Young Filmmakers Capture Climate Change

Still shot from “Roots of Tradition”, Wisdom of the Elders, 2017 Community Inspiration Program Project

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) was honored to partner with Wisdom of the Elders’ (WOTE) and support its community collaboration project, the Native Youth Film Academy and Climate Change Film Festival. This project is NACF’s fifth Community Inspiration Program, which are artist-driven projects that address pressing social, cultural and environmental issues to bring about community conversations connecting Native and non-Native people.

Wisdom of the Elders’ Native Youth Film Academy provides documentary film production training to American Indian youth under the lens of environmental justice. Students learn production shoot, sound recording, lighting quality and editing skills. They also develop their own storyboards and learn how to conduct interviews. Each student then produces a short documentary film featuring climate and environmental issues impacting their tribal communities and ecosystems. They integrate narratives from tribal elders, leaders and scientists about observations of the changing and affected landscape. They also incorporate tribal oral history and address the impact of climate change on cultural arts and traditional art practices. For a sneak peek at their documentaries, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

This past summer, from June through August, Wisdom of the Elders trained nine Native youth ages 15-25 in climate film production. The initial training experience of the Native Youth Film Academy focused on video field production training. Trainers and students attended a Native Climate Summit in McCall, Idaho, organized by ATNI (Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians) and the Climate Impact Group from University of Washington. Students spent several days recording Native elders and scientists who attended and spoke at the Climate Summit — a unique and special opportunity for the youth.

After the Summit the group traveled back home and captured b-roll from their own Native communities to complement their preliminary production shoots. Trainers then worked with the youth to get their recordings transcribed so that the students could learn another aspect of video making—scripting their stories.

The last filmmaking step was held at Wisdom of The Elders’ own recording studio in Portland, Ore. , where they gathered to learn post-production editing and completed their 5-minute videos.

The Native Youth Academy project culminated with the screening of their short documentary films at a second Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians’ Climate Summit held in September in Tulalip, Wa. Additional screenings are being planned for another Native Climate Film Festival in April 2017 in Portland, Ore., as well as other Pacific Northwest locations in May, and in their own communities.

Wisdom of the Elders is an organization dedicated to recording and preserving traditional cultural values, oral history, prophecy and other messages of guidance from indigenous elders in order to regenerate the greatness of culture among today’s and future generations of Native peoples.
To learn more about the work and projects at Wisdom of the Elders, please visit their website at

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