ELCA presents ‘Native Nations’ on ABC

Chicago, Illinois (ELCA) 11-08

“Native Nations: Standing Together for Civil Rights” is a one-hour documentary exploring the role of the Lutheran church in the American Indian civil rights movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The program began airing Oct. 12 on ABC television network affiliate stations across the United States. Local stations may broadcast the program at various times and dates through December 2008.

Peter Coyote hosts “Native Nations,” which B&B Productions produced for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The project was in development for 18 months on locations including Albuquerque, Minneapolis and the Navajo Nation.

“Native Nations” is “a historical documentary of the Indian civil rights movement as viewed through the relationship between the Indian people on and off the reservation and the Lutheran churches,” said Syd Beane, co-producer, Minneapolis. It focuses on “the National Indian Lutheran Board and the various issues, activism and organizing events that took place over some 18 years,” he said.  Beane was a member of the National Indian Lutheran Board and served as its president.

“We’ve got a lot of historical footage and pictures of a lot of the people that were involved in those days,” said Frank Blythe, senior co-producer, Lincoln, Neb. “We talked with many of the actual participants who were involved in tribal recognition and sovereignty issues. It’s part of the story – the Indian health issues that were ongoing at the time of the ‘60s and ‘70s and the passage of the Indian Health care act,” he said.

“We’re at a time again when a lot of these issues are emerging related to health care, related to the environment, related to land and water and energy. These are all issues we deal with in the film,” Beane said.

Michelle Danforth, director and co-writer, Green Bay, Wis., said she has described the documentary to several people who had similar reactions: “I didn’t realize that the Lutheran Church was so involved with the Indian civil rights movement, and the impact that the Lutheran church actually had on the whole movement.”

Beane, Blythe and Danforth are Native Americans. ELCA Multicultural Ministries worked with ELCA Communication Services on the project. Funds from the ELCA Leadership Development Initiative paid the stipends of four interns “whose tasks were to do archival research, set up location sites and provide some camera work,” said Marilyn Sorenson, director, American Indian and Alaska Native Ministries, ELCA Multicultural Ministries. “Each intern is a student in a related field or in the Native Media and Technology Network.”

“Native Nations” is broadcast on ABC television stations through the ELCA’s relationships with the Interfaith Broadcast Commission and the National Council of Churches, USA. The Odyssey Networks provided some funding.


On the Net: www.ELCA.org/nativenations