“I have always felt Native women were never seen in a realistic way. Their early inclusion in film was limited.”
Before I registered myself as an artist (as a child living on the Six Nations Reserve), I was always an artist. Not the kind who dreamt of pictures hanging on walls but rather enjoyed the works of others. Surrounding me were people who did delicate watercolour paintings of men and women in their traditional Iroquois/ Haudenausaunee clothing. People who made drums and rattles from traditional materials, bark and seeds. And those who continued to do beadwork, even though at the time was often regarded as something quaint, done for tourists. This never-ending source of creative energy continues to give me a path to follow and a purpose to create.
My purpose of including the representation of Native women into my work began early as well. I have always felt Native women were never seen in a realistic way. Their early inclusion in film was limited. Often one dimensional, they were the background, filling a space until they were no longer needed. And the roles in film were often performed by the non-native actress. I have included my sisters, mother, friends and my daughters in photographic pieces that shows depth of spirit and vitality in character. The infinite direction of options to tell stories has always been there. Using this device I have made films where I have tried to portray the female character in diverse situations. I have always felt humour was lacking in storytelling in the medium of film and video. Often Native stories are drenched in dread. This leaves a condensed view of the Native world.
My target audience for film is for families and is directed to the youth. I want them to see that they too can make their own reality and don't necessarily have to stereotype themselves as they think others want to see them. In all of my film work I have tried to stay the course and give the Native audience something they can identify with and go beyond their own expectations.
Shelley Niro is a Mohawk filmmaker from Bay of Quinte, Six Nations.