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Witness
Homeland
A look at the complexities and realities of contemporary Native American life.
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2010 14:32 GMT

Filmmakers: Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson

Homeland tells the engaging story of some of the Lakota Indian families from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota - a place where 30 per cent of the people are homeless, 80 per cent unemployed and 60 per cent live in substandard housing.

The film weaves a portrait of a spiritual leader, a grandmother, a community activist and an artist over the course of three years, following them as they face the harsh realities common to most American Indian reservations - alcoholism, unemployment and scarce housing. With family loyalty, spiritual devotion and a keen sense of humour, they work to build a better life for their children and future generations.

The interviews and footage reveal a palpable yearning for self-reliance and personal freedom - from tribal corruption and governmental binds. For some families this freedom is a return to family land outside of town, far from government-built housing projects. For others, freedom means looking off the reservation for educational and employment opportunities.

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In the film we meet Michael Little Boy, a spiritual leader who helps lift his community with Lakota prayer. Living with his wife and seven children in a falling-apart shack, Michael - spurred on by a dream - looks to sources outside the expected. As a result, the Little Boys became the first family to receive a relocated military home.

Marian White Mouse believes that freedom is living in harmony with the earth, on land of one's own. But archaic laws mean those on the reservation are unable to own their land outright. Yearning for her children to run free in the fields, she and her husband hope to build a house in the country.

Thurman Horse, a young artist and father of four, struggles to raise his children in ghetto-styled cluster housing. He moves off the reservation to establish himself and find a better education for his children.

Filmmakers Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson say: "We wanted to encourage viewers to look at current realities of reservation life, which are virtually unknown and often very disturbing - severe poverty, homelessness, poor health, alcoholism. But within the harsh conditions of reservation life, you will always find an inspiring and incredible group of people striving to create a better future for their children."

In Homeland we hear voices from the reservation - native voices, seldom heard, that speak to commonalties and differences, and bridge the gap between American Indians and the rest of the world.

Homeland aired from Sunday, November 7, 2010.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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