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Conversations Between: Sky Hopinka and Theo Anthony Discuss maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore

maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (courtesy of Grasshopper Film)

There’s a moment in Sky Hopinka’s 2017 short film, Anti-Objects, or Space Without Path or Boundary, where for just a few frames, a layer of video floats on top of the subtitles. Blink and you’ll miss it, but in those frames something deeper winks back at you. Subtitles often float like oil on top of water; they are in the image but not of the image. But in Sky’s films, language is not a metatext. It’s organic, dynamic, always in the process of becoming something else. Language shapes and is shaped, carries and is carried, by the specificity of the time and the place and the people that it flows between. In just those few frames, all of this is contained. Blink and you’ll miss it, but even if you do, you’ll still feel it.

Sky’s films are filled with glimmering moments like these, where in just the right light, the brilliance of the entire structure is revealed. Sky is not just an incredible filmmaker, he’s also my neighbor, my studio mate and someone I care deeply for as a friend. When we’re together, we talk about bowling, we talk about science fiction, we talk about our board game night and the ticket-happy parking enforcement on our block. These are our “easy truths that let these things slide,” as Sky writes in Perfidia, a collection of poetry that was released last year. There’s always so much more I want to talk to Sky about, but I often stop myself short, not wanting to disturb the silence I cherish our ability to share together. 

This month, Sky’s stunning debut feature małni—towards the ocean, towards the shore is released via Grasshopper Film. Drawing upon 13 hours of footage (more than he usually shoots), Sky’s allusive portrait of contemporary Native life, grounded in Pacific Northwest landscapes, centers itself around two longtime friends, Sweetwater Sahme and Jordan Mercier. Their lives and experiences intersect with the Chinook tribe’s death myth and reincarnation narratives, while expanding on Sky’s longtime interest in (re)presenting the Chinuk Wawa language onscreen. We sat down in the same room we sit in most days, but this opportunity gave me the chance to ask him some new things.

Anthony: I’ve obviously seen your work, but it was honestly so moving to see it all at once. I rarely do a deep dive on a single person, especially on someone I love and respect as a friend. I didn’t really know you when I was first seeing this work, and it’s so nice to return to it and have heightening levels of respect. I was laughing when I was preparing for this because there’s that Diane Burns poem where she’s like, “Sure, it’s OK if you ask me a lot of questions.” And I was like, here I am, asking you all these questions. But hopefully, it can be more of a conversation. Your work spans so many different forms. You have obviously filmmaking, sculpture, installation, photography, poetry, nonfiction essay writing. I’m wondering both where a project starts with you, and at what point, if ever, you decide what form it should take?

Hopinka; All of these different things usually start with me driving around thinking about stuff, or with the things that I think when I lay in bed in the morning, and [then] I gather these different ideas and materials and try to find ways they can all fit together—or when it feels appropriate for them to fit together. I’m working on a short film right now. My mom sent me a tape of my grandmother getting a language lesson from her mother, my great-great-grandmother. I’ve never seen this tape before, never heard it before. My mom was like, “Oh, hey. Can you digitize this?” And I was like, “Yes, of course.” But it really struck me because it’s 30 minutes, it’s really beautiful and you can hear my mom in the background asking if they want lemonade. I want to include that in a film somewhere. I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom’s side of my family—I was really close with them but haven’t really made work about them. I’ve done some writing about my grandmother on that side, Sylvia, and my mom, a little bit, but for some reason, I haven’t really done anything, and I feel like I’m ready to. Now, I have this idea of home, Ferndale, where I grew up, where I was born. My mother, my grandmother, myself. Certain things I’ve been shooting in the last two months on 16mm I don’t know what I’m going to do with—I barely know what it looks like, but I know it’s going to go in the film, and I have some songs [multidisciplinary artist/małni score composer] Thad Kellstadt sent me that he was working on.

So, I’ve been making several projects, and it’s exciting because now I can go shoot some more. I’m going to go shoot in Washington pretty soon, and I’m going to make something that I don’t know what it’s going to look like. That’s usually where these projects start, especially the short films: gathering different ideas and emotions and feelings and thoughts and obsessions, and trying to find the shape or form for them.

Anthony: So, it doesn’t feel like you’re saying, “Oh, here’s a film.” You have an experience or a material or something that’s brought to you, and you’re letting it coalesce. Then, the exciting part that maybe you’re at right now is a refraction into whatever form it takes. You don’t necessarily decide?

