Native Lens
It is time to Tell Our Stories

Native Lens teaches digital filmmaking and media skills to indigenous youth as a form of self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change. We believe in Native youth telling their own stories about life, culture, and community, and understand the power of this process to change peoples’ lives. Native Lens is engaged in strong partnerships with multiple tribes and Native organizations/schools to offer on-going workshops to Native youth both on and off reservations. In addition we offer consultations and workshops for teachers, schools, and organizations interested in utilizing digital storytelling and youth media in their community.

Native Lens’ inception was sparked due to the absence of present-day indigenous experiences and perspectives in the media. For far too long Native Americans have been given no choice in the media except to repeatedly enact stereotyped roles, or to remain silent and unseen altogether. We believe this perpetuates violence, hopelessness, and low self-esteem among Native youth, in addition to misperceptions and racism among non-Native people. By teaching digital filmmaking and media literacy to Native young people we are encouraging them to reclaim their own images, and tell stories that only they can tell.

“The world needs to see us in the way we see ourselves, our youth are the future. Finally we are taking control of our voice and the images of who we are as Native people by teaching them the skills to create our own media. Longhouse Media and Native Lens are important for this reason.”
--Adam Beach (Smoke Signals, Wind Talkers, Flags of our Fathers)


Native Lens at Puyallup

Native Lens is partnering with Helping Hands from the Puyallup Tribe’s Kwawachee Health Center to offer a series of on-going workshops in digital filmmaking for tribal youth. Participants are learning everything from camera technique to sound, editing, directing, and scriptwriting. Pieces currently in production include: “Paddling to the Future,” a youth documentary on the 2008 canoe journey from Puyallup to Cowichan, “My World,” a powerful short that explores the dangers of drug abuse among young people and the importance of leading by example, “Rumors,” a public service announcement that addresses the negative affects of spreading rumors, “The Cooking Show: Healthy Eating,” a short piece where youth filmmakers show how to make a fruit salad and demonstrate the connection between eating healthy and living healthy, and “Creative Native,” a video that shows how young people at Puyallup are mixing passion with tradition in the form of hip hop, as a way of staying clean and sober and making healthy choices. Once complete, Native Lens youth produced films will screen on an on-going basis in the Puyallup Kwawachee Health clinic–one of the largest indigenous health clinics in existence. Finished films will also screen for the local community and be submitted to film festivals. To find out more contact:

Native Lens at Swinomish

Native Lens, in partnership with the Swinomish tribe, has led on-going workshops for youth in digital filmmaking since 2003. Through the years youth participants have created over 20 short films that have screened on television and in national and international film festivals, and worked on the feature length award winning documentary, “March Point.” These productions have led to many travel opportunities, with youth participants attending and showcasing their work at festivals in San Francisco, Denver, New York, Santa Fe, and Washington DC. The Swinomish community’s dedication and support of Native Lens has been essential in our growth and development. Well known Native Lens films produced by Swinomish youth include, “Rez Life,” “Storyteller,” “Fifteen,” “Native Pride,” “Time Machine,” “Reflection,” “Cultural Ways,” and “Searching.” These films have been used for educational purposes in tribal communities, schools, health and environmental seminars, and community organizations.

One of our biggest successes is measured in the ability of the youth we engage to bring back to their community what they have learned. Youth that started as participants of Native Lens five years ago are now young adults and have started working with Native Lens to teach the next generation and assist in Longhouse Media productions. Currently Swinomish Native Lens participants are working on producing their first 30-minute television show, for our recently launched production--Native Lens TV. Native Lens TV will air on the Swinomish tribe’s cable TV station, Swin 96, and Seattle’s Community Media station, SCAN TV, broadcasting through Seattle and King Country, and streaming on-line at

Native Lens at Muckleshoot

Native Lens has partnered with the Muckleshoot Tribe since 2006 to offer digital arts and filmmaking workshops to youth during the school year and summer break. Youth work with teaching artists twice a week with additional weekend workshops to develop, shoot and edit films based on personal life experience, culture and community. Youth have produced everything from a humorous Halloween horror flick to a powerful investigation of domestic violence titled “Love and Violence.” In “Between Two Rivers,” participants worked with professional visiting artists to create a four-minute visual story about the Muckleshoot tribe, its spirit and culture. Muckleshoot youth have traveled to Denver to show their films at the International Indigenous Film Festival, and represented their work to Mayor Greg Nickles when Native Lens was given the Mayor’s Arts Award in 2007. Currently a Native Lens video produced by Muckleshoot youth is screening in.

“Where I’m From” and S’abadeb-The Gifts

Longhouse Media’s Native Lens teamed up with the Seattle Art Museum to offer “Where I’m From,” a series of youth media workshops that focus on Coast Salish concepts of home and place, and cross cultural understanding. Films produced in these workshops will premiere at SAM’s ARTattack: Teen Night Out. This series of workshops accompanies the major exhibit S’abadeb–The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists. S’abadeb, which explores the unique artistry and culture of Salish First People in Washington State and British Columbia. Several videos from Native youth working with Longhouse Media/Native Lens are included in the exhibit, sharing personal stories about their tribe, culture and community. S’abadeb, the Lushootseed word for “gifts,” invokes the reciprocity that is at the heart of Salish culture. Native Lens films included in S’abadeb will tour with the exhibit internationally.

Native Lens at Lummi

In 2007 Longhouse Media partnered with the Lummi Tribe to offer a series of Native Lens workshops for youth. Participants produced two short videos reflecting on issues of culture and community that are important to them. “Canoe Pulling: A Lummi Way of Life” explores the tradition of canoe pulling through interviews with various members of the community who are active participants in this tradition. The video was inspired by members of the filmmaking team who are themselves canoe pullers. The second video weaves together images from a youth's perspective of life on the rez. One of the youth filmmakers even wrote and performed a soundtrack to accompany these poignant images! For most of these youth, the Native Lens program was their first exposure to hands-on filmmaking. Their final videos are a vivid reflection of how hard they worked and how much they learned.


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