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Merrill College

'Imagining the Indian,' Documentary Co-Produced by Merrill's Kevin Blackistone, Appearing on Film Festival Circuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. – "Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting" -- co-produced by Kevin Blackistone, Professor of the Practice at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism -- won the Best Documentary prize at the Boston International Film Festival, and continues its film festival circuit by making its Washington, D.C., premiere at Filmfest DC.

The film will be screened Friday, April 29, at 6 p.m. at the Landmark E Street Cinema, Filmfest DC 2022 | Filmfest DC 2022 ( Following the screening, the directors and producers of "Imagining the Indian" will take part in a post-screening discussion of the film.

The film made its world premiere April 3 at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival.

"Imagining the Indian" is a comprehensive examination of the movement to eradicate the words, images and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive. While the filmmakers are encouraged by the recent changes made by the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Baseball Team, they realize that the fight against Native American mascoting is far from over.

The Kansas City NFL team, the Chicago NHL team, and the Atlanta MLB team remain adamant that they will not change their team names or practices, including the insidious Tomahawk/Arrowhead Chop. Additionally, close to 2,000 secondary schools throughout the country still have harmful Native themed mascots. "Imagining the Indian" seeks to shine a light on these harms.

Arizona rally against Native mascots in Phoenix, Arizona.
Arizona rally against Native mascots in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Changing the Washington Football Team’s name is long overdue, but the victory is only piecemeal until the other pro and amateur teams also choose new names," said co-director Aviva Kempner.

"And eradicating Native American mascoting will rid us of its perniciousness, which is that exposure to it is at the root of negative stereotyping and treatment of all people of color," Blackistone said.

The film is made possible by generous support from Executive Producers Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Co-Executive Producers Jessica and Steve Sarowitz.

Producer Kevin Blackistone, Mary Kathryn Nagle and Director Aviva Kempner
Producer Kevin Blackistone, Mary Kathryn Nagle and Director Aviva Kempner in Washington, D.C.

The film is Produced by the Ciesla Foundation, co-directed and co-produced by Kempner and Ben West (Cheyenne), and co-produced by Blackistone, Yancey Burns and Sam Bardley. Interviewees include Activist Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indian W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), USA Today Columnist Christine Brennan, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian Kevin Gover (Pawnee), U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), Historian Phil Deloria (Dakota), Washington Football Team Legend Charles Mann, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Broadcaster Bob Costas, The Star-Ledger sports columnist Jerry Izenberg and NAACP President Derrick Johnson, among many others.

For more information on "Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting," visit

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Fred Sternburg: / (303) 548 0707

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