Hopinka: Yeah. I mean, a lot of times, too, I get excited about a formal quality. I want to do long takes, I want to shoot on 16, I want to shoot at night, and it’s finding ways or reasons to execute that. Similarly with writing—it’s just another way to work through an idea—and photography, as well. It’s another way to have a different relationship with the camera, and to focus on the landscape or aesthetics or composition and lights and depth, then find some meaning there or try and find a way to give it meaning, either in a series or through juxtaposition amongst other work or whatever it is.

Anthony: Do you have like a system or a workflow for gathering ideas? Do you have a routine to this?

Hopinka: I really like routine, but I’m really bad at it. I really like organization, but I’m really bad at it. That’s a new invention [points at freshly installed to-do board].

Anthony: I saw that. I was like, OK, Sky. Stepping it up.

Hopinka: Yeah, it’s just having different thoughts on a Post-it note. Some shorthand has become really helpful for me. But really, my biggest tool is the Notes app on my iPhone. Actually, it’s the To-Do app, because I have a checklist with different ideas that I type in. It might be quotes, it might be a passage, a thought, a phrase that a friend says. And it’s a way to have a sort of to-do list of thoughts and concepts that I then go through and pull from when I feel like I need some sort of spark in a project.

Anthony: Yeah, I’ve been really personally obsessed lately with finding a way to organize all my notes and stuff. I understand what you mean. I hate that feeling of losing a thought, where you feel a connection, but it’s buried somewhere. That feeling is absolutely tragic.

Hopinka: That’s very haunting. That’s why I do the to-do list on the phone. Because I couldn’t trust myself to write it down if I had a pen or to put it in a folder on a computer or something.

Anthony: Moving into your film work: I think something I’m so struck by is your navigation of when to explain and when not to explain—the role of contextualization in your work. I think that many of your audiences don’t necessarily have a firsthand knowledge, per se, of Ho-Chunk1 history or Chinuk Wawa, but I find there to be this incredible balancing act between generosity and openness to inviting people into appreciating it without necessarily centering that outside approach on the inside.

Hopinka: It definitely is a balance I’m still trying to figure out. But I very much lean heavily on the structure of the film for not instilling what the intention is, not showing all my cards in the beginning of a film. [Of instead being]: there’s going to be weird jump cuts. Things are going to be inverted. Text is going to go crazy; it’s going to reveal itself. I want to make a space for an audience to get comfortable within the film to ingest it. That takes some of the burden off of the more contextual facts of the film, or it unburdens the film as a site of knowledge and allows it to be a site of experience. Because I mean, empathy is something I think a lot about. It’s also the relationship, as Adam Khalil put it, between knowledge and information around indigenous cultures. What does it mean to know something, and what does it mean to have facts about something or a culture or a community? And as I try to not explain things, I’m hoping that through context or the things that are nearby, an audience will be able to understand how I feel about them, or place themselves in a certain empathetic space where they may not know what’s going on, but they know how to feel about it. That’s the hope. I mean, all of these are ways that I’m trying to unburden the feeling of having to be a representative for Ho-Chunk people or for Pechanga people, just different ways to show audiences what I want to show them and not what they think they want to see.

Anthony: Unburdening the responsibility of speaking as a representative of indigenous cinema—you’re one person in a particular tribe. I’ve heard you in your interviews talk about the responsibility, obviously, for advocating and being a representative. But at the same time, I feel we so often lose sight of the incredible formal language you’re using to express these ideas. Do you feel as if sometimes the content can overrun the form?

Hopinka: That’s a good question. That goes into the editing process, too, where I’ll watch 20 or 30 cuts of the film, make small changes, then watch it all the way through again and get a sense of what needs to be there, what doesn’t need to be there and how to make it as tight as possible. In the beginning of a film, I like to indulge my interests and my curiosities. But, by the end of an edit—it’s not mercenary, just cutting things. I’ve cut three- or four-minute sequences that I love because they don’t work in the film. I think that’s where that balance comes in, of trying to share things but also just letting the sequence in the editing do the work.

Anthony: We’ve talked about this, but the term “experimental,” right? How do you feel about that word?

