N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear - Jeffrey Palmer’s Director’s Statement

As a Kiowa filmmaker, I feel it is my duty to present my Kiowa people in the most compelling manner, visually and sonically. I also believe it is my duty as an Indigenous filmmaker to bring these stories to a larger audience in the most respectful and culturally sensitive manner. Much like N. Scott Momaday, I was a young Kiowa artist growing up in the shadows of the Wichita Mountains, dealing with issues of poverty, racism, and marginalization. I also experienced the triumphs of using art to maintain the stories of my people, a feeling of respect and honor that I will always present in my work. Specifically, I grew up in a Kiowa family that spent almost every weekend at powwows. My grandfather, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, father, and mother were all competition dancers. My grandfather, Gus Palmer, Sr. was commander of the Kiowa Black Leggings Society and a prominent member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan. Thus, I was always in the presence of Kiowa elders and listened closely to the stories they told. Telling the profoundly important story of N. Scott Momaday therefore, is more than a job for me — it feels like an important obligation that I owe to my family and my people.

I describe my filmmaking as a personal exploration of Native American “life” in twenty-first century America. Exploratory because of the great diversity of Indigenous people in the United States who continuously change and adapt their cultures on a daily basis. Rainy Mountain Media tries to achieve this unique aesthetic by documenting the perspectives and experiences within Indian Country focusing on the land, the creation of place, the diversity of people, the language, the music and the spiritual world. I also try to have substantive collaboration with the people I represent, forming a shared ethnography in the construction of knowledge and meaning within fiction and non-fiction projects. Furthermore, these collaborators are filmed in environments Native people recognize most, their homeland. For Indigenous people around the world, the connection to the land is of the utmost importance. I believe the land is a conduit of tribal memory, origin, creation, subsistence and worship. Rainy Mountain Media embraces the use of tribal language and music that is at the heart of present day tribal identity. For over a century Native Americans have been part of an intense ethnographic gaze. As a filmmaker, I am always aware that I might perpetuate this objectification. Utilizing thick soundscapes and dazzling visual storytelling, I hope to provide the audience with multiple views of the Indigenous experience that go beyond the blunt examination of the subject or their material culture.