American Native is a story of identity and the importance that race plays in determining cultural heritage. What began as a film about a misunderstood community that has existed in the mountains outside of New York City for three centuries has evolved into a quintessentially American story that examines the political, academic and social definitions of the term Native American.
According to the 2006 Federal Census, there are currently 4.5 million Native Americans living in the United States. Comprised of 566 federally recognized tribes, these various groups all hold “sovereign nation” status and interact with the Federal Government as any other foreign nation would. Along with the right to self-govern come certain social U.S. Government entitlements, including financial, medical and educational aid. The most lucrative and controversial benefit recognized tribes receive is the right to own and operate casinos on their land. Outside of the 566 federally recognized tribes who enjoy this coveted status, there are currently 119 other tribes, or approximately 1 million individuals, who are still fighting for this stamp of approval from the U.S. Government. One of those tribes is the Ramapough Lenape Indians.
Living just thirty miles from New York City, tucked away in the Ramapo Mountains, the Ramapough Lenape Indians are cast in the shadows of an ignorant urban legend and shunned by the dominant society around them. Known as the “Jackson Whites” by outsiders, they have occupied three communities in some of the most desirable and valuable undeveloped land outside of Manhattan for over 300 years. Labeled tri-racial isolates by anthropologists, the group exists today as a tribe of approximately 5,000 members and descends from three distinct heritages: early Dutch farmers who broke away from the New Amsterdam colony down the Hudson River, freed slaves who were some of the first African American landowners in our country’s history, and the Lenape Indians who supposedly sold Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 dollars worth of beads.
While the tribe acknowledges its mixed background, it is its claim of native ancestry that has been met with the most speculation and controversy from others. What is in question is the extent to which each of these bloodlines runs throughout the group and whether one of them outweighs the rest.
Since 1978 the group has repudiated the term Jackson Whites as a pejorative and have referred to themselves instead as the “Ramapough Lenape Nation,” believing they descend from the Lenape Indians who originally inhabited the area prior to European contact. Many, however, including the Federal Government, doubt the legitimacy of this claim and instead attribute the Ramapough’s heritage to merely a blend of Black and White races.
While pains associated with Native American history – the atrocities and cultural genocide practiced upon them by the Federal Government – are well-known, few people are aware of the federal recognition process and how those tribes who are on the outside of it feel just as dismissed, discriminated against and threatened today as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. American Native brings to light this issue, focusing on a specific group of Americans who feel the federal recognition process has not only failed them, but stripped them of their identity, their history, and – if they stop fighting for it – their future as well.
Run time: 78 minutes, Closed Captioned
Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.
DIRECTOR – STEVEN ORITT
Steven’s directing background began in music videos and documentaries where he worked with various artists such as Foo Fighters, Muse, OneRepublic and Paulina Rubio among others. Along with segueing into commercial work, Steven recently wrapped production on his second documentary feature “An Accidental Climber,” a look at one man’s attempt to become the oldest American to climb Mt. Everest in May of 2014. What ensued, however, was the worst disaster in mountaineering history, leaving sixteen climbers dead in a tragic avalanche.
PRODUCER – COREY BOBKER
Corey began his career in talent management at Michael Ovitz’ Artists Management Group and then at Jeff Kwatinetz’ and Rick Yorn’s The Firm. Corey was instrumental in creating and developing the new media units for both companies, negotiating interactive deals for clients and producing original web content. Taking what he learned from talent management, Corey opened his own interactive production house, providing content and overseeing on-line production for corporate clients such as Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony, Nickelodeon, LucasArts, Anheuser Busch, GE and Microsoft. Most recently, Corey has been serving as a producer on top-rated shows for ABC, MTV’s and Bravo.