My research trip officially ended at the beginning of this month, but I’ve hardly stopped thinking about it since. When I describe the project to people, they usually ask if it has anything to do with my concentration. At first, I told people it wasn’t really related, but I realize now that that’s not true. I’m not an anthropologist or sociologist, so this type of research seems a little out of left field for me, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with my life after graduation (which is coming up terrifyingly soon), and I realize that this research has everything to do with my dreams for my future.
When I envision what I want most for my career, it has everything to do with making changes in the film industry. I want to be part of the generation who changes the way people are represented on screen; namely, I want more people of color, more women, and more substantial roles for both. I think it would be irresponsible of me to throw myself into this industry, with this goal in mind, without doing everything I can to learn about and understand the people I want to represent. More crucially, I think the connections I’m making can be an important step in enabling people to represent themselves–I want to tell stories, but I think it’s more important that I use my privilege (and whatever clout I eventually hope to have) to pave the way for more people to tell their own stories.
Over the past month, I have spoken with members of the Lumbee, Creek, Cherokee, Shoshone-Bannock, and Navajo tribes, as well as with Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. There is so much more to say about everyone I met than I could ever describe here, but I think my biggest takeaway is that none of the people I met represented the experience of all indigenous Americans, or all members of their respective tribes. Of course, I didn’t expect that to be the case. I think few people would. So why do we accept that type of representation in popular media? With the voices and support of all the amazing people I met on my trip, I’m hoping to change that.