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The annual Sapaatk'ayn Cinema Native American Film Festival at the University of Idaho has been a showcase for Native Cinema on the Palouse since 2003. All films will screen at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in downtown Moscow, Idaho.

The word Sapaatk'ayn (suh-pot-kine) in the language of the Nimi'ipuu (Nez Perce) means "to open for display" or "a moving picture."

Sapaatk'ayn Cinema screens films written, directed and acted by Native Americans, with a focus on the contemporary Native experience. The festival’s goals are to enrich our understanding of Native American artistry, culture and history, and to improve intercultural relationships. Sapatq’ayn Cinema is sponsored by the University of Idaho American Indian Studies Program.

Links to UI American Indian Studies Website

Vandal Nation Drum

Top view of Vandal Nation Drum at the University of Idaho

Friday 6:30 PM — Opening Ceremony

Vandal Nation is comprised primarily of Native American Students from the University of Idaho.The drum group has performed traditional music for the opening ceremony of Sapaatk'ayn Cinema since its formation in 2009 under the leadership of Steven Martin, the former director of the UI Native American Student Center.

Plateau Native Beadwork

Spirit in Glass: Plateau Native Beadwork
This documentary film provides a rare opportunity to experience Plateau culture through the eyes and hearts of the artists themselves. Narrated by Nez Perce storyteller Nakia Williamson, the film focuses on bead artists from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama Reservations.

The beading tradition is deeply woven into the fabric of family life. Traditionally made by Grandmothers to be given to family members and trading partners, contemporary artists are continuing and expanding the tradition.

Master bead artists Maynard White Owl Lavadour explains “Spirit Circles” are his contribution for his generation. Brigette Scott shows the cradleboard she made for her daughter, “to surround her in beadwork so that one day she may be a great bead artist.” Nakia Williamson tells us the beadwork held within the families carries special meaning, “they truly are our history.” Warm Springs artist Rose Scott tells us, “In the Indian way, when you give that special piece, it’s a way to heal your heart.” The interviews are intercut with dances, parades, rodeo and celebrations, showing how the beadwork functions within the community.
(Running Time: 30 min)

LaDonna Harris: Indian 101

This film chronicles the life of Comanche activist and national civil rights leader LaDonna Harris and the role that she has played in Native and mainstream American history since the 1960s.

Harris’s activism began in Oklahoma, fighting segregation and assisting grassroots Native and women’s groups. In Washington, LaDonna introduced landmark programs and legislation returning territory to tribes, improving education and healthcare for Native Americans, ending job discrimination against women, and targeting other pressing issues of the time.

Harris presented her course, “Indian 101” to legislators for three decades as a means to combat ignorance about America’s most marginalized population. This film uses interviews, archival footage and photographs, to showcase one of the most important women leaders in Native American and U.S. history.
(Running Time: 63 min)

Free Admission To All Screenings

The Orphan and the Polar Bear

According to Inuit oral history, animals had the power of speech, could shift their appearances, and could even assume human form. In The Orphan and the Polar Bear, a neglected orphan is adopted by a polar bear elder. Under the bear's guidance, the little orphan learns the skills he will need to survive and provide for himself.

This story has been shared for generations in the High Arctic. It begins with a picture of the hardships of life when you don’t have a family. However, the story quickly changes to one of survival, kindness and hope. As we explore this traditional Inuit folktale, we move across snowy winter landscapes of the lands at the top of the world.

The Orphan and the Polar Bear is a story filled with magic, and it provides a glimpse of the traditional beliefs of Inuit people. In this world, many of the ancient animals lived as Inuit did. As well, these beings could assume human form whenever they wished. But, just as the world climate is changing and the ancient glaciers are melting, these stories are being forgotten. The Orphan and the Polar Bear is a celebration of these old memories.  

(Running Time: 9 min)

Raven Tales

Raven Tales is series of 26, half-hour, CGI (Computer-Generated Imaging) animated television programs, targeted at school-age children and their families to introduce native Aboriginal folklore in a humorous and entertaining way. They tell the stories of the adventures of Raven, the most powerful deity of Aboriginal mythology.

Each episode focuses on a new Raven Tale (or one that is introduced by Raven) that has been adapted from the folklore of many Aboriginal nations. The pilot episode, "How Raven Stole the Sun," was adapted from a popular Haida myth, but has elements of Salish and Kwakiutl, while others episodes have been adapted from Cree, Salish, Nisgaa, Comanche, Navaho and other Native American stories.

