Lesson Plans

Watch Online