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Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities Joins in Supporting Native Storytelling

Media Contact:

Suzanne Winchester
Associate Director of Public Affairs, University of Utah Health

Together with the Utah Humanities, U of U Health sponsored a reception, panel discussion, and screening of dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path, which premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. The film shares the story of Jenna Murray, Eastern Shoshone and second-year MD/PhD student at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah, and her powerful journey to reconnect with her tribal lands and ancestral past on the way to becoming a healer and a scientist.

More than 100 people gathered to connect and learn through themes of love, loss, recovery, reconnection, strength, and empowering Indigenous voices. The panel, moderated by Shelly Lowe, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, consisted of filmmakers Alex Lazarowich (Winding Path) and Julian Brave NoiseCat (Sugarcane), Adam Piron of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, and Jenna Murray.

A man with a microphone speaks to a room full of people.

“As Utah’s state humanities council, we at Utah Humanities were thrilled to co-sponsor this event and spend time with Chair Lowe of the National Endowment for the Humanities,” says Jodi Graham, Utah Humanities Executive Director. “Her visit underscores the power of the humanities in our everyday lives, and her support of Indigenous voices is both timely and timeless.”

Four people listening to a woman holding a microphone.

Each panelist talked about the stories they endeavored to tell and the stories of other artists they are passionate about. Murray, the subject of Winding Path, highlighted the work of the NARI Program (Native American Summer Research Internship), which had a deep impact on her own journey.

NoiseCat spoke on the difficult themes of his film Sugarcane, which tells the story of Indian boarding schools in Canada. Through his film, he hopes audiences in the United States will take time to learn about American Indian boarding schools.

Director Julian NoiseCat discusses his movie SUGARCANE

Piron reflected on the small Indigenous film community and what a joy it is getting to work with everyone. "We all know each other," he said, expressing gratitude about uplifting his friends and community.

Four people standing in a group talking.

A resounding theme of the night was funding. Lazarowich encouraged the audience to “donate your money to support Indigenous artists and organizations like Sundance Indigenous Program, COUSIN COLLECTIVE, and NARI.” When asked about the best way to support Native voices and storytelling in addition to monetary donations—or when they are not possible—Piron responded, “Just take in the material. Read the books, watch the movies, familiarize yourself with the stories of so many Native people like Jenna. Share Indigenous movies like Sugarcane and Winding Path with your friends and family.