Pronunciation and Style Guide
Tahnaanooku' [phonetic: dat - naa - nou - ku]

Justin Deegan [spoken name]

Community Partner / Associate Producer
Jennifer Martel

A grandmother. A source of existence. A portal to other worlds. For thousands of years, the Indigenous Peoples of what is now known as North and South Dakota co-existed reciprocally with the Missouri River, its waters offering life while also inspiring legends and languages. In Tahnaanooku’, filmmaker Justin Deegan takes an experimental approach to the severing of this relationship between his community — the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara — and the river, the result of over 80 years of US government efforts to control the Missouri, including via the Garrison Dam.

Seen through the eyes of Deegan’s mother, Darline, Tahnaanooku’ intertwines past, present, and future, land and language, dreams and reality. The staunching of the Missouri contrasts with a fluid streak of horses, the diminished river currents interweave with the light of the aurora borealis. In dreams, Darline — a designer, activist, mother, and grandmother — receives messages from the original Mother, Earth itself. Meanwhile, the stark visual backdrop of the Garrison Dam offers an immovable reminder of the ruinous history of the Pick-Sloan Plan, deemed by legendary historian Vine Deloria Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux) to be ”the single most destructive act ever perpetrated on any tribe by the United States.” Glimpsed in ceremony, Darline (one of the last speakers of the critically endangered ancient Arikara language) offers care to a fellow grandmother and shares hope for the generations to come.

An artistic celebration of the environmental activism of Darline Deegan and her efforts to protect the land of her Indigenous community.

About Reciprocity Project
Reciprocity Project is a global storytelling movement supporting Indigenous creatives telling stories of hope, made within their communities, via film, photography, and podcasts.

Technical Specifications
TRT | 7 minutes
Aspect Ratio | 16:9
Format | Digital
Audio | 5.1
Languages | Arikara, English
Location | Tahnaanooku’ was filmed where the Missouri River meets the spillway of the Garrison Dam, on the homelands of the Mandan, Hidatsa, & Arikara Nation in present day North Dakota. [location pronunciation]


Director Biography
Justin Deegan is an enrolled member of MHA Nation, where TAHNAANOOKU’ was filmed. He identifies as Arikara, Oglala, and Hunkpapa. He is a cinematographer, photographer, and award-winning filmmaker. His work has screened at numerous festivals across Turtle Island, including Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Lumbee Film Festival, LA Skinsfest, the Phoenix Film Festival, and NatiVisions. Deegan’s work has shown on HBO, NBC, PBS, and the VICE Network, and has been featured in numerous publications, including Indian Country Today and Native News Online.

Justin is the founder of Thunder Revolution Studio, which follows this motto: "An Indigenous lens for an Indigenous narrative.” Justin both teaches filmmaker skills to Indigenous youth and works with Indigenous elders to document the oral histories of tribal nations. Justin is a fellow of the Newport FILM Cinematography Lab and was selected to participate in the Native American Media Alliance Unscripted Documentary Series.

Artist statement
This film is a representation of my dreams. It foretells of an interconnectedness between everything that is consciousness. As an Arikara family, we believe that our songs are our prayers, which transcend throughout the Arikara universe and materializes here on this physical plane.

Tahnaanooku’ simply means, “I’m singing.” However, the hidden meaning can best be described as, “I’m making a way.” Which, in and of itself, is key to the doorway of our belief in manifesting realities. This is my family's belief.

Goshtay (thank you).

About Reciprocity Project
In Season Two of this multimedia project, storytellers and community partners created films in response to a question: What does a 'return' to land, language, and reciprocal relationships mean to you and your community? Facing a climate crisis, the Reciprocity Project embraces Indigenous value systems that have bolstered communities since time immemorial. Reciprocity Project invites global Indigenous filmmakers to center Indigenous perspectives about the reciprocal relationship between all beings — seen and unseen — and the lands we inhabit.


Nia Tero is a US-based non-profit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide with a mission of securing Indigenous guardianship of vital ecosystems. Nia Tero is committed to an antiracist and inclusive culture centering Indigenous rights, wisdom, practices, worldviews, and protocols.

Upstander Project is a Boston-based non-profit that uses storytelling to amplify silenced narratives, develop upstander skills to challenge systemic injustice, and nurture compassionate, courageous relationships that honor the interconnection of all beings and the Earth. Upstander Project envisions a world rooted in responsibility and respect for all where upstanders confront injustice and repair harm to ensure all beings thrive together.

REI Co-op Studios develops and produces stories that entertain, enrich and explore the power of time spent outside, while complementing the co-op’s broader climate and racial equity, diversity, and inclusion commitments.




Coming Soon

For Series Credits please see the Season Two Press Kit

Zipped downloadable full press kit with photos will be available soon.


Website |

Social Media | @reciprocityproj | Instagram | Facebook

Podcast | Seedcast

Press Contact | Email us

Updated | May 15, 2024