Indigenous skateboard media

Indigenous Action Media, a Native American video production collective in the southwestern United States, believes the punk ethic of do-it-yourself (DIY) is more than rhetoric. Instigated by the sibling trio that forms the Diné rock band, Blackfire, Indigenous Action Media are designing and running their own video production workshops that are producing homegrown views on education, environment and social justice. Consequently, when school starts this Fall, these intrepid Indigenous youth will be taking their curriculum into their own hands.

By mixing DIY and skate culture, their set piece project, The Outta Your Backpack Media Collective, combines free workshops with a portable digital video editing system that compactly fits into a pack kids typically use for schoolbooks. Their project is meant “to create community ownership of media, recognizing the inherent creative energy of youth, and challenges corporate dominated media. We create fully equipped decentralized media centers in each backpack.” By utilizing cheap digital media tool, the program enables Native youth to explore difficult and forbidden issues ignored by mainstream media and the education system:

Every organization & community needs an Outta Your Backpack Media collective! Imagine if every community had the power to create its own media. What would it look like? We see youth displaying their films on projection and bed sheets in public spaces (or home) in every community. What would it sound like? We hear high school students making guerilla radio/Podcasts so all can hear. What would it read like? We read Outta Your Backpack newspapers incorporating art, comedy, current news, and events concerning community empowerment and resistance. And most importantly, how does it feel? It feels damn goooooood! To tell our own stories and create our own his/herstories.

As one of over a half a dozen clips featured on their Website, the above video, “Knowledge is Dangerous,” poignantly expresses the need to take local control of education. “Knowledge is Dangerous” envisions a dystopic future where children are forced to read certain books (hmm, sounds a bit like the present), i.e. the sanctioned knowledge of the dominant culture. But an underground of book lovers with their own rewritten curriculum of texts featuring the likes of Malcolm X and Dr. Seuss (!), uses a car trunk for its forbidden library. You’ll have to watch the video to see how the knowledge bandits prevail, but suffice to say, in the case of this particular group of young Native American mediamakers, their storytelling agenda bypasses stereotypes of how indigenous youth are engaging their education.

Also featured on Indigenous Action Media’s Website is this documentary, “Making a Stand at Desert Rock.” In their words:

On December 12th, 2006 community members in Burnham, New Mexico established a blockade to prevent preliminary work for the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant. More info: www.desert-rock-blog.com.

If you click on the video’s YouTube logo, it will send you to the YouTube site where several other citizen produced videos about the conflict will appear in the “related” sidebar section. With an on-going struggle over the land between the local indigenous population and energy companies in the four-corners region of the US Southwest, it appears that new user-generated media on the subject are being uploaded on a consistent basis.

If you are a young indigenous filmmaker and feel like jumping into the mix, Indigenous Action Media’s latest project is the sponsorship of The 4th Annual Southwest Native American Film Festival Fall Showcase & Workshops to be held on their home turf in Flagstaff, Arizona (USA) in April ’08. On October 5-6, 2007 there will be a preview Fall showcase, so though the Website states the festival is in October, it appears they are still accepting submissions for the April event.