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Our people, our stories: documentary “Indigenous Resistance: Now and Then” explores resistance and resilience in Alaska Native communities

“Indigenous Resistance: Now & Then” is a powerful telling of stories of resistance from Indigenous perspectives, sharing recent history and the impacts of colonialism on culture – and the ways in which our communities continue to stand up against it. Sealaska shareholders can preview it here until August 8. This award-winning short documentary by Haida director ‘Wáats’asdiyei Joe Yates stands in direct contrast to the way many narratives of Alaska Native history, culture and legacy are shaped – from the outside.  

“From what I’ve experienced, our whole truth hasn’t been told yet,” said ‘Wáats’asdiyei. “We have plenty more to us than either just this historic side, or just our art side… Our people are complex.”

In addition to writing, directing and producing this and other award-winning films under his production company Alaskan Films, ‘Wáats’asdiyei works as a writer for PBS Kids hit Molly of Denali and as an associate field and story work producer for National Geographic’s Life Below Zero: First Alaskans. For him, filmmaking quickly grew into a career path aligned very closely with his culture and values, as he endeavors to portray Alaska Native people as they are, in their own words. All his work, including this most recent project, centers the voices and viewpoints of Indigenous people. 

“One way or another, I’m there fighting to ensure that our stories are told from our people,” he said. “That’s what my whole passion is, my whole mission is.” 

Currently making its rounds on the film festival circuit, where it has already begun receiving nominations and awards, the film highlights the resilience and strength of Indigenous resistance in recent history and today, as told through the voices of Alaska Native leaders, storytellers and changemakers. While the award-winning documentary won’t be available to the public until early 2024, Sealaska shareholders were able to join a special virtual screening of the documentary on August 1 through the generosity of filmmaker ‘Wáats’asdiyei.  

As the film examines the relationship between resistance and resilience, it beautifully captures the diversity and beauty of Native cultures and languages from across Alaska even as subjects discuss transgenerational and contemporary traumas such as boarding schools, systemic language extermination and cultural genocide.

“I try to ensure that every culture that I work with gets the same treatment, as if I was working with my own,” he said.  

“Indigenous Resistance: Now & Then” shares a compelling message with the world, as articulated by subject Alagum Ayagaa. She encourages Indigenous people across Alaska and around the globe: 

“… to continue to be who you are, and to claim who you are as an Indigenous person, and to know that that comes with responsibilities and rights – so you have the right to your land and your water and to steward those. And with that right, comes the responsibility of stewardship.”  

“Indigenous Resistance: Now & Then” has been accepted to the following film festivals: 

  1. Southwest Film Expo – Arizona
  2. Latino & Native American Film Festival – Connecticut 
    Winner – Best Documentary
  3. Weengushk International Film Festival – Ontario, Canada
  4. NewarkIFF – New Jersey
  5. Diversity in Cannes – Cannes, France 
    Winner – Best Editing 
    Nominated – Best Documentary
  6. Pacific Northwest Multicultural Film Festival – Oregon
  7. Native Spirit Film Festival – London, U.K.
  8. Albuquerque Film Festival – New Mexico
  9. Asinabka Film Festival – Ontario, Canada
  10. The Root Experience – Washington
  11. Nosebleeds Film Festival – South Dakota
  12. Saskatchewan International Film Festival – Saskatoon, Canada
  13. Thawout Film Festival – Alaska 
    Winner – Best Director 

The documentary has also been submitted to over twenty other festivals. The award-winning film and our conversation with ‘Wáats’asdiyei will be available for streaming on MySealaska until August 8, 2023  click here to access. Shareholders must be logged in to view. It will be released to the public in 2024 after being shown at film festivals around the world.  

To learn more about ‘Wáats’asdiyei and his work, please visit