Devery Jacobs Recommends 10 Films and Books to Enjoy Through (and After) Native American Heritage Month | Guest Column

The “Reservation Dogs” star, director and writer highlights projects from indigenous creators

Significant Productions

November comes with many things; crisp days of dwindling daylight, falling leaves and dropping temperatures. It comes with bustling grocery stores, hours prepping Thanksgiving dinners, unbuttoned trousers and Black Friday sales. But November also comes with complicated feelings for many Indigenous artists.

Native American Heritage Month can oftentimes feel like the only time of year when people are interested in hearing Indigenous stories; the one moment where our voices are collectively uplifted, only to be cast aside again Dec. 1. But to limit the celebration and wealth of our languages, cultures, and history of our communities to a mere 30 days is a disservice to us all.

These ten projects from artists across Turtle Island, spanning multiple mediums, each invoke a sense of pride, resilience and love, and mark some of my favourite pieces of art — Native or not.

As November blows by, I encourage readers to spend the rest of it curling up with these 10 hilarious, heartbreaking, inspiring and impactful Indigenous projects, and to continue listening to Onkwehón: we storytellers continue well past Native American Heritage Month.

1. Long Line of Ladies — Shandiin Tome (Diné), Rayka Zehtabchi (Iranian-American)

This 22-minute documentary short film paints a stunning portrait of a girl and her community, as they prepare for her Ihuk; a coming-of-age ceremony from the Karuk tribe of Northern California that’d been nearly lost to colonization.

Shot on Kodak film, this short is nuanced and poignant, and gives an intimate glimpse into a resilient community. You can watch “Long Line of Ladies” here.

2. Split Tooth — Tanya Tagaq (Inuk)

This award-winning novel by Inuk throat-singer Tanya Tanaq blends memoir, fiction, poetry and Inuit folklore.

Defying western literary genres, Split Tooth follows a young Inuk girl in the Arctic during her upbringing in the 1970s. It’s visceral and ferocious and marks one of my favourite novels of all time; I’ve never read anything like it.

3. Fancy Dance — Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga)

A Native American hustler kidnaps her niece after learning about her sister’s disappearance. Taking her away from the child’s white grandparents, the aunt and niece head for the state powwow in hopes of keeping their dwindling family intact.

This debut feature from Erica Tremblay premiered at Sundance in 2023 and stars the cinematic treasure, Lily Gladstone. You won’t want to miss this compelling drama, releasing soon.

4. Angry Inuk — Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Inuk)

In her award-winning documentary feature, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril challenges longtime misconceptions about hunting seals. This Inuit community centres their own voice in this debate and presents themselves as the modern-day people they are, seeking a sustainable economy.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, Angry Inuk is both light and justice-driven, and challenges everything we knew about the Great Seal Hunt.

You can rent or buy “Angry Inuk” on Apple TV or Prime Video.

5. Come Home, Indio — Jim Terry (Ho-Chunk)

Come Home Indio is a heartfelt graphic novel memoir by Jim Terry that centres healing and reconnection.

Terry’s father was an Irish American jazz musician, but  the memoir centres his relationship with his mother; an Indigenous woman from the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. Dealing with mental health and addiction,Terry explores the isolation and anxiety of navigating two worlds; his upbringing in the city, with his identity as a Ho-Chunk artist.

But ultimately, through activism, he finds a newfound sense of pride for being Native American. This graphic novel is both moving and comical, touching and empowering. With powerful illustrations, Jim Terry flaunts his skills in his medium.

6. Beggars Can’t Be Choosers — Brian Bahe (Tohono O’odham, Hopi, Diné)

As the only comedy special on this list, I knew it needed to be included. From the 2022 Just For Laughs festival, stand-up comedian Brian Bahe makes his mainstream debut with “Beggars Can’t Be Choosers,” where he unpacks bad ways to do a land acknowledgement.

Bahe’s comedy is refreshing, hilarious and flips societal notions of what it means to be Native American on its head. Brian Bahe is one to look out for.

You can check out Bahe’s appearance at Just For Laughs here.

7. Reel Injun — Neil Diamond (Cree)

Domino Film

Indigenous characters have been a subject in cinema since its inception, but the representation — or rather, misrepresentation — of our communities wasn’t always favorable, let alone accurate.

In this feature-length documentary, filmmaker Neil Diamond explores the portrayal of North American Indigenous people through a century of cinema. Unpacking the “Hollywood Indian,” Diamond journeys across America to its iconic cinematic landscapes and captures interviews with Clint Eastwood and Robbie Robertson.

With some cheekiness, Reel Injun unpacks the history of Indigenous representation from our own communities’ perspective.

You can watch “Reel Injun” on Prime Video and Tubi.

8. Crazy Brave — Joy Harjo (Mvskoke)

In this raw and breathtaking memoir, Joy Harjo, the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States details her upbringing and path toward becoming a poet.

Through combining Muskogee legends, music and poetry, this gripping memoir examines betrayal and love and how Harjo built her life from the ground up. I had a chance to read this while in Oklahoma, where her memoir is set, and it’s lasted with me long after.

9. Love After the End — Edited by Joshua Whitehead (Oji-Cree)

This award-winning speculative fiction anthology is a strange and compelling joy to read. Many Indigenous communities describe our current existence as being post-apocalyptic, because we’re already survived our own end-of-the-world.

In “Love After the End,” nine queer and two-spirit Indigenous folks share short stories about what their versions of love look like after the end as we know it. The stories range from silly to spooky, each of which derive a different meaning of the definition of love.

These writers will be ones to watch as they further their careers, including Nathan Adler (Jewish Anishinaabe), Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache), Gabriel Castilloux Calderon (Mi’kmaq and Algonquin), Adam Garnet Jones (Cree-Métis), Mari Kurisato (Salteaux), Kai Minosh Pyle (Sault Ste. Marie Nishnaabe), David Alexander Robertson (Norway House Cree Nation), jaye simpson (Oji-Cree), and Nazbah Tom (Diné).

10. Project 562 — Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip)

Spanning Native America, Matika Wilbur travelled six hundred thousand miles across fifty states and five hundred and sixty two federally recognized tribal nations to meet, interview and photograph Indigenous people.

Revealing just how diverse and complex we are, with rich, varying cultures and backgrounds, Project 562 is a triumph. The photographs are striking, the book is beautiful, and in my opinion, everyone should own a copy.

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