Hopinka: I like the utility of the word. I mean, in the truest sense, it’s experiments in moving image, in film, and I think that’s exciting. There’s a lot of baggage around it, especially around academia, especially around class and privilege. When experimental film becomes essentialized, it stops being vibrant and adapting and changing. But I also like it as a way to introduce audiences into what the work is or what it’s trying to do, especially audiences that may have only just seen narratives and documentaries, however those conventions function in their lives. It’s a way to ease an audience into what to expect, you know? This is an experimental film. What’s that? Well, it’s a little weird.

Anthony: It’s got lens flares in it.

Hopinka: Yeah. Things are going to be upside down. It isn’t going to be normal. But I try not to overburden that word. If it helps people understand how to position themselves within their experience of watching it, then I’m all for it. If it’s a way to describe a genre of filmmaking as elitist or classist, then, I don’t know. Plenty of conversations are being had around experimental cinema that are exciting, creating new forms or creating new questions. Dialogue and conversation around what “experimental” means is always fun.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s almost like when the experimental context outweighs the experiment itself, maybe that’s when we run into issues. I mean, I watch your films and they’re filled with drama. They’re exciting to me, even the long takes. There’s so much happening on the screen. And in fact, sometimes in Fainting Spells2, there’s so much where totality of understanding is actually impossible, which I find an amazing inversion of what we expect of images as sites of certainty. You are exploding the image into a site of multiple meanings. It’s really exciting, and I would never want people to not approach your work out of fear of that “experimental” label. I mean, this is maybe a low blow, but we live in a time where people will sit for a four-hour director’s cut of a film in its 20th iteration of a 25-year franchise, but they won’t watch a film with a couple of lens flares in it. I love the experimental label in that it kind of talks as if we’re a trial period, or a failure, but there’s a failure of the market to recoup the value that we’re creating with these images within other systems of value. And I like that it fails at those metrics. But at the same time, I wish people were more open to these types of viewing experiences, not as some sort of esoteric in-club, but as something that you can actually approach with an openness of heart and eyes. So, yeah, release “the Sky cut.”

I went on a rant there, but on the topic of forms, I think your work uses a filmic language—there’s film stock, experimental techniques that have echoes of Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, James Benning. Your filmic language has its roots in a time when images were made on material film, but you also use uniquely digital alterations and experiments with the image. And what I really like about your work is, you don’t use these experimental techniques to fall back on a certain nostalgia for these old forms or to look toward a future that forgets its roots. But you use these languages in a way that feels unique to both film and digital. I’m wondering how you navigate those boundaries, if you have rules for what sort of alterations or techniques you use with the image, with both film processing and digital manipulation and alteration of the image?

Hopinka: I don’t have too many rules. I do like to be in conversation with those techniques and formal choices and devices that come from the experimental cinema tradition globally. Like, “Oh yeah, I could use it for this,” or “I like that scrolling text thing.” It’s also a way to think about archives and those sorts of artifacts, especially around Native culture and history and tradition and museums and documentations. What happens to something that is very much a part of their culture that then gets taken away and put in museum glass? It loses its utility, it becomes an object and an artifact. Like, with the film Anti-Objects, the things I was interested in in those archival recordings of [Grand Ronde and Yakama Nation tribal member] Wilson Bobb and [linguist] Henry Zenk weren’t the linguistic parts.3 I mean, those are great, but just the conversations they were having were exciting to me because it felt like I was pulling that out of archival material into something I could relate to very much now. Same thing goes with the language. How the language existed 100 years ago isn’t how it exists now. It’s not how it’s going to exist another 100 years from now. So, things have to be changed, used and adapted, and that’s how I feel about older filmmaking and techniques. I mean, I respect it—I don’t revere it. And if I see something that I like and use it in my film, it’s an acknowledgment of that, but it’s also finding a way to use this tool in a new way that is applicable to what the cinema I’m making right now is, or what I hope that it could look like, especially around indigeneity or indigenous cinema.

Anthony: There’s a real respect for the materials that you show without freezing them as what they should always be. I got chills rewatching Anti-Objects. [Bobb’s] listening to a recording from 1929, he’s singing along, and you realize that all these forms and mediums are important and particular, but what they carry is always something more and something else. That leads to my next question: navigating indigeneity in a digital world. I have been really trying to follow and listen in on indigenous conversations around protocol and internet and artificial intelligence. We think of digital as this immaterial, disembodied, dislocated thing. And these are processes that are happening on servers at physical locations that are on tribal lands. Maybe I’m reaching here, but it felt like it was so in line with your themes of wandering and dislocation and fragmentation.

