LeAnne Howe, an award-winning author, playwright and scholar who
teaches in the university's American Indian studies program and in
the MFA creative writing program, will premiere, show and broadcast
her new documentary, "Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire," at
various locations around the country and on public television.
is both the screenwriter and narrator on Part 2 of the 90-minute
Public Broadcasting Service documentary. Part 1 is titled
Country Diaries: Seat at the Drum," and it features journalist
Mark Anthony Rolo (Bad River Ojibwa) and his journey to Los Angeles
to speak with some of the thousands of American Indian families who
were relocated from poor reservations to cities in the last half of
the 20th century.
Howe, an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,
premiered the film at the
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian
on Sept. 29 and 30 as part of the museum's
"Native Networks" film
and video series. She also led a discussion of her work following
the first screening.
Illinois' American Indian studies program will host a special
screening of Howe's film from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 26 in Room 66 of
the University Library, 1408 W. Gregory Drive in Urbana. That event
is free and open to the public.
Screenings and openings have been scheduled "all around the
country," Howe said, including in California, New Hampshire and
The film also will be broadcast nationally on most PBS affiliate
stations throughout November. The U of I PBS affiliate,
WILL-TV, will show it at 8
p.m. on Nov. 17.
Ten years in the making, the documentary takes Howe to the North
Carolina homeland of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians "to
discover how their mix of tourism, community and cultural
preservation is the key to the tribe's health in the 21st century."
Along the way, Howe, who appears as a character throughout the
film, said she seeks to reconcile her own "complex identity" as the
daughter of a Choctaw woman and a Cherokee man she never knew.
Howe described the film, with which she was involved over the
past four years, as "both a national story and a very personal story
"It's a journey of trying to understand who we are, where we come
from, where we are going. As such, I believe that the film will
speak to mainstream audiences everywhere."
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She also said the documentary, which is a co-production of Native
American Public Telecommunications and Adanvdo Vision, is unique in
at least one aspect.
"American Indians filming American Indians on this large a
production scale for a national audience is a first."
Howe also wrote and co-produced the documentary "Playing
Pastime," about American Indian fast-pitch softball and its role in
community and personal survival.
Three-time Emmy award-winning filmmaker James Fortier was her
She and Fortier have just entered "Playing Pastime" in the
American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco in November.
Howe is founder and director of WagonBurner Theatre Troop. Her
plays have been produced in California, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico,
New York and Texas.
A professional writer for 25 years, she has read her fiction all
over the United States and been an invited lecturer in Japan,
Jordan, Israel, Romania and Spain.
Howe's first novel, "Shell Shaker" (2002), received an American
Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
Her collection of poetry, "Evidence of Red" (2005), received the
Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry in 2006. "Miko Kings," an Indian
baseball novel set in Ada, Okla., in 1903 and 1969, is forthcoming
On leave from Illinois this school year, but returning frequently
to meet with her graduate students, Howe currently is the John and
Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi,
a fellowship that she was nominated for and won.
Howe said she came to Illinois in the fall of 2005 to help create
its American Indian studies program. She said arriving on the campus
while it was in the midst of its charged public debates over keeping
its Chief Illiniwek has been momentous.
Having just left a teaching post at the University of Minnesota,
home of the oldest American Indian studies department in the U.S,
also has been remarkable.
"Coming from the oldest and best to the most fragile and youngest
American Indian studies program was a big step with lots of
challenges, lots of excitement and great potential.
"I am delighted to be here."
of Illinois news release]