2022 | Trailer 1 MIN.
(What They’ve Been Taught)
Brit Hensel and Keli Gonzales (Cherokee Nation)
Filmed on the Qualla Boundary and Cherokee Nation, ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life through a story told by an elder and first language speaker. ᎤᏕᏲᏅ circles the intersection of tradition, language, land and a commitment to maintaining balance. This film was created in collaboration with independent artists from both Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Critical acclaim for this film
"Brit’s film is a beautiful meditation of sound and space, expressing her people’s reciprocal relationship to the natural worlds that they exist in."
- Sterlin Harjo
MORE ABOUT THIS FILM & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
It is important to us that this film included the perspectives of western and eastern Giduwa (Cherokee) people. Although our communities are separated by distance, our collaboration on this film offers a balanced perspective of what reciprocity means to our people and how it’s actualized in our lives. This film was brought to life by a team of all Giduwa people, in front of and behind the camera, and was shot on lands that have shaped us.
Today’s Cherokees are organized into three federally-recognized tribes: Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. As with most of the films in this series, language is conveyed as an integral part of how Indigenous peoples interact with the land through culture and their distinct worldviews to enact reciprocity. Tom Belt demonstrates how embedded in the Cherokee language are worldviews for which concepts often do not have easy translations into English. For instance, the fact that there is no word for art, and that the idea of creating something with its source in the natural world means that the artist is not creating something new, but simply remaking that material into something else. “Art” is thus both a medium for creative cultural expression and that which connects humans to the natural world through the transformation of natural materials into what we call art.
Tom also shares another key perspective, that the world does not belong to humans. He tells us the ownership of the world belongs to those who came before humans, making humans merely guests who have “to be as careful and responsible as we can be.”
This film further exposes how gratitude and gifting are intertwined as necessary ingredients of reciprocity. Did you notice in the beginning of the film the offering of tobacco as the tree was taken so the masks could be made? In American Indian cultures the offering of tobacco is an almost universal element of thanksgiving. Other things could be given as an offering as well. By assuming responsibility and respect for what is being taken, the offering constitutes an act of reciprocity and gratitude.
- What did you learn about the Cherokee perspectives and values you saw in this film?
- What do you think is the meaning of the following statements made by the film’s narrator?
- You are making it into a thing, you are not making a thing
- Real human beings don’t do that
- We are here as guests
- According to the film’s narrator, what do human beings need to be reminded of with every cycle of the moon?
- What response did you have to the masks that appeared at the beginning and end of the film? What questions do you have about Cherokee masks?
- What is the difference between the way tobacco is used in this film and the way tobacco is commonly used by non-Native people?
- For information about the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes
- Epidemics and Cherokee Resiliency (OsiyoTV) (beginning at 1:46)
- Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: Prayer and the Spiritual in Health Ways (seminar by Tom Belt)
- To learn more about Cherokee Booger masks, see Booger mask history:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKjyqDyeLKw (Presented by UKB artist and mask maker, Roger Cain).
- Cherokee Nation CCO Cultural Presentation Booger Masks with UKB mask maker, Roger Cain:
- INFINITY OF NATIONS: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian
- Cherokee Dance and Drama, Frank Gouldsmith Speck
Behind the scenes
John Henry Gloyne and his son Elwood Gloyne sitting at desk holding a booger mask mid-carving.
Blake Brown filming a booger near waterfall on bridge.
Brit Hensel interviewing Tom Belt.
Brit Hensel giving direction to Blake Brown and Nick Buttram during filming of booger scene.
Nick Buttram films Elwood Gloyne as he colors at his desk.
Tom Belt as he sits in front of the camera during an interview.