Hopinka: Dislocation Blues4, the title itself, comes from me going back and forth from Milwaukee, where I was living, to Standing Rock, which is a 10- or 11-hour drive—going back and forth to these very extreme, different worlds, always feeling dislocated. Checking in on Facebook, when that was going on, what it meant to be present and show support and solidarity, and who could go and who can’t go. All these different ideas around lands and presence, and also time and bearing witness—these are all factors at play that I don’t really have answers to. 

When the pandemic started and a lot of Zoom calls were starting to happen, people didn’t even know what Zoom was, you know? I remember joking with friends, are we going to do land acknowledgments over Zoom, like the unceded territory of the internet? People would do land acknowledgments from where they were. Those are the questions that are coming up: How do we relate to each other across time and distance, connected through these different pathways that are problematic, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and all of the things that people love and hate about them? But also, where’s this discourse happening and what is the discourse like, and who’s going to participate in the conversation and who can’t? Who has the biggest voice and then who has the smallest voice? There’s a lot of things at play that I think are exciting, interesting, scary. Now that more indigenous people have agency and a say in their cultures and their language and tradition and presence, where do we go from here? Especially as things get more compounded—the growth is exponential, in terms of the reach and voice, and new questions that arise from that.

Anthony: Maybe this is a good time to talk about your work with COUSIN.

Hopinka: COUSIN Collective is a group of filmmakers consisting of myself, Adam Piron, Adam Khalil and Alex Lazarowich. We started as a way to try and build community and share and support indigenous filmmakers around the world to make their films, to make projects that are more toward the experimental side of cinema, whether it’s installation or single-channel work. A lot of things got waylaid because of the pandemic, including our plans for this last year, but we did manage to get some funding to support 10 filmmakers and their projects, which are in various stages of completion at this point. We’re also doing a series of curated programs—work with the people we’ve funded, as well as other indigenous filmmakers working in the experimental genre—as a way to showcase the work and these artists and to use the platforms that we have to help others and get the word out. And to let other indigenous filmmakers know that they’re not alone out there if they want to make weirdo experimental work. Because that’s how it felt for myself, for all of us. When we found each other, it was a way to not feel so lonely out there—because it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of us, but there are.

Anthony: The work that you guys are putting out, it’s really cool and inspirational. But we should probably talk about małni, right? Am I saying that right? I remember you taught me to say it in the yard, I was very stoked. I found myself walking around the house just saying “małni.” [pronounced moth-nee] And that’s Chinookan. Do I say Chinookan or Chinook Wawa? 

Hopinka: You could say it’s Chinook Wawa. That word is Chinookan. Chinook as a language, also known as Chinook proper, is a language of the Columbia River Basin, and the tribe were basically the leaders of trade around that. And as they traded with other tribes, they developed Chinook Wawa as a lingua franca for trade. For a brief time in the 1800s, it was the lingua franca of the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska all the way down to Northern California. So, Chinook Wawa is a creole or that comes from Chinookan, Chinook proper.

Anthony: When I was reading, I would see people use Chinook, Chinookan and Chinook Wawa. I wanted to make sure I had the right language structure. So, małni takes place in and around this area. I’m curious how you came to the Pacific Northwest, and how did you first encounter the Chinook community?

Hopinka: I was born in the Pacific Northwest, in Northern Washington in a small town called Ferndale. So, the Northwest was always a big part of my life with family. But I ended up after many years bouncing around California and Portland, Oregon, where I went to Portland State University. I spent many, many years trying to get my undergraduate degree; I wanted to graduate with my foreign language requirement met in an indigenous language. And the plan was Ho-Chunk, but my tribe is some 2,000 miles away from Oregon. I had met a Chinook Wawa language teacher who basically told me, “I’ll teach you this language, and you’ll be doing two things. You’ll be supporting the language of the land that you live on and helping this community here, and you’ll also be learning tools and techniques that you can then take to your community in Wisconsin, when you go there.” And that made a lot of sense. 