(Running Time: 90 min)

We Shall Remain

WE SHALL REMAIN is a music video created to address the effects of historical trauma in our tribal communities. Many times, these untended wounds are at the core of much of the self-inflicted pain experienced in Native America. Much like fire, this pain can either be devastatingly destructive or wisely harnessed to become fuel that helps us to rise up and move forward in life with joy, purpose and dignity.

(Running Time 6 min)


Injunuity is a collage of reflections on the Native American world, our shared past, our turbulent present, and our undiscovered future. From Columbus to the western expansion to tribal casinos, we are taught that the Native way, while at times glorious, is something of the past, something that needed to be replaced by a manifest destiny from across the ocean. But in a world increasingly short of real answers, it is time we looked to Native wisdom for guidance. It is time for some Injunuity.

(Running Time: 90 min)


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Skin Stories

Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tatto
For centuries, various arts of tattooing have graced the bodies and satisfied the souls of the aboriginal peoples of Oceania. The vast majority of what we know today about these ancient arts has been passed down through legends, songs, and ritual ceremonies. The roles, techniques and motifs of the arts of tatau, moko, and uhi have continued to exist for over 2,000 years. The oldest of these traditions is in Samoa, and the youngest is in Aotearoa/Te Waipounamu. However, every Polynesian culture had similar traditions. In Tahiti, the Arioi, a class of professional entertainers, used tattoos (tatau) to mark the various ranks and status within their troupes. In fact, within the islands currently known as French Polynesia (the Society, Tuamotu, Austral, Gambier and Marquesas groups), the individual island groups or even individual islands had unique designs. Thus, it was possible to identify a person's origins based on their tattoos. Unfortunately, while Tonga once had a strong tradition of tattoo (tatatau), the missionary presence of the 19th century completely extinguished the art. In Rapanui, tattoos (ta') were used extensively as well, although not much is known by the outside world today about their meanings or usages.

(Running Time: 57 min)


The year is 1984, and on the rural East Coast of New Zealand “Thriller” is changing kids’ lives. Inspired by the Oscar nominated Two Cars, One Night, BOY is the hilarious and heartfelt coming-of-age tale about heroes, magic and Michael Jackson. BOY is a dreamer who loves Michael Jackson. He lives with his brother ROCKY, a tribe of deserted cousins and his Nan. Boy’s other hero, his father, ALAMEIN, is the subject of Boy’s fantasies, and he imagines him as a deep sea diver, war hero and a close relation of Michael Jackson (he can even dance like him). In reality he’s “in the can for robbery”. When Alamein returns home after 7 years away, Boy is forced to confront the man he thought he remembered, find his own potential and learn to get along without the hero he had been hoping for.

(Running Time: 90 min)

Ryhmes For Young Ghouls

Eye-catching feature about a teenage Aboriginal revenge-seeking drug-dealer.

Red Crow Mi'g Maq reservation, 1976: By government decree, every Indian child under the age of 16 must attend residential school. In the kingdom of the Crow, that means imprisonment at St. Dymphna's. That means being at the mercy of "Popper", the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school.

At 15, Aila is the weed princess of Red Crow. Hustling with her uncle Burner, she sells enough dope to pay Popper her "truancy tax", keeping her out of St.Ds. But when Aila's drug money is stolen and her father Joseph returns from prison, the precarious balance of Aila's world is destroyed.

Her only options are to run or fight... and Mi'gMaq don't run.

(Running Time: 88 min) Adult Content

Film Festival Schedule
Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre - Moscow, Idaho

Friday - March 27

6:30 PM — Ceremonial Opening — Vandal Nation
7:00 PM — Spirit In Glass: Plateau Native Beadwork (30 min)
7:30 PM — LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 (63 min)

Saturday - March 28

1:00 PM — The Orphan and the Polar Bear (9 min)
1:10 PM — Raven Tales (90 min)
2:40 PM — We Shall Remain (6 min)
2:50 PM — Injunuity (30 min)
3:25 PM — Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo (57 min)
4:40 PM — Boy (90 min)
7:30 PM — Rhymes For Young Ghouls (88 min) Adult Content

Contact Information

Photo of Dr. Jan Johnson at the University of IdahoSAPAATK'AYN CINEMA NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL is produced by Jan Johnson, faculty member of the University of Idaho English Department.
For more information, contact:

Dr. Jan Johnson
American Indian Studies/English
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83844-1102

208.882.0109 (cell)