Five must-see Native American documentaries

The month of November holds great cultural significance in the United States. It’s the time when we come together to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to honoring the rich, diverse cultures, histories, and contributions of Native American people.

One impactful way to engage with and learn about Native American culture is through storytelling, and in the modern age, that includes the medium of documentaries. Native American documentaries provide a powerful lens through which to view history, contemporary issues, and the multifaceted tapestry of Native life.

These five must-watch documentaries are not just entertaining; they are educational, enlightening, and a respectful way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. What are your favorite Native American documentaries? Let us know in the comments!

American Experience: We Shall Remain
From the award-winning PBS series “American Experience,” “We Shall Remain” is an extensive, five-part documentary series spanning six hours, delving into the historical journey of Native Americans in the United States, covering the 17th century through to the 20th century. The series features famous Indigenous actors such as Wes Studi (Cherokee), Billy Mersaty (Cree First Nation) and Michael Greyeyes (Plains Cree).

“Gather” offers an intimate glimpse into the emerging Native American movement striving to reestablish spiritual, political, and cultural roots by asserting food sovereignty, while also confronting historical trauma stemming from centuries of genocide.

The documentary closely follows the journeys of key figures in this movement: Nephi Craig, a White Mountain Apache Nation (Arizona) chef, embarking on the establishment of an indigenous café that doubles as a hub for nutritional recovery; Elsie Dubray, a young scientist from the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation (South Dakota), conducting groundbreaking research on bison; and the Ancestral Guard, a collective of environmental activists from the Yurok Nation (Northern California), united in their mission to save the Klamath River.

We Were Children
This poignant film delves into the deep-seated repercussions of Canada’s residential school system as witnessed through the eyes of two First Nations children who were forced to endure unimaginable adversity. This film is part-documentary, part-drama and contains disturbing content. It is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older.

This short-film documentary follows Shy LeBeau, a Navajo/Sioux college student and her journey for the 2016 World Ringside Boxing Championship. The film shows what it takes not only to be a female boxer, but a Native American female boxer. This story is heartfelt, warm and inspirational and will leave you cheering Shy on until the very end.

Native America
This Native-directed, four-part series uncovers the beauty and strength of the contemporary Indigenous world. Challenging stereotypes, it tracks the endeavors of brilliant engineers, courageous politicians, and innovative artists who harness the rich tapestry of Native tradition to build a more promising 21st century for future generations.

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