So, I started learning the language and also teaching people how to organize in community language, and I had support in-state for Chinook Wawa. That’s where I met Jordan Mercier, who’s in małni—we were in a native activism class in Portland. I was like, “Hey, I’m just starting to teach Chinook. Do you want to learn?” And he’s like, “Hell yeah.” So, he was one of my first students. The way that we teach is that as soon as you learn a little bit, you start teaching yourself. So, he became very active in the group and started working with the Grand Ronde tribe, and we’ve been friends ever since. That was in 2011. Actually, one of the first films I ended up making was a short five-minute narrative, where he and I act in it and we speak Chinook Wawa, called Huy Huy. It’s fun. After that, we both had this idea of revisiting this someday. I was moving back to Wisconsin to go to grad school, and it was always in the back of my head to revisit this world that we made, and to make a film in Chinook Wawa to help support the language and the community. So, when I first started thinking about it in the future, that was the first idea that came to mind. Jordan was down, and we just went from there. 

Anthony: The language literally being the thing that carries you into this community, that investment of time and care, it’s a really beautiful and generous way of education. The first time I watched małni, I tried to just float through it and not project anything on it. This time, knowing you, knowing your work so much more, I felt like I was able to pay so much more attention to these details and the choices and the structure. There seems to be such a strong theme of reincarnation in particular running through this work—a lot of your other work, as well, but this one in particular. If that’s correct, how is reincarnation explored in the structure of this film? 

Hopinka: When I started thinking about making a feature, I wanted to revisit reincarnation as I had been doing in some of the shorts, like Fainting Spells and I’ll Remember You as You Were, Not as What You’ll Become5. And there was a section of the myth, an introduction to the origin of death that was used as a teaching tool for Chinook Wawa, that’s always stuck in my head. It felt like, yeah, this is a way to center the film around reincarnation. And I also didn’t want to make a film that was retelling the myth in a cinematic form, but to make a film about people [who] believe in the myth and in the lessons that it’s teaching, and how that affects how they move through the world. So, just filming Jordan opened up a lot of possibilities. Sweetwater came into the project because I was doing some camera tests, and we were hanging out. We go way back. She’s one of the first people I met in Portland in 2006, so it’s always good to see her and visit. And she just ended up in the film.

Anthony: That was a camera test, the hike? Or no? 

Hopinka: The hike with Sweetwater was a camera test.

Anthony: No way.

Hopinka: It was a gimble test, actually. I was trying to figure out the ronin or—what’s the other one, the DGI?

Anthony: The MōVI .

Hopinka: MōVI .

Anthony: Yeah, they’re all vulgar instruments.

Hopinka: I was trying to figure it out, and she was interested in being on camera. She was also in Anti-Objects, so right away there was a connection. We had a lot to say in conversations around death and reincarnation, too. She was still affected by the loss of her grandmother, and she talks about that in the film. Knowing each of them for as long as I have—Jordan for 10 years, Sweetwater I guess for 15 now, almost—and seeing them go through these different phases of life, like Jordan getting married, having a daughter, now he has another kid. Sweetwater, halfway through filming, told me she was pregnant, and it became part of the film. It very much was another way to express the cycle of life and death through these transitions they are facing in their lives. It became the thing to circle around with the editing, with the things we would talk about, the things that we didn’t want to talk about, the absence of fully going into their life stories, the things that they allude to and how to make that part of the film, where it is about the movement between these worlds, whether it’s the world that we’re living in, the spirit world or passing through these liminal spaces.

Anthony: What don’t you film?

Hopinka: What don’t I film? I feel like I am very cautious about filming people. I tend to only film people that I know or have friendships with, that can appear in multiple films, like Sweetwater in Anti-Objects. Jordan was also in Fainting Spells, and Evan [Gardner], my language teacher, he’s in a number of videos. I always want to feel comfortable with myself with people, and also want there to be time and space for the things to unfold naturally. So, with małni, I knew I wanted to have it be occupied by people, so that was a challenge, and me trying to understand how I enter these spaces. I know I don’t want to film any ceremonies because that’s just an obvious thing not to film. And I wanted to try and acknowledge the things that I wasn’t filming through the filming, as well. There’s a scene near the end where Jordan goes and prays, and I didn’t want to film that. So, I turned the camera and kept on turning it, and it went out of focus. That was just something that happened in the moment, but it felt really natural to do. And that’s what I try to do. Like if it feels gross, then it probably is gross, and I want to be on the side of caution and respect, especially with the camera that has such a long history of violence in the Native communities.

