Vision Maker Media celebrates 2021 Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Photo Credit: Vision Maker Media

To recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 11, Vision Maker Media is holding a week-long online film program on October 6-13. The program is part of the organization’s 45th Anniversary and yearlong theme of commUNITY. PBS and the Cherokee Nation Film Office are sponsors of VMM’s 45th anniversary events. 

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples and, thus, serves as and celebrates an International Day of Solidarity for Indigenous peoples of the Americas,” says Vision Maker Media Executive Director Francene Blythe-Lewis (Eastern Cherokee, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota and Diné). “Together, let’s celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day by watching films by and about Indigenous peoples, acknowledging the land on which you live, work or enjoy by thanking the Indigenous stewards of generations past who kept the place for us, and learning one thing about the Indigenous community nearest you.” 

This year’s film streaming program features Return to Rainy Mountain and Words from a Bear. Both films tell the compelling story of N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa essayist, novelist, writer and 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner. The two films weave together the intricacies of Kiowa art, family, personal memoir, poetic justice, and democracy through Native sovereignty. 

Return to Rainy Mountain (2019, USA, Kiowa, 27 min.) 

Return to Rainy Mountain is a documentary film that tells the story of N. Scott Momaday. It is a personal account of his life and legacy told in his own voice, and in the voice of his daughter Jill. Momaday speaks of his Kiowa roots, family, literature, oral tradition, nature, identity, and the sacred and important things that have shaped his life. 

Jill Scott Momaday, Director/Writer/Producer, has spent all of her life immersed in the arts. Growing up in a family that has a rich cultural, artistic and literary background helped to inspire her passion for theater. Jill’s deep connection to her Kiowa heritage has given her a rich background to draw from in her professional work as an actor, storyteller and filmmaker. A few of her film credits include Tony Hillerman’s Coyote Waits, directed by Jan Egleson and produced by Robert Redford; The Desperate Trail, directed by Paul Pesche; and Silent Tongue, written and directed by Sam Shepard. 

Directed, Written, and Produced by Jill Momaday 


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Words From a Bear (2019, USA, Kiowa, 90 min.) 

Words from a Bear examines the enigmatic life and mind of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Navarro Scott Momaday (Kiowa), one of Native America’s most celebrated authors of poetry and prose. The film visually captures the essence of Momaday’s writings, relating each written line to his unique American experience representing ancestry, place and oral history. Cinematically this story takes audiences on a spiritual journey through the expansive landscapes of the West, when Momaday’s Kiowa ancestors roamed the Great Plains with herds of buffalo, to the sand-painted valleys of Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, where his imagination ripened, and he showed superior writing skills as a young mission student. 

Jeffrey Palmer, Director/Producer, is an Indigenous (Kiowa) filmmaker and media artist. As a Dean’s Fellow at the University of Iowa, he received his M.F.A. in Film and Video Production in 2012, with an emphasis in documentary film and video installation. He also received his M.A. in Native American Studies, focusing on Native American exploitation in early cinema and his B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. He was a Visiting Professor at Cornell University, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Central Oklahoma, and he is currently an Assistant Professor of Transmedia at Syracuse University. His short films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, The Berlinale, Berlin Independent Film Festival, PBS Online Film Festival, Winnipeg Indigenous Film Festival, Maoriland Film Festival, SWAIA Class X Film Festival, Film 2 Farm Aid Film Festival Borneo International Film Festival, INDIANER INUIT: DAS NORDAMERIKA FILM FESTIVAL, deadCENTER Film Festival, imagineNATIVE, ICDOCS, Festival International du Film Ethnographique du Québec (FIFEQ) Annual International Festival of Ethnographic Film. His work has also been featured in Indian Country Today, Native American Times, Art Focus and Dreamcatcher Magazine. He received awards and recognition from the Sundance Institute Creative Producers Award, Sundance Institute Native Program Lab fellowship and Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow. He has received funding from ITVS, The Ford Foundation Just Films, PBS American Masters, and Vision Maker Media. His directorial feature debut, “N. Scott Momaday: Words from A Bear,” premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was nationally televised on the PBS series American Masters in the fall of 2019.  

Directed and produced by Jeffrey Palmer  

Executive Producer Michael Kantor 


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About Vision Maker Media 

Vision Maker Media (VMM) is the premiere source of public media by and about Native Americans since 1976. Our mission is empowering and engaging Native people to share stories. We envision a world changed and healed by understanding Native stories and the public conversations they generate. We work with VMM funded producers to develop, produce and distribute programs for all public media. VMM supports training to increase the number of American Indians and Alaska Natives producing public broadcasting programs. A key strategy for this work is in partnerships with Tribal nations, Indian organizations and Native communities. Reaching the national public and a global market is the ultimate goal for the dissemination of Native public media that shares Native perspectives with the world. VMM is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). For more information,, or 402-472-3522. 

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