Public Media Features Indigenous Storytelling Traditions During Native American Heritage Month
November 9, 2020
Native American stories and folk tales are getting a multimedia update for a new generation through “The Storyteller,” a 10-part radio and digital series from the CPB-supported Koahnic Broadcast Corp and Rising Indigenous Voices Radio (The RIVR), its youth-focused streaming service.
“The Storyteller” features 10 five-minute stories and folktales by Native American storytellers, including six from the audio archives of KNBA in Anchorage, Alaska. In addition, a shadow animation of “The Denali Athabascan Story” was produced for The Storyteller website, and the audio series is airing on RIVR and public radio stations through Native Voice One (NV1), the Native American Radio Network.
“If we don’t keep these stories going and being passed down, then our tradition just kind of goes away with that,” lead producer John Sallee told Alaska Public Media. The project aims to bring them back in a fun and attentive way, he added.
“The Storyteller” is just one of numerous public media programs by and about Native Americans out this November, Native American Heritage Month.
- Native Artist is an in-depth multimedia series of stories by Indigenous artists. It is being produced by the weekly public radio music program Indigefi. First released as a podcast, the radio episodes are airing on Koahnic’s KNBA, The RIVR, and distributed to public radio stations nationwide by NV1.
- “Without a Whisper – Konnón:kwe” is a documentary on how Indigenous women influenced the early suffragists in their fight for freedom and equality. It is available on the PBS Plus app and on PBS Passport. It was produced by the CPB-supported Vision Maker Media, which supports Native American films and filmmakers.
- “N. Scott Momaday: Words From a Bear,” a documentary exploring the life of the Pulitzer-Prize winning Kiowa writer, is streaming on demand on the PBS American Masters website. The program premiered last year on American Masters.
- "The People’s Protectors" and "Choctaw Code Talkers," documentaries about Native American veterans and their military service, will receive encore airings on WORLD Channel, a multicast public television channel airing in 72% of television households, on Veterans Day, November 11.
- “Blood Memory: A Story of Removal and Return” is a documentary exploring the battle over Native American adoption and the Indian Child Welfare Act. It has its broadcast premiere on November 17 on America ReFramed, WORLD Channel. It is also produced by Vision Maker Media.
- “The Blessing” is an award-winning documentary that follows a Navajo coal miner who is raising his daughter on his own as he struggles with his part in the irreversible destruction of their sacred mountain. It premieres November 24 on America ReFramed, WORLD Channel.
- WORLD Channel is airing encores of numerous Vision Maker Media documentaries throughout November and will host a virtual event, “Tribal Sovereignty and Home: Celebrating Native American Heritage,” on November 17. The panel features Dennis Bowen Sr., former president of the Seneca Nation; Jim Gray, former principal chief of the Osage Nation; Misty Frazier (Santee Sioux/Tlingit), executive director of the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition; and Laura L. Harris (Comanche), executive director and CEO of Americans for Indian Opportunity. A broadcast schedule, program streaming and event registration are available on worldchannel.org.
These programs join ongoing public media content that explores Native American stories, including “Indian Country Today,” a weekday newscast launched in April by the nonprofit digital news organization of the same name. The program started in March as a livestreamed discussion about the impact of the coronavirus on Indian Country. It evolved into a half-hour newscast covering a wide range of topics, from politics to lifestyle and culture. “Indian Country Today,” partially funded by Vision Maker Media, airs on Arizona PBS and other public television stations, as well as the multicast channel FNX/First Nations Experience. It also streams on demand on the Indian Country Today website.
“Molly of Denali,” the only nationally distributed children’s series with a Native American lead, is in its second season on PBS (check local listings), the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and PBS KIDS digital platforms. The “Molly of Denali” podcast also kicked off its second season this year. The program features Molly Mabray, a contemporary Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan girl who uses a variety of resources to solve problems. The TV series is developed and produced by GBH in partnership with CBC Kids, with support from CPB. It is also funded through the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn Initiative.
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