Anthony: I think that it’s not only just a sign of respect, but it’s so much more powerful to acknowledge that this is not a thing that can capture or contain all things. I didn’t even realize that he was praying, but I saw him go off, and when you start to pan around, it’s such an amazing scene. And toward the end of the film, after the drum ceremony, I started to notice that all the subjects are out of focus. You have the background, and afterward, they’ve become something else. And maybe I’m projecting too much on it, but it felt like we had fully entered and were seeing or feeling these more transcendent narratives we’re always living all the time. That was such a beautiful way of acknowledging that, of un-focusing the subject literally in the camera. I mean, we’re hearing Sweetwater talk, but you’re focused on the fern behind her. It’s such a beautiful gesture.

Hopinka: I feel like there’s a lot of things that I’ve been wanting to do in małni that I had done in previous films, even just filming dances. I love that Latin film that I made, Venite et Loquamur⁶; it was an opportunity to film people in a space dancing and being together. That really carried through in małni, trying to understand how we all fit in together in this space, in these landscapes. For me, they’re a lot less defined than I think I understand them to be. I think that there’s something really beautiful about the way that the landscape changes, how it stays the same, how it’s so slow in terms of its changing, and also how each of these two people, Sweetwater and Jordan, would take me to places that they wanted to show me and that are important to them. Like, Sweetwater loves waterfalls. She wanted to be at all her favorite waterfalls. Jordan wanted to take me around to these places that are important to his people, to his tribe. The film is the collection of these moments as we’re moving together and away from each other and trying to understand not only how we fit in, but how our ancestors fit into this world and how our descendants will, as well.

Anthony: It’s interesting. małni feels like the most developed of all your work, in that all of these ideas and themes you’ve been exploring are present in the most lucid way. But it’s also your most restrained in a way. Formally, there’s only one moment in the film where there’s the classic long exposure—the dance on the football field—which I thought is such a beautiful image because you have this modern environment of a football field but still carrying this sacred meaning. What was that distillation process? How could something be the most advanced and at the same time most distilled version of your work?

Hopinka: Going back to Dislocation Blues, that was a film that I didn’t want to do any extractions of people because it just felt disrespectful. It would’ve felt self-indulgent on my part to abstract things and turn things upside down, or re-saturate to the point of illegibility for that film. I was thinking about that with małni, too. I don’t really plan any of it out; it’s just working with the footage and playing around with it. It felt natural to have straight cuts and do everything I could in camera, whether it’s with the focus or with the slow shutter speed in the dance sequence. Those are the things I allowed myself to do: If I can do it in camera, then I’ll do it, and I don’t want to do any abstractions or overlays or filters in post-production. That’s something of a challenge, too, because I don’t want to get too comfortable with relying on those techniques to propel the films.

Anthony: This is so horrible that it just popped in my mind, and if you weren’t a friend, I wouldn’t even say it, but there’s two kinds of mastery. There’s the most complicated dish you could imagine, and there’s someone who makes a [perfect] PB&J. I’m saying this is your PB&J film—you have all the elements there, and they’re done perfectly.

1. Hopinka is a Ho-Chunk Nation national and Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians descendent.

2. Hopinka’s 2018 short layers handwritten English text, scrolling left to right—à la James Benning films, like the 1992 travelogue North on Evers—on top of landscape footage mediated through various filters, climaxing with a semi-animated shot of people seemingly being sucked into the sky.

3. The 2017 short draws upon recordings made by Zenk and Bobb from 1982 to 1984. As Hopinka wrote in an essay, “After Wilson passed away in 1985, Henry, by default, became one of its last speakers. I knew of the Wilson Bobb tapes—these relics of a conversation I had originally heard about from my own teacher, who was a student of Henry Zenk. Listening to them now, however, allows me to experience the friendship that formed between Wilson and Henry through their meandering conversations. As the two men from very different backgrounds wandered through Chinuk Wawa, they claimed space for the language to exist. It wasn’t a cold lexicon without heart or figurative meaning. Rather, a communal space that revealed how the language was used amongst friends.”

4. The 2017 short includes footage from the 2016–2017 protests against the construction of a pipeline that would have passed near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, as well as testimonies from activists Cleo Keahna and Terry Running Wild.

5. The 2016 short is, in part, a tribute to the late Native poet Diane Burns.

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