Naturally Native

NATURALLY NATIVE SHOWS THE PLIGHT AND HOPE OF AMERICA’S NATIVE PEOPLES
Early films depicting the aboriginal inhabitants of North America showed them killed with single bullets by cowboys. From the 1960s, Native Americans have been portrayed with more sensitivity, though from the eyes of Caucasians. At last in Naturally Native, we have an opportunity for representatives of many North American nations to tell their own story, sharing their many frustrations and their indomitable hope for justice in their native land. The plot focuses on the effort of three sisters (part-Morongo and part-Viejas, according to the film) to seek a special part of the American dream—starting a business on their own. In the film’s prologue, the sisters are split up by an adoption agency in Riverside, California, in 1972. Some twenty-five years later they have found one another and live under one roof. Vickie Lewis Bighawk (played by director Valerie Red-Horse), the oldest, has married Lakota Sioux Steve Bighawk (plated by Pato Hoffmann) and has two children. Tanya Lewis (played by Irene Bedard), the youngest, is looking for a husband, spurns a fellow Native American in favor of a Caucasian, Mark (played by Mark Abbott), and is later roughed up by a Caucasian when she refuses to be his “Pocahontas” after a dinner date. Karen Lewis (played by Kimberly Norris Guerrero), who attracts interest from Mark to the dismay of Tanya, has just received an MBA degree and is preparing to relocate to a boring job in Chicago, where her college has evidently arranged placement. During the cleanup after the graduation party, Mark cuts his hand, and Vickie provides a healing balm that stops the pain immediately. Mark then suggests that the product should be marketed. When Karen designs how to set up a business of Native American natural products, the three sisters agree to form a joint venture. As the calculated start-up cost is $25,000, the sisters approach several sources of funding. An agency that provides loans to minorities cannot help them because they do not have official U.S. government documents enrolling them as members of a “tribe”; since they are adopted, they have no original birth records, which were destroyed in a fire at the adoption agency. Next, they ask for help from a blonde Caucasian fortuneteller, pretending to have been an “Indian” in a previous life, but she is eager to use their services in a healing ceremony for some rich people, a contact that she suggests might shake down a money tree for the sisters. However, they refuse to participate in this scam, telling the fortune teller that ancestral healing arts ceremonies are not for sale. Next, they approach a nonprofit corporation that reputedly helps small businesses, but this prospect falters when the executive informs the sisters that contributors to the corporation will have nothing to do with Native American applicants, since various reservations run sinful gambling casinos. The final funding source that they approach is the Viejas reservation, which has a gambling casino, where they are awarded a $50,000 line of credit, since they can serve as role models for other members of the tribe. Best of all, they are welcomed by the elders for “coming home.” The touching story ends with titles that tell us about two Congressional laws—the 1978 law that prohibits adoption agencies from splitting up Native American families and the 1988 law that authorizes reservations to operate gambling casinos. The last line tells us that reservations with gambling casinos no longer receive welfare payments. Credits to this remarkable movie indicate the national affiliations of the many contributors to the film, which has been nominated by the Political Film Society for best exposé, best film on democracy, and best film on human rights for 1999. MH