Native American Film Programs & Festivals


Sundance Institute's commitment to supporting Native American artists is woven throughout our history. Native American filmmakers have long been involved in the Institute, going back to Larry LittleBird (Taos Pueblo) and Chris SpottedEagle (Houmas Nation) who participated in the first meetings founding Sundance Institute. Following President and Founder Robert Redford's original vision, the Institute has remained committed to supporting the voices of Native American artists.


There are more great stories to be told by Indigenous artists worldwide and Sundance Institute and its partners are committed to this work. The launching of the Sundance Institute Short Documentary Fund focused on Native and Indigenous Storytellers is the latest effort to support the voices of Indigenous filmmakers. With the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the partnership of the Guardian, the Fund will support up to five filmmaking teams with a Native or Indigenous creative in a key position with a $25,000 grant to make a new non-fiction short film. The shorts will have the opportunity to launch on the Guardian’s documentary platform. Applications will be accepted until May 14th, and are available here.


Growing up watching non-Natives play Natives, perpetuating stereotypes and disseminating inaccurate, often offensive portrayals of American Indians onscreen, a 20-something Smith started the American Indian Film Institute in 1975, in Seattle. It took zero persuasion on Smith’s part to recruit two of his heroes – Mvskokee actor Will Sampson (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), and Canada’s Coast Salish actor and tribal leader, Chief Dan George (“The Outlaw Josey Wales;) “Little Big Man”) – to become founding board members of AIFI. A couple of years later, Smith helmed the first-ever American Indian Film Festival; and, in November 2017, AIFF marked its 42nd year of creating countless filmmakers, screening hundreds of films by, for and about Native peoples, and shattering stereotypes around the globe.

California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival (CAIIFF)

The California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival (CAIIFF) located on tribal lands offers audiences in Southern California the finest work in American Indian film and media on an annual basis. The CAIIFF highlights the best of current films from American Indian and Indigenous filmmakers, producers, directors, and actors working throughout Indian Country.

The CAIIFF located on tribal lands in an area that is home to the largest number of Indian reservations in the region and is able to reach unprecedented numbers of tribal people and the surrounding community. The festival offers an event that promises not only exclusive viewings, but includes interactive dialogues with film industry professionals, selected panel discussions and opportunity for Q&A sessions after each screening.


The American Indian Film Festival is the world’s longest-running exposition showcasing independent films of U.S. American Indians and First Nations peoples of Canada. For the last 43years, AIFI has served and celebrated generations of Indian filmmakers, performing artists and audiences, with the best of the most current Indian Cinema while drawing into the circle of Hollywood celebrities, industry professionals, student filmmakers, seasoned festival-goers and newcomers traveling to San Francisco from near and far.


Natives in Charge of Their Narrative. #WhyWeWearRED What happens when we challenge ourselves to take a view from the Native perspective. Independent Film changes everything. We can discover ourselves through the power of film. You the audience will make a special connection to our storytellers at this years festival in celebration of American Indian Heritage Month. #RNIFF2018- L.A.

Native American Associations


The mission of the American Indigenous Research Association is to promote, foster, and apply Indigenous Research Methods — methods based in the paradigms, philosophies, knowledge systems, values and beliefs of Indigenous communities, engaged in research — to any and all research carried out with Indigenous peoples. The American Indigenous Research Association strives to promote community and individual development, self-determination, and decolonization of Indigenous peoples and goes beyond the methods of CBPR.

AIRA aims to educate the research community, the public, and Indigenous communities about respectful and ethically sound investigations from an Indigenous paradigm.


Montana Indian Education Association (MIEA) promotes and advances equitable opportunity for academic success so that Montana’s American Indian students are provided with an education that acknowledges, affirms and includes their rich cultural diversity in every aspect of the educational experience. By serving as an essential link between Montana’s diverse tribal communities and educational institutions, MIEA holds all accountable for improving social, cultural and academic achievement. 


The mission of the American Indian Institute is to perpetuate the ancient wisdom and cultural heritage of North America’s Native peoples, and to promote a greater understanding of that wisdom among all people. The Institute achieves its mission by serving as the administrative agency and support source for the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth, a coalition of grassroots spiritual leaders from Indian nations throughout North America.

Lectures & Speeches by Native Americans

We are power speech by John Trudell (July 18, 1980)

"The largest gathering in recent years of indigenous peoples and their supporters took place in the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) of South Dakota during the baking-hot late summer of 1980.

John Trudell - Mining our Minds For The Machine

John Trudell is a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and former political activist. He was the chairman of the American Indian Movement for most of the 1970s and the spokesperson for the takeover of Alcatraz.

In 1979, his mother-in-law, pregnant wife (Tina Manning), and three children were killed in a fire at their home in Nevada. It occurred within 12 hours of his burning a flag on the steps of the FBI building in Washington DC. He viewed it as an act of war meant to silence him and his outspoken wife.

American Indian Activist Russell Means, Speech

Russell Means (WanbliOhitika) Statement to the Senate Special Committee on Investigations - Washington, D.C. (30 January 1989)

Standing Rock


Article about Standing Rock by Paul VanDevelder (October 28, 2016)

Image credit: Terray Sylvester


This short documentary by Mni Wiconi features water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies trying to stop the 1,100-mile Dakota Access Pipeline - DAPL. Interviews in the film include Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Chairman Dave Archambault II; Jodi Gillette, former White House advisor for Native American Affairs; Ladonna Allard, founder of Sacred Stone Camp; Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth; and Cody Hall, Red Warrior Camp spokesperson. Created by Divided Films with support from the WK Kellogg Foundation.

Making a Documentary Film: Helpful Sources

The Power of Storytelling