Courtesy of Renan Ozturk

On Oct. 11, the Association of Native Americans at Yale and the Yale School of the Environment co-hosted the screening of the movie “Gather: The Fight to Revitalize Our Native Foodways.” The screening was held over Zoom and open to anyone interested.

“Gather” follows the stories of Chef Nephi Craig of the White Mountain Apache Nation, Elsie Dubray of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation and environmental activists of the Ancestral Guard and Yurok Nation. Through their stories, “Gather” reflects how the growing Indigenous movement utilizes food sovereignty to reclaim their spiritual, cultural and political identities to gradually heal from generations of trauma.

“We made this film as a tool for organizations working within food sovereignty: to be able to effectively communicate their intentions, inspire their audiences in Indian Country and expand the scope of their work,” said Sanjay Rawal, director of “Gather.” “At the same time, the history of farming in the United States has been one of appropriation … It’s really important for us to create space for BIPOC farmers to proclaim their role as effective stewards of the land, and to begin helping modern agriculture reframe its entire relationship from extractive to stewardship.”

Through the release of his first documentary “Food Chains” in 2014, Rawal gained insight into the importance of food-based community actions. In 2016, the non-profit First Nations Development Institute — an organization centered around providing assistance to Native communities — contacted Rawal, asking him to develop a film about Native sovereignty. In January 2017, planning and research for the movie formally began. Filming commenced later that fall and the film’s final scenes of the film were shot in January 2020.

The decision to screen “Gather” at Yale was based upon many different factors such as the film’s connection with Yale on both a personal and a story-telling level. A brief part of the film showcases the Ancestral Guard’s speech when they were invited to present at YSE. 

Additionally, Executive Producer Michael Roberts’ daughter Evan Roberts ’23 — both Roberts are Tlingit — was interested in hosting the screening of the movie with ANAAY.

“It was a confluence of us having filmed at YSE and Evan’s interest in doing a screening at Yale with an ANAAY, that brought this all into fruition.” Rawal said.

Rawal, Roberts and Taylor Rees ENV ’14, three members of the creative team involved with “Gather,” hosted a 30-minute Q&A session before the screening. Following the screening, ANAAY President Meghanlata Gupta ’21 (Bahweting Anishinaabe/ Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) and Co-Bonding Coordinator Evan Roberts moderated an hour-long panel hosting Catherine Webb ’22 (Cherokee), Aja Decoteau ENV ’07 (Yakama) and current Stanford undergraduate and film character Dubray. The panelists answered a wide array of questions, speaking about the ways in which the film resonated with them and on how allies can support the Indigenous movement.

“Something I was thinking about while I was watching the film is just how valuable these types of films and just the efforts that were shown in the film are for our Indigenous youth,” Gupta said. “Growing up myself, I feel like I didn’t really see that kind of representation in big films like this. And now, to see the kind of a documentary film that’s focusing on youth who are really doing amazing work, and revitalizing ancestral traditions, and cooking with Native food, and farming and really just growing a relationship with the land — I think that’s the part that really makes me feel just really excited for the future.”

This screening is just one of the many events that ANAAY is planning on hosting throughout the year to celebrate and acknowledge Native history and culture. Other events include releasing a video on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Oct. 12, and hosting a series of speaking events during November, the Native American Heritage Month. 

Still, the University — as well as other institutions across the nation — has a long way to go in “centering Black and Indigenous voices and our studies,” Gupta said.

“[The University] needs an Indigenous studies program, which people at ANAAY and the NACC have been fighting for and advocating for a long time,” Roberts said. “Part of that includes hiring more Native faculty and giving more support to faculty who teach Native studies. I can’t speak for all BIPOC students, but for Indigenous students specifically, I think that is a big goal of ours at Yale.”

The film “Gather: The Fight to Revitalize our Native Foodways” can be viewed on iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo On Demand.

Kerui Yang | kerui.yang@yale.edu