Lakota Filmmakers

Tradition Transformation

Tradition Transformation is an experimental film by the Lakota filmmaker Dana Claxton. A high-end fashion shoot is transformed as the model dons traditional Sioux cultural belongings along with elegant contemporary clothing. In one scene her blue gown features the geometry often associated with native design. In another, a headdress covers her face as she strikes a warrior-like pose. The camera pans over sandals, beadwork, masks, feathers, blankets with Lakota designs – an array of tribal elements. The woman is no longer a standard represent­a­tion of beauty, but an articulation of the visual legacy of her tribe. With each finishing pose, a Lakota elder gives a description of the piece in Lakota.

Dana Claxton (Hunkpapa Lakota) is an interdisciplinary artist who works in film and video, installation, performance and photography. Her work has been screened in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, the Sundance Festival, and Microwave in Hong Kong.

Verb Phrases in Lakota

Verb Phrases in Lakota by Alayna Eagle Shield stars the filmmaker’s daughter, three-year old Kyallyn. In this fast-paced video, Alayna Eagle Shield asks her daughter questions in Lakota, and Kyyalyn responds with the kind of energy only kids seem to have. Kyallyn brushes her teeth, goes to bed, gets up in the morning, puts on her jacket, all the while proudly, and quickly, answering her mother’s questions about what she is doing in Lakota. This film project shows us all that language learning can be moved out of the classroom and into the home.

Alayna Eagle Shield is a student, a Lakota language activities instructor at the Lakota language nest in Fort Yates, a mother to two beautiful kids and a wife. She is a member of the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Youth Cabinet and actively participates in language activities both online and in her community. Her dream is to someday become a doctor but, first and foremost, to reach fluency in the Lakota language. She hopes to teach to spark in others the same love for the Lakota ways that she holds dear. Alayna is raising her children in their Lakota language and culture, giving them a strong hold on their Lakota identities.

You Got It

You Got It by Cheyenne River Lakota Milt Lee is a rapid-fire take on the familiar TV quiz show. Lee has assembled a cluster of bright young Lakotas, all of them willing to answer the sometimes-probing questions from the show’s host, Murray Lee. On the surface, this is a comic piece, but the host’s questions go to the heart of what it means to be Indian today. Where does language fit into this definition of Indian? Watch the film and find out.

Milt Lee, Cheyenne River Lakota, has produced film and audio documentaries for 40 years. He has focused on a wide range of subjects, including Lakota history and culture. His most recent film is Video Letters from Prison. His films have been featured widely on television and in festivals. He is the winner of the Best Short Documentary at the Native Voice Film Festival.

Renelle White Buffalo Paints Lakota

Renelle White Buffalo Paints Lakota is a documentary portrait by the filmmaker Yvonne Russo. Renelle White Buffalo is a young, gifted Lakota artist who creates dynamic paintings that present her  world view. In the film she loads the bright canvas with lively personal imagery, and focuses on the shapes and colors that have particular meaning for Lakotas.  She builds on her name to explore the symbolism of the sacred white buffalo, as well as the four directions and four colors often used to represent the Lakota universe. The resulting abstract painting is at once universal and deeply personal, the expression of a young artist exploring her place in the world.

Yvonne Russo, Sicangu Lakota, is an award-winning producer, director and writer of film, television and web features. As an independent producer, Russo has worked in the United States and over 14 countries from Rajasthan, India, to the East African Nation of Rwanda. Her projects include 40 Under 40 featuring America’s top 40 visual artists under 40 years of age for CBS/Smithsonian Network and the National Geographic series Nat Geo’s Most Amazing Photos. Her most recent production, Viva Verdi! looks at life inside the Casa Di Riposo per Musicisti of Milan, built by Giuseppe Verdi in 1896 as a home for retired opera singers.