One of the highlights of the meeting was an interactive panel discussion between the members of the Joint Diversity Advisory Council and invited leaders from the Native American community, including Chief Apesanahkwat, Chief Dan Jones and three JDC members.
"Our history is your history, part of American history," said Nichole Maher, a panelist, member of the JDC, the former executive director for the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) and current President of the Northwest Health Foundation.
Despite the growing indigenous population, the panelists talked about how their tribes are still grappling with a number of issues, including the lack of roles for Native Americans in the news media and entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera.
"When I talk to young children in elementary school, I see kids dropping out [young]," said Sonny Skyhawk, a panelist, member of the JDC and Chairman of the American Indians in Film & Television. "I talk to them and ask them why they don’t want an education. They say, ‘I don’t see myself as part of mainstream society; I don’t see myself on TV or people who look like me.’ I intend to change that."
Also on the panel was Bird Runningwater (pictured), a new member of the JDC and Director of the Native American and Indigenous Program at the Sundance Institute, who stressed the importance of presenting not only images of Native Americans on television and in movies, but ensuring the images provide an accurate depiction of Native American history and culture.
The Sundance Institute, founded in 1981, established a new platform for aspiring filmmakers to foster independence, discovery and diverse perspectives in American film. Today, the Institute remains committed to supporting Native American artists. Watch the history of Sundance in the video above and its significance in the Native American community.