By Jesse Bertel

The Natural History Institute presents a screening of “Gather: The Fight to Revitalize Our Native Foodways,” a feature-length film exploring the Indigenous food sovereignty movement, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at the Elks Theatre, 117 E. Gurley St., Prescott.

The film showcases individuals working to reclaim spiritual and cultural identities devastated by genocide, including an Indigenous chef on the Apache reservation and a Lakota high school student in South Dakota. The screening features opening remarks by Twila Cassadore, one of the film’s subjects. This event supports the Natural History Institute’s mission to connect people with the natural world through arts, sciences and humanities programming.

Director Sanjay Rawal spoke with Across the Street ahead of the screening of his film. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

What made you want to tell this story?

Well, I’m not Native American. My parents are from India. But I made a movie that came out in 2018, called “3100 Run and Become.” Half the movie was shot on the Navajo Reservation focusing on a Navajo runner named Shaun Martin. Out of that movie, a couple of Native friends asked me if I wanted to work with them on a film about Native American food issues. The term that they used was Native American food sovereignty. My experiences being an outsider in Indian Country showed me how important it is to have really close friends within communities that you’re making movies about. These friends of mine, who run a nonprofit out of Colorado called First Nations Development Institute, they kind of assured me that we would work on the project together. They would help me find stories. They would make the right types of introductions. Their work is spread across hundreds of tribal nations in the U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. They introduced me to some incredible folks in Arizona. That’s how the movie started.

What do you hope people will take away from watching this film?

The first aspect is, “What can Indigenous communities get from watching Gather?” We couldn’t, obviously, focus on every single Indigenous community in the U.S., but I think the issues of rebuilding traditional food systems and the kind of physical, cultural and spiritual practices that go along with that, those kind of core themes really resonate with Indigenous communities, whether or not they’re the ones featured in the movie.

For non-Indigenous folks watching the movie, I think it’s an insight into the way things were before Europeans first set foot on North America — the vibrancy of the food systems, the approach to harvesting and foraging and farming, thinking of Mother Earth as a partner, not as a resource. I think that especially for folks in Arizona, to see the array of foods that are featured in the movie will be eye opening.

Tickets are priced at $12 including fees. For more information about the Natural History Institute, visit www.NaturalHistoryInstitute.org.

For more information about the screening, call 928-777-1370, or visit www.prescottelkstheatre.org.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at jbertel@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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