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GLT Datebook: Filmmaker Focuses On Native American Mascots And Identity

Native American with placcard.
Kenn Little
Filmmaker Kenn Little and his brother address Native American identity in their new documentary.

Kenn Little takes aim at misrepresentation of Native Americans in the new documentary, “More Than a Word.”

The film is running Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m. at the Normal Theater. Little co-directed the film with his brother, John. The pair wanted to address the misrepresentation of Native people, particularly as it relates to sports team mascots. 

“A lot of the media coverage was one side or the other,” Little explained, “So we wanted to create a resource that was just the facts, down the middle, that we could put out there for people to look at.”

“People build up their perspective of what they think that we are based on these incorrect stereotypes. The issues on ongoing.  Recently, there was the incident with the Covington Catholic High School students and Nathan Phillips, a Native elder in Washington, D.C. You had kids in the back doing the tomahawk chop and the war chants. I think a lot of that they’re learning in these sports arenas.” 

“For us, as native people, it creates this false idea of who we are and, in a way, holds us to the past. The images are from 100 years ago. I don’t think that a lot of people necessarily think of us in the present tense, because from a very young age, they are seeing these images and they’re seeing these things going on at games. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to confront that and show from the native perspective how we feel about this issue.” 

Mascot misrepresentation is not just a minor problem facing indigenous people, said Little. It’s woven into the ongoing struggle for political, educational and environmental justice. 

“What’s more important than your identity? If people in Congress or lawmakers grow up with these stereotypes and they don’t view you as human beings, alive and well today, then they are not going to take you seriously on other issues. I think all of our issues are interconnected, but I think that identity is probably the most important issue that we have.” 

https://vimeo.com/236268394">More Than A Word Official Trailer from https://vimeo.com/user67072692">morethanawordfilm on Vimeo.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.