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Indigenous Film Guide: Welcome

This guide was created to help find films by Indigenous creators and to find reviews and scholarship about Indigenous film.


Two native women standing in a field with clouds above them


Welcome! CU Librarians created this guide to help our community find films by Indigenous creators, connect to Indigenous film scholarship, reviews, and criticism.

(Still image from the film Crying Earth Rise Up by Suree Towfighnia & Debra White Plume)

This guide contains:

Resources in this guide focus on North and Latin America and include some additional Indigenous films from around the world.

Who are Indigenous Peoples?

There are many ways of identifying Indigenous peoples, with overlapping and evolving terms such as Indigenous, aboriginal, first nations, traditional, and native people in addition to specific terms based on geography or ethnic or cultural group. "Indigenous is both a legal term, and a personal, group, and pan-group identity" (Steeves, 2018). There are thought to be more than 370 million Indigenous people from at least 4,000 distinct groups spread across 70 countries (Steves, 2018; United Nations, n.d). Indigenous peoples are descended from "those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement, or other means" (United Nations, n.d). In 2007, 148 nations ratified the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that affirms human dignity and self-determination for Indigenous peoples.

Some sample ways of identifying indigenous people suggested by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples include:

  • "Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.
  • Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
  • Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
  • Distinct social, economic or political systems
  • Distinct language, culture and beliefs
  • From non-dominant groups of society
  • Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities."

Experiences of Indigenous People in Film

Indigenous groups and peoples have many unique experiences, and some shared themes may be found across some groups, such as a history of resistance to colonizing forces that aimed to annihilate, displace, oppress, enslave, or force Indigenous people to acculturate (Wilson, Hearne, Cordova, & Thorner, 2017). Historical and ongoing trauma from these experiences may include the loss of land and language, and historical and ongoing violence and discrimination, including gender-based violence.

Films by and about Indigenous peoples may center on themes of land, interdependence, cultural revitalization, community, self-determination and resistance, human and environmental rights, impacts of historical trauma, and artistic expression, among many other themes.


Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2014). An indigenous people's history of the United States. Beacon Press.

Steeves, P.F. (2018). "Indigeneity" in Oxford Bibliography of Anthropology. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0199. 

United Nations. (2008). Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. United Nations.

United Nations. (n.d.) "Who are indigenous peoples?" United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Wilson, R., Hearne, J., Cordova, A., & Thorner, S. (2017). "Indigenous Media" in Oxford Bibliography of Cinema and Media Studies. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791286-0229

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Linds Roberts
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