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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Erin Smith

Advisor 2

Diane Shoos

Committee Member 1

Kette Thomas

Committee Member 2

Dorothy Christian


This dissertation centers on multiple Indigenous-directed documentary and experimental films directed by an emerging class of Indigenous storyworkers who are making space on the cinematic screen to increase society’s consciousness of Indigenous peoples and their stories. I focus on films produced between 2015-2022 from six Indigenous directors representing diverse Indigenous communities from within Canada and the United States: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Inuit), Christopher Auchter (Haida), Sarain Fox (Ojibwe), Sky Hopinka (Ho-chunk), Tasha Hubbard (Plains Cree), and Ciara Lacy (Native Hawai’ian). These Indigenous documentarians have been generating a dynamic wave of cultural productions that contribute to Indigenous knowledge production, enact and represent narrative sovereignty, strengthen Fourth Cinema’s presence within the broader filmmaking world, and counter or question perceived universal truths stemming from Eurocentric hegemonic thought. The collection of films contains overlapping themes of culture, family, community (an expanded notion of community) as well as demonstrate a reverence for Indigenous language, Indigenous voices, and ancestral memory.

To complete this study, I draw upon the guiding principles of Indigenous storywork (Archibald, 2008) and pair these principles with the practice of neurodecolonization (Yellow Bird, 2012, 2016, 2019) in order to synergistically prepare for and engage with the nine selected Indigenous-directed films. I call this combined approach a decolonizing cinematic engagement practice. I also reflect and remark on what it means to adopt a decolonizing cinematic engagement practice and offer it as a humble gift for Indigenous students. I assert that the pairing of Indigenous methodology with Indigenous method expands the breadth and depth of intellectual pathways and generates novel possibilities for students of documentary film as well as students of Indigenous studies. In alignment with these approaches, I present this dissertation through the overarching metaphor of the contemporary Indigenous powwow in order to provide Indigenous readers with culturally-specific directional signposts.