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'Gather' Film Tells the Story of Native Americans Fighting for Food Sovereignty

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Photo courtesy of Illumine Running LLC

They have worked to restore salmon fishing rights in Northern California, to return buffalo to the prairie in South Dakota and to grow and sell healthy produce in Arizona. 

The stories of Native Americans fighting to regain their food sovereignty is highlighted in the 74-minute documentary “Gather: The Fight to Revitalize Our Native Foodways,” which can be viewed online through Thursday, December 3, via registration on the Forest Preserve District’s Event Calendar. A separate "Gather Film Discussion" program will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, December 5.

“We are very excited about being able to offer this beautiful, relevant film to our audience and hope that many people will take advantage of the option to view it for free,” said Tina Riley, facility supervisor at Isle a la Cache Museum

“At Thanksgiving time, many people are thinking about their own family food traditions, and it is the perfect time to view this film and learn about the growing movement among Native Americans to return to traditional foods and ways of growing, foraging, fishing, cooking and more,” Riley added. “The film is both inspiring and educational. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about food-related issues from the people who are working hard to positively impact current and future generations.”

The film tells the stories of individual Native Americans and the challenges and traumas they have overcome, and it shows them gathering berries and seeds, tending to a buffalo herd, and fishing for salmon on the Klamath River. The personal stories are interwoven with statistics about the genocide of Native Americans, and the millions of acres taken and buffalo killed during colonization.

At one point during the movie, Nephi Craig of the White Mountain Apache Nation tells a room filled with students that they may feel “uncomfortable” hearing the story of how the Native Americans were almost wiped out, but he asks them to not shut off, but to instead ask themselves “why?"


“Gather” shows that Native American groups and individuals are fighting to get their culture back and a healthier way of life. In regaining their food sovereignty, Native Americans are healing not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. The movie portrays the negative effects of removing Native American food sources – buffalo and salmon, for instance – and the creation of reservations that are food deserts with only gas station junk food fare available in some areas. 

The unhealthy living conditions and centuries of trauma have led to higher rates of diabetes, alcoholism, homicide and suicide among Native Americans. The statistics are put into historical context, and the Native Americans featured in the movie talk about how recapturing their ancestors’ ways has led to healing. 

It is important that these Native voices are heard, Riley said, and that is why the Forest Preserve is offering this free viewing of the movie. 

“We are working to extend our network into the Native community and collaborate with Native people for both programming and our staff’s ongoing education about Native culture,” she said. “The ‘Gather’ film is presented by Native people about issues facing them and their communities. It addresses historic and modern issues around food traditions, health and wellness."

One of the executive producers for the 2020 film is actor Jason Momoa, famous for many movie and television roles including “Aquaman,” “Game of Thrones” and “Frontier.” Momoa is of indigenous Hawaiian descent. 

Register for the film and discussion

After registering to see the film by December 3, a movie link and password will be emailed to you. The online "Gather Film Discussion" on December 5 requires a separate registration through Zoom. The Zoom discussion will be led by a Forest Preserve interpretive naturalist in a format similar to a book club discussion.


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