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New Trailer: 'Imagining the Indian' Documentary Tackles Native American Mascoting

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In the wake of George Floyd's death and the Black Lives Matter protests, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally acknowledged the movement that inspired taking a knee at football games. However, the controversial issue of using Native Indian slur as a team name has not been addressed. A new documentary currently in production tackles the subject matter. While the documentary is still in production, the filmmakers have released a trailer as the discussion of racial inequalities ramps up. Watch the trailer and read full announcement.

The new trailer reveals a startling fact. Ninety percent of the Native Indian population were decimated when the new settlers arrived to the new world. 'Imagining the Indian' documents the treatment of this population from the inception of the country to today. The focus is largely on the NFL's refusal to change the name of the Redskins team name, mascot and logo. Read more about the documentary which is produced by The Ciesla Foundation and Native American filmmakers.

Official Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sunday, June 7, 2020) – Imagining the Indian, a documentary film currently in production at The Ciesla Foundation about the movement to eradicate Native American names, logos and mascots in the world of sports and beyond, today unveiled its website, The site features the film’s trailer (also available on YouTube) that connects the centuries' old dehumanization of Native Americans to the racism being protested on American streets today.


Co-directed by award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who made the sports films The Spy Behind Home Plate and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, and the historical documentary, Rosenwald, which she dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, Imagining the Indian takes a deep-dive into the issues through archival footage and interviews with those involved in the fight. Interviewees include: author and activist Suzan Shown Harjo, Congresswomen Deb Haaland and Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman Jamie Raskin, National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Director Kevin Gover, NMAI Founder and Autry Museum CEO Rick West, and USA Today columnist Christine Brennan.


Imagining the Indian is co-directed by Native filmmaker Ben West (Cheyenne), and co-produced by filmmaker Sam Bardley (Without Bias) and Washington Post sports columnist and ESPN panelist Kevin Blackistone. The film’s executive producer is Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

The trailer was screened at NMAI’s Symposium A Promise Kept: The Inspiring Life and Works of Suzan Shown Harjo, California Native American Day 2019 with Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and Sundance Film Festival’s 2020 Inaugural Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge with overwhelmingly positive responses. A 17-minute work-in-progress will be screened exclusively at film festivals until the film is completed in 2021.


The Washington Post is predicting that the film could have an impact similar to that of Icarus and Blackfish, “recent documentaries that forced companies and organizations to reform their ways.”

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