The Bates College Museum of Art will present “Presence is Power,” a night of 11 short films by Indigenous filmmakers from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at several locations on campus at Bates College in Lewiston. This night’s showing broadens and deepens the film program on view as part of the current exhibition “Exploding Native Inevitable” and features other work by exhibition filmmakers Elisa Harkins, Sky Hopinka, and Fox Maxy, as well as films by artists who have not yet premiered at Bates.

The evening is designed as a one-night-only fun and active way to move about campus and see different films in three different locations: Olin 104, where visitors can also stop in the museum to view “Exploding Native Inevitable” and find light refreshments; Commons Lounge; and the new Immersive Media Studio in Coram Library. Pick up a brochure at any station to guide you around campus, learn more about the films, and collect stickers at each location to enter to win a prize for seeing them all. The event is free and open to the public. All films take roughly an hour and a half to watch. Several have adult themes and content that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Mimicking a film festival, this event presents the work of Indigenous filmmakers – including writers, directors, actors, musicians, artists, and producers – that are active today. Contemporary Indigenous filmmakers are not only challenging false depictions of themselves seen in mainstream productions that often exclude Indigenous communities, but actively representing  their own distinct cultures, traditions, and futures as powerful by turning the camera on themselves as creators, actors, and audiences.

“I am thrilled that ‘Presence is Power’ is the first program I am leading at Bates and in Maine, and that I get to share the amazing films we have come across with students, faculty, staff, and the wider community,” says Assistant Curator Samantha Sigmon. “We designed this unique experience to offer just a peak of what is out there. I hope it provides a springboard for you to learn about and view other Indigenous video work, and that it ignites sparks of inspiration, collaboration, and action that reverberates after viewing.”

Some films are narrative or documentary, and focus on subjects including current events, activism, historic preservation, and the environment. Others are more abstract or poetic, exploring imagery, words, and sounds, and layering moving images and music. They touch on a wide spectrum of topics, such as spirituality and myth, environmental connection, community celebration, grief, visual sovereignty, queer identities, and many more. While this program is by no means exhaustive, this evening will introduce audiences to the vibrant and developing practice of Indigenous filmmaking, as emerging and established artists in the medium assert their presence powerfully in the art world today.

About the filmmakers

HEATHER CONDO (Mi’kmaq) uses film to raise awareness and appreciation for Mi’kmaq artforms being made today as closely and uniquely connected to their culture.


MADELINE EASLEY (Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma (Porcupine Clan)) is a playwright and performer that works in the intersection of magical realism and the elevation of tribal sovereignty.

Three artists and activists worked together on one film: ROBERTO FATAL (Mestize Chicana from Rarámuri, Genizaro, and Spanish ancestry) explores decolonial aesthetics through narrative storytelling, filmmaking, and projection mapping. SNOWFLAKE CALVERT (Tzotzil, Yaqui, and Rarámuri) is a professional dancer, drag performer, and producer of LGBTQAI+ events, creating platforms for social and cultural justice. XAV-SF (Piru and Tigua) serves Indigenous communities through the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits Powwow.

CHARINE PILAR GONZALES (Tewa) works on a wide range of films, including documentary and narrative shorts that look at issues around class, nature, myth, time, and intergenerational wisdom.

ELISA HARKINS (Muscogee/Creek Nation) makes interdisciplinary multimedia work in performance, electronic music, and sculpture that is concerned with translation and transformation of Indigenous language and music.

SKY HOPINKA (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) creates innovative films that represent Indigenous histories and contemporary experiences by layering documentary-style and abstract imagery, sound, and language.

ZACHARIAS KUNUK (Inuk) works closely with his own community on all aspects of creating his films in order to preserve the past through connecting traditional Inuit culture and language with the present day.


MARCELLA KWE (MARCELLA ERNEST) (Gunflint Lake Ojibwe, member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior) is an artist who explores the relationships between native art and history, sound studies, Native feminism, queer Indigenous critique, and land justice.

FOX MAXY (Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians and Payómkawichum) makes films combining footage of friends and family, cultural and current events, and invented digital imagery, edited into rapid-fire experimental films that are abstract and diaristic.

RHIANA YAZZIE (Navajo) is a playwright, performer, filmmaker, and producer who aims to explore new ways of thinking about and presenting Native stories.

STEVEN J. YAZZIE (Navajo) explores the complexities between community relationships and self-identity, as well as connection to the earth as a source of life, stories, conflict, and healing.

“Exploding Native Inevitable” features twelve Indigenous artists and two artist collaboratives on the vanguard of their practices in ceramics, painting, video, fiber arts, and more. Co-curated by Indigenous artist Brad Kahlhamer and Bates Museum’s Director and Chief Curator Dan Mills, the art on view ranges from emerging practitioners to elders. “The artists build on traditions, push creative boundaries, and represent some extraordinary work being created by Indigenous artists across the land,” Kahlhamer says.

This project is open at Bates College Museum of Art until March 4, and then will travel to several other museums.

The Bates Museum of Museum of Art is located at Olin Arts Center at 75 Russell St., Lewiston. It is free and open from Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and also until 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays from September to May. For more information, visit

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