Here is new MAGPS member, Anisley Valdes,’ interview with Lenore Pomerance about the upcoming MAGPS Cinema Series movie, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.”
Anisley: I loved this documentary. Why do you think our members should watch this movie?
Lenore: The Cinema Series presenters have brought us movies that taught us something about people that we didn’t know much about. We have had movies from many different cultures: Iranian, South Asian Indian, Japanese, Palestinian, Egyptian, Mongolian, and movies with African American and LGBTQ themes. This is our first focusing on Native Americans. “Rumble” is a new documentary that grew out of an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the Native American entitled, “ “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture.” Rumble was created by two Canadian film makers, Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana. Bainbridge was a producer of another documentary, “Reel Injun” which depicted Hollywood’s negative images of Native Americans throughout the last century.
Anisley: I learned from the film that in the early 1900s there were laws banning Indians from using drums.
Lenore: Yes, Native religions, ceremonies, and rituals were banned in order to kill Native culture which was seen as heathen (non-Christian) and savage. Cultures create music to celebrate, bind, comfort and heal the community. The way you kill a culture is to kill the music, kill the spiritual leaders, and drumming was critical to Indians gathering together. There have been movies, books, and articles about how our dominant culture worked to marginalize indigenous tribes both physically and psychologically. For example, children were taken to boarding schools forcing them to blend into the “American” culture. It’s another irony that “drumming” and making native style drums is now very new age!
Anisley: Yeah, the drum circle in DC comes to mind.
Lenore: Where did drums come from in North America? The Native Americans, who were already here, and the African Americans who were brought here as slaves.
Anisley: Who’s story impacted you personally?
Lenore: Buffy Saint Marie’s. I grew up with her music. She had a signature way of singing. Her music and the way she portrayed herself made it very clear that she was Indian. She influenced many musicians that came after her. She was an advocate for Native Americans, and for women. Then suddenly you didn’t hear from her anymore. Her interview in the movie really moved me.
Anisley: How do you think the movie reflects the issues that mixed race Americans continue to face in our nation?
Lenore: In many ways. So many of the musicians were multi-ethnic/multi-racial: different combinations of African-American, Native-American, and European-American. As Robbie Robertson reports, “There was this key expression, ‘Be proud you’re an Indian but be careful who you tell.’” It also portrays the ways in which Native Americans were treated by both American colonists and even the Mexicans. They were persecuted. They tried to mix with Black Americans and Mexicans to avoid being killed. Today, we see many immigrants and nonwhite people persecuted and discriminated against because of their race.
Anisley: We are starting to see a lot more issues involving race and division popping up with White nationalism, how can what people in the movie went through inform us about what we can do to not silence people?
Lenore: We have to be informed, and when we are informed, then we have to use our voice and help give a voice to discrimination. Documentaries like this one do that so well. They help us see the not so pretty stories and learn about ways we can speak up.
Anisley: Music is a form of healing for many people, including myself. How do you think the movie embodies the way in which people use music to heal the wounds that racism causes?
Lenore: That’s a beautiful question, to which they are so many answers. Social and political movements use music to protest, and to heal. Think of all the music that came out of the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the ’60s and ’70s! I know there is music coming out about today’s social justice, climate change, anti-gun, issues. I can name two, Michael Franti’s “It’s Good to be Alive Today,” and the songs of the versatile Rhiannon Giddens who recreates folk, spiritual, and protest songs from her combined traditions as an African-American, Native-American, and European-American.
When I think of American music and how it has evolved, I think about the ways in which it brought people together. In this film we learn that Native Americans paved the way for the many musicians that we all grew up listening to. They played with their soul; as kids integrated in the schools, many picked up the electric guitar. Sadly many were preyed upon because they were Native Americans. Early colonists managed to kill off the Native Americans before we even heard their music. The Pilgrims used them for their resources, then killed them. Kids these days don’t learn about that in school. Native Americans laid the foundation of American Music, and that’s evident in Rumble; every culture that has come here, all the immigrants, have laid their music on top of the foundation created by Native Americans.
Anisley: And Americans not acknowledging that!
Lenore: Right, and as Stevie Salas, a Native American musician of Apache origin and executive producer of the movie says, “Figuring out that many of these people were Indian, and then we started to ask, why didn’t anyone know that?”
Anisley: How does this movie reflect issues that are important to us as group therapists?
Lenore: In many ways! There couldn’t be more of a theme in this movie about groups, starting with who belongs and who doesn’t, whose identity is hidden and why, and who cannot hide their identity but must live with the negative projections placed on them. Then there’s the toxic issue of scapegoating which is so virulent in our country today.
Anisley: Lenore, I’m looking forward to sharing this movie with our Cinema Series moviegoers. See you on Saturday, October 5.
Lenore: Me too! And our cooks are looking into indigenous cuisine! Please all, check www.magps.org for all the particulars of time and place.