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Native Sun News: Film company aims to bring Native stories to life

Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment | National
More on: film, media, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

"Subject 00017 - Indigenous Woman.' This piece inspired the premier project for the new film production company, Indigene Entertainment Studios, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This photo was recently featured on a video billboard in Times Square in New York City. Photo courtesy Willi White Photography

INDIGENE; Film Company to bring the realities of living with oil pipelines to life
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

PINE RIDGE — Telling the stories of the past, present and future of the Lakota people has long been in the hands of non-Native filmmakers. Two Oglala Lakota people with the vision and skills have stepped forward to make the change in how their stories are told.

In an effort to build representation for Natives in film making, the independent production company Indigene Entertainment Studios was founded on the Pine Ridge Reservation by Willi White, Oglala, and Angel White Eyes, Oglala and Ojibwa.

Both White and White Eyes grew up on Pine Ridge as childhood friends. Together they graduated high school as part of the same class in 2008 from Red Cloud Indian School. White went on to attend Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. where he studied Theatre and Photojournalism, graduating in 2013. Angel studied Art at Oglala Lakota College, receiving her degree in the spring of 2014.

Passionate in the arts and Native American representation in the arts, they both sat down one day in White Eye’s living room and began to talk. They discussed their dreams and ambitions and what they wanted for the future.

Out of this conversation began the formation of Indigene; a production company grounded in their heritage and founded on their aspirations to tell Native stories, by Native creators.

White has produced several short student films and directed his first professional music video last August. He has had portrait work in exhibition in NYC and in Time Square.

White Eye’s photographs have been on display in Washington, D.C. and on Buzzfeed. She recently had her work exhibited in a gallery in the Black Hills.

The writer for the project Indigene Studio’s is currently working on is Isnalawacin “Isnala” Belt, Oglala. His day jobs include being an EMT for the Oglala tribal ambulance service and a volunteer teacher for Americorps at Red Cloud Indian School during the school year.

The short film “The People,” which will be Indigene’s premier project, is Belt’s first screenplay being produced. He has written other short film scripts and is currently developing and writing a full-length screenplay for the feature adaptation of “The People.”

“The health of the environment is important to every Native culture,” stated Indigene Studios in a written statement,” With efforts by Indigenous peoples throughout North America to bring awareness to the damage extensive oil mining brings to the earth, our short film explores the side effects and takes an imaginative peek at our future in a world where oil is everything.”

Set in a dystopia 71 years into the future, Native lands and rights are gone; the short film “The People” takes viewers into the possible, some say probable, future.

The current form of government no longer exists; it is controlled by a small fraction of rich politicians. Left in waste, reservations become encampments and are heavily guarded by private military security. Poverty and oppression lay ruin to every Native tribal nation within the former U.S.

An insurgency led by an indigenous human rights group called, The People, against the forced construction of a massive oil pipeline through Native territory in the year 2051. This insurgency was the beginning to the Second American Civil War and an end to the democracy the country was built on.

After eight years of fighting, a new system is born: Oppress the insurgent, contain the problem, use fear to foster obedience and only then will there be peace. This is the world the protagonist is born into.

The film begins 34 years after the start of The People’s insurgency; the year is 2085. Desolation shadows the land. 26 years in this world, our protagonist finds himself ready to fight for a better life for the ones he loves.

With his parents no longer alive, his culture nearly gone, and his heritage existing only in story, he plots an escape to a rumored place where there may be a chance at a better life, and he is willing to die trying to get there.

This film observes issues that are very contemporary to today’s Native American communities, issues involving the lost of culture and language, the struggle of land rights and treaty rights, the movement to protect and preserve heritage. It places these issues into a dramatic and surreal world where we can look at them from a new perspective.

“This short film is a first step in creating our company’s foundation,” says Indigene Studios, “We are truly dedicated to telling this story in a constructive and imaginative way. But we cannot make it without the help of others.”

“The financial landscape for independent filmmakers, especially independent Native filmmakers, doesn’t exist on the Pine Ridge Reservation,” Indigene Studios continues,” We are part of only a few local creative artists working toward creating an industry for Native film locally.”

Our ultimate goal of Indigene is to develop this short into a feature film or franchise. “The People” will be used to showcase the projects potential by submitting it for consideration into local, national, and international film festivals that include: South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, and Seattle International Film Festival in Seattle, Washington.

Selection into these festivals would be a massive movement forward for young Native American filmmakers and actors from the Pine Ridge Reservation.

To follow the films journey go to Twitter: @indigenestudios or visit their website for in-depth blogs at

(Contact Karin Eagle at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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