Untold stories from the Native American Film & Music Festival at the St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Untold stories from the Native American Film & Music Festival at the St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley

Jennifer Nobles | Special to Prospector
Award-winning singer and songwriter Raye Zaragoza will perform as part of the Native American Film & Music Festival this weekend at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center.
Submitted photo to Prospector |


WHAT: Native American Film & Music Festival

WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

WHERE: St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, 410 S. Church Street, Grass Valley

TICKETS: $65 one day/$120 both days. In advance at http://www.brownpapertickets.com. Fundraiser for Indigenous Insight and KVMR.

INFO: KVMR.org or IndigenousInsight.org or by calling 530-265-9073.

Nevada County has seen an enthusiastic celebration this November of National Native American Heritage month.

Hot on the heels of last Saturday’s Nisenan Heritage Day, the Native American Film & Music Festival will commemorate its inaugural event this weekend at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley.

Jennifer Robin, president of Indigenous Insight Media and broadcaster/host of KVMR’s Resilience Radio, got the idea for the film and music festival last May after she viewed the feature documentary, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World.”

The film chronicles the role of Native Americans in popular music history and features many well-known artists.

Robin herself is a proud member of the Mississippi band of Choctaw and Cherokee, said, “It’s amazing — there are so many people in modern pop music who have been influenced by Native American musicians of the past.”

“I realized how many untold stories there are [from] Native history,” she said. “At first I thought I would do a film festival, and then I decided to put [musical] performances in between the films so you can kind of process what you just saw.”

Since then, she has been planning for the event; booking the venue, artists and filmmakers. Her nonprofit media group Indigenous Insight eventually paired with KVMR to promote the event.

“I feel really lucky to have that support from KVMR,” Robin said.

Celebrating culture

The overall purpose of the Native American Film & Music Festival, according to Robin, is “to bring deeper understanding of and awareness to the Native American experience, and also to celebrate the culture.”

She reminds patrons that the festival is also a fundraiser for both Indigenous Insight and KVMR.

“We founded Indigenous Insight to fund Native American projects,” Robin said. “Among other things, we want to put cameras in Native hands.

“If a non-Native walks on the res with cameras, people are going to freak out. But if it’s your cousin with the camera, it’s just talk among Natives. Different, important, layers of the story are inevitably going to come out.”

She said one of the main causes for which her organizations raises funds is that of providing Native American artists with equipment for and ultimately exposure of their work.

According to Robin, many Hollywood executives expect a certain “type” of Native American film or record, and are reluctant to fund those they aren’t certain will provide large financial returns.

The movie that sparked it all for Robin, “Rumble,” will be screened during the festival as well as a number of others which Robin said are “predominantly Native made-and-acted films.”

“The Indian experience is complex and layered, and it’s not an easy conversation,” she said. “With film, someone else gets to tell the story. We’re getting people in a space to be comfortable with the story. People don’t just want to be lectured … again.”

Other films being screened include the drama “Te Ata,” 2014s “Drunktown’s Finest,” and award-winning short “Under The Husk.”

Robin wants people to know that the festival will feature the finest in critically acclaimed films and music.

“This is high caliber stuff!” she said.

Hand picked

She carefully curated the lineup, and paired each movie with music of a similar theme, which will be performed live once the credits stop rolling.

The musical component of the festival is near and dear to Robin’s heart.

Through her involvement in Resilience Radio, she has become close with many of the musicians slated to perform and has interviewed nearly all of them for her weekly Thursday morning broadcast.

“These aren’t necessarily flute-bearing musicians,” she said. “We are making a point of showcasing many different aspects of the Native experience.”

Some of the performers who will take the stage include 7th Generation Rise, Feather River Singers, and California WorldFest favorite Raye Zaragoza.

The timing of the first Native American Film & Music Festival wasn’t accidental. It was important to organizers that it coincide with Native Heritage Month, and they hope to keep up the momentum built during the Nov. 11 commemoration of Nisenan Heritage Day.

The goal was for the two events to compliment rather than overshadow each other.

Of Nevada County, Robin said the Native American ties here run deep. “There’s a story here, in Nevada City and Grass Valley.”

The festival strives to provide an enriching experience for those seeking education or understanding.

“The stories can be painful and difficult, and a lot of people don’t know what to do with that discomfort,” Robin said. “The festival offers a different way of seeing things. People in Nevada County are hungry for honesty and truth and learning and growth — we’re trying to offer all that.”

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