Searching for Sequoyah (Work in Progress)
Writer/Producer: LeAnne Howe (Choctaw)
Producer/Director/Cinematographer: James M. Fortier (Ojibway)
Narrator: Joshua Nelson (Cherokee)
Funding: Vision Maker Media
Searching for Sequoyah is the first documentary feature to chronicle the legendary accomplishments and mysterious life of the famed Cherokee Renaissance Man, Sequoyah.
1770 started as a common year, beginning on a Monday. That year, British explorer Captain James Cook was the first white man to reach Australia. On the other side of the globe, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette had just arrived at the French court, and Lexell’s Comet became the closest comet to ever pass by earth. In a decade of extraordinary events including the American Revolutionary War, Natives American tribes would witness great upheavals and profound cultural changes. 1770 or thereabouts also marked the birth of a Cherokee named “Sequoyah,” near the modern-day town of Vonore, Tennessee. His English father was George Guess, or Gist. This mixed blood Cherokee grew up to become the renowned Cherokee artist, warrior, diplomat and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. Sequoyah’s accomplishments are now legendary, almost mythic, among not only the Cherokee people, but across America.
While much is known about Sequoyah’s many accomplishments, very little is known about the man himself. The greatest mystery is not how he created the Cherokee syllabary, but rather the details of his final journey to Mexico and the circumstances surrounding his death. Sequoyah had spent much of his life living outside the boundaries of traditional Cherokee homelands. Why would an aging Cherokee risk his life to travel to Mexico and bring back Cherokees into the Cherokee Nation?
Searching for Sequoyah spans two countries and three Cherokee nations, leading viewers on a journey through the life and death of Sequoyah; his repeated travels from east to west, and his final expedition where he hoped to reunite the “Mexican Cherokee” with the Cherokee Nation after their 1830-35 removal to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. In Searching for Sequoyah viewers will discover him through the written language he created for the Cherokee people, through his descendants, on old cave wall writings in the Southeast, in modern books, in Cherokee art and even on a Smartphone app – woven throughout the fabric of history. As Cherokee scholar and author Daniel Justice has said, “In some ways, the search for Sequoyah is really a search for us.”
Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire
PBS Premiere: September 2006
Program Length: 87 minutes
Production Staff: Executive Producers: Carol Patton Cornsilk (Cherokee) & Frank Blythe (Cherokee/Dakota), Writer & Narrator: LeAnne Howe (Choctaw), Director of Photography: James M Fortier (Ojibway)
Production Company: NAPT
This documentary explores the challenges faced by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on their reservation in North Carolina. Through the eyes of Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe, we see how their fusion of tourism, cultural preservation, and spirituality is working to insure their tribe’s vitality in the 21st century.
Playing Pastime: American Indians, Softball & Survival
Program Length: 30 minutes
Production Staff: Written, Produced and Narrated by LeAnne Howe (Choctaw). Produced/Directed by James M. Fortier (Ojibway)
Production Company: Turtle Island Productions
Throughout the past centuries American Indians have fought genocide, negotiated issues of identity, and struggled against cultural assimilation while playing ball in the fields of their ancestors. Playing Pastime is the story of modern American Indians and their survival through the lens of ballgames by following Choctaw author and playwright LeAnne Howe home to Oklahoma, Indian Territory, to explore the little-known world of all Indian fast-pitch softball. Our story opens on a sweltering summer afternoon in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma. The sky in August is blazing orange and red as the images of Kiowa and Choctaw dancers blend with fast -pitch softball players under the lights at Red Warrior Park where tribal teams battle it out on the prairie diamond — just like their ancestors did in nineteenth century Indian Territory. Fast-pitch softball images dance across the screen in rhythm with Robert Mirabal’s musical refrain “ . . . it’s a manifestation of an ancient episode. It’s a manifestation of an ancient episode. Tell you why!”
Playing Pastime is a film about the love of the game, Indian-style. American Indian wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents and children of all ages play in the games. By telling their stories of sacrifice and survival, tradition and culture, tribes and teams, Playing Pastime presents a narrative exploration of what it means to be “Indian” in contemporary America, a society that has made us nearly invisible. Howe uses humor and intellectual curiosity to peel away the veneer of bats and balls, of hotdogs and fry bread, with one question on her mind, “Indians and softball?” This is the story of how modern day American Indians have adapted an American tradition as their own in an insightful and entertaining look at indigenous identity, the continuity of tradition, and cultural survival.
Noble Savage Learns to Tweet
Director: R. Vincent Moniz, Jr.
Animation and Voice: Jonathan Thunder (Ojibway)
Poetry: LeAnne Howe
Additional Music & Voice: Trevino Brings Plenty