Press • FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions.


Approaching its fourth decade of work, AIFI recognizes the continuing
opportunity and responsibility to empower American Indian voices by weaving
the possibilities of film as a transformational storytelling tool into the fabric of
Native communities, and by bringing our stories and voices in the mainstream.
The American Indian Film Institute (AIFI) is a media arts 501-c-3 nonprofit
organization established in 1979 to foster understanding of the culture, traditions and issues of contemporary Native Americans through film.

AIFI – founded on a deep belief in the power of film as a transformational tool, the organization strives to present contemporary Indian voices that dispel popular, often damaging, myths, and to advance appreciation of Native American artistic and societal contributions.


The mission of the American Indian Film Institute is to foster understanding of the culture, traditions and issues of contemporary Native Americans.


AIFI predicates its relationship with both Indian and non-Indian communities on the central and restorative role that the arts have always played in Indian life: storytelling, songs, dances, painting, and crafts are viewed in the Indian tradition as medicine.
To these time-honored art forms, AIFI has added the media arts. In a new millennium, both the “legacy” media (i.e. film and video) and new digital-based technologies offer tools to preserve and record our heritage, and a vehicle for Indians and non-Indians alike to “unlearn” damaging stereotypes and replace
them with multi-dimensional images that reflect the complexity of Indian peoples.

Over the next three years, AIFI will take steps to intensify the impact of its programs to ensure the visibility of American Indians and preservation of our culture, as well as to build the capacity of the organization itself.

The goals of AIFI are:
• To encourage filmmakers to bring to the broader media culture the
Native voices, viewpoints and stories that have been historically
excluded from mainstream media;
• To develop Indian and non-Indian audiences for this work;
• To advocate tirelessly for authentic visual and work-force
representations of Indians in the media; and
• To open up opportunities for American Indians to enter the workforce
of the creative economy.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:
“For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures,
and television, American Indians are the least understood and the most
misunderstood of us all.”

American Indians have been notoriously underrepresented and
misrepresented in the American media – particularly in film – since the
beginning of the medium over a century ago.

This quintessential twentieth-century art form has created and perpetuated
enduring stereotypes that are at best ignorant, and at worst profoundly erosive
to the self-image American Indian people. Nevertheless, the ability of this art
form to weaken and divide is outmatched by its power to heal and strengthen.

Recently, however, there has been a major shift in community is taking control of its image and inaccurate perceptions that exist by changing the public paradigm about who we are – the one shaped by non-Natives.

AIFI Board

Michael Smith, AIFI President
Lucinda Spencer, AIFI Director
Andrew Ebona, AIFI Director
Michael Horse, AIFI Director

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