American Indians hate film. The most feared person at any Native gathering is a person with a film or video camera. Tourists have to register their cameras at many reservations now or are requested to do so at pow wows. Anyone involved with film is suspect and Natives who help filmmakers are likely to be seen as quislings, traitors, selling out their own people. Film portrays American Indians as American playthings to be shot off horses, raped at night, left drunk at the curb and rendered helpless before new technology like guns. Nothing has dehumanized American Indians like film. Movie Indians have replaced real people in our popular understanding of America.
On the other hand, American Indians love film. The answer to Indian problems can be found in Indian control of film, or so goes the popular sentiment. The fulfillment of many Native dreams is to be on the big screen, to be recognized in the street as a film star, to make the movie that will set all things straight, to finally gain justice through the use of film. The most honored person at the pow wow, school night gathering or cultural festival is the American Indian actor or actress who attends. American Indians look to film acting as a higher calling than that of president of the United States: We have had only one Native U.S. senator during a time when whole generations of actors have become national icons.
I'm glad some people recognize the central role of film in shaping our perceptions of Indians. None of this "It's just entertainment" nonsense for them.