Crime, poverty, and alcoholism have long been associated with “life on the rez,” but a group of Lakota students are showing that Native American culture is much more than the destructive media stereotypes would suggest. Students from Todd County High School on South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux Reservation recently created a short film, “More Than That,” to show that there’s more to their lives and their aspirations than the negative images the media portrays.
The student-produced film, shot in black and white, shows students acting as human protest signs, displaying words on their hands, arms and faces of what the Native American people really have to offer society and each other. Instead of crime, poverty, and alcoholism, students use words such as intelligence, humor, hope, creativity, and love to show their true selves. Student John Whirlwind Soldier directed the film, which was shot in the hallways, classrooms and gymnasium of the student’s high school. The students say the film was in response to a ABC “20/20” report about several young people living in dire conditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and struggling to overcome the odds stacked against them.
The students gained national attention when their film went viral on YouTube, and they were invited to attend the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools’ winter conference last week in Washington D.C. While in the nation’s capital, they also lobbied South Dakota’s congressional representatives for increases in funding for schools on American Indian reservations. The students know that with more federal aid, more kids will be able to show the nation they truly are “more than that.”