Like millions of indigenous people, many Native American tribes do not control their own material history and culture. For the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes living on the isolated Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, new contact with lost artifacts risks opening old wounds but also offers the possibility for healing. What Was Ours is the story of how a young journalist and a teenage powwow princess, both of the Arapaho tribe, traveled together with a Shoshone elder in search of missing artifacts in the vast archives of Chicago's Field Museum. There they discover a treasure trove of ancestral objects, setting them on a journey to recover what has been lost and build hope for the future. MORE
When Jordan Dresser returned to Wind River after graduating from college, he began working at the casino on the reservation. He was excited when the casino expressed interest in establishing a museum on the premises to tell the stories of the Shoshone and Arapaho, but was surprised to learn the tribes no longer had possession of many of their own artifacts. These objects — drums, pipes, eagle wing fans, medicine bags, weapons, and ceremonial attire — were sold off decades ago and taken far from home, only to be kept in storage, their sacred meanings slowly being lost to time. Most were located in museum collections around the country. Both Jordan and Mikala SunRhodes, a Shoshone high school student interested in her cultural history, wondered, could Wind River get them back?
They pair up with Philbert McLeod, a Shoshone elder and American military veteran whose last trip off the reservation was when he left to fight in Vietnam, where he nearly died. Philbert believes an old beaded charm passed down by an elder helped him survive combat. Reluctant to make the trip at first, he decides to travel with Jordan and Mikala because he and other elders want Wind River’s young people to know who they are and be inspired to bring the artifacts home. But ultimately it may be a local church that holds in its hands the fate of Wind River's sacred objects and tribal dreams of a museum of their own.
Emmy award-winning independent filmmaker Mat Hames is based in Austin, Texas. Mat’s feature documentary, When I Rise, about African American mezzo-soprano and civil rights icon Barbara Conrad, premiered at SXSW and internationally at HotDocs. It was also featured on Independent Lens. After playing in 10 festivals in the US, the UK, and Canada, the film was nominated for an IDA Documentary Award. Prior to When I Rise, Mat directed the 2008 documentary Fighting Goliath for Robert Redford’s Sundance Preserve. It was the official selection of 12 film festivals, awarded the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Best Documentary Short at the Red Rock Film Festival, and the Golden Sun at the Barcelona Festival Internacional de Cinema del Medi Ambient. In 2006, Mat was knighted by the King of Belgium for drawing attention to the efforts of the Belgian Resistance during World War II in his first PBS film Last Best Hope. Mat's short doc Austin Revealed played as part of the Faces of Austin SXSW Showcase in 2014. He’s the co-founder of Alpheus Media, a film company in Austin, and is on the Board of Directors for Lights, Camera, Help! LESS