Award-winning Indigenous filmmaker details her cultural, environmental storytelling

Loren Waters
Posted at 5:33 PM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-27 11:19:08-05

MISSOULA - Loren Waters is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and Kiowa Tribe.

The award-winning filmmaker is visiting Missoula as a part of the 4th World Media Lab fellows, a group of Indigenous filmmakers from around the U.S. and abroad.

From theBig Sky Documentary Film Festival website:

"4th World is a concept that was shared by a Coast Salish elder. It is the story about a time when the environment and the earth are suffering, and Indigenous storytelling functions as the medicine to create healing. The 4th World Media Lab experience has been designed to uplift Indigenous voices and perspectives through artist fellowship, immersion in industry events and Indigenous project development as we collectively envision a future more whole."

MTN News sat down with Waters on Friday to learn about her approach to environmental and cultural storytelling.

Waters shared, “You know, environment is not something that’s separate from us as indigenous people.”

Waters promotes land stewardship; caring for the land deeply and engaging with it in ways that promote its longevity and health.

“I wanna do what I can as a filmmaker in storytelling to protect the land,” Waters said.

Waters is working on a film that “focuses on a Cherokee elder that really wants this water in northeastern Oklahoma to be clean. And whenever we don’t have clean water, we’re not able to have as strong a connection with the land and with our culture. We’re not able to move our culture forward, in learning the language, in foraging for plants, in going to ceremony. And so, for me, it’s really important that we continue to have a really strong relationship to the land.”

In addition to connecting with the land through ceremony, feelings, or actions, the Indigenous peoples forge a special bond to the land through speaking their languages. For a long time, there was backlash for speaking one's native language. Now, many Indigenous nations are reclaiming their voices and spreading their languages to the next generations.

“It’s really inspiring to me to try to incorporate the language into my work because language really is a way of seeing the world.”

Along with her environmental storytelling, Waters works to revitalize ideas about her culture and keep moving forward.

“I think going back to our origin stories and stories that have been with us for time in memorial really informs the work that I do with my community and my tribe. I am inspired by my community. And I work really closely with the elders in my community and they kind of guide the story," Waters said.

Waters is passionate about making sure her community is seen in an authentic manner and inspiring the Indigenous youth. But most of all, she wants to make her community proud of what she is putting on the screen.

“As an Indigenous person, we don’t often see ourselves in media and so just the mere act of showing up is a statement and it’s really important for us to be in these spaces and be on a platform where we can share our perspectives and our voices,” Waters explained.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has many Indigenous-made films playing. See one for yourself before closing day, Feb. 26, to broaden your horizons. For Loren Waters' work, visit