Real Indian

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Maynor, Malinda. Real Indian. Videocassette (1/2 in, sound, color). 7.5 min. New York: Women Make Movies, 1996. DVD re-release, 2009. Key source


Malinda Maynor (now Malinda Maynor Lowery), Lumbee, completed this film at Stanford University, where she received a masters degree. The film was one of eight Native American films shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996. It was also shown at the New York Native American Film and Video Festival and the Feminale Women's Film Fest in Cologne, Germany. It won “Best Short Film” at the South by Southwest Festival.

The film is a succinct, perceptive, and provoking exploration of Native American identity from the Lumbee perspective and from that of other Native Americans. Maynor herself provides a goodly portion of the dialog, juxtaposing it with remarks from Native American women from two other tribes. She uses visual devices such as her own family photographs, footage from a powwow, a Native American Barbie doll, and herself wearing a buckskin dress and war paint. She forthrightly confronts the identity problems she and other Lumbees have faced. She explains that when she was growing up, she didn't question her Indian identity. When she left home, she found that “There are real Indians and fake Indians; and Lumbees are definitely fake ... as least according to some people.” Her grandfather told her that “some Lumbee families have good blood (White) and some have bad blood (Black).” She notes that her grandmother's family was proud of their good blood and tried to fit in with White society in order to be “socially acceptable” Indians.

A speaker from another tribe remarks about the Lumbee that some Indians believe that the fact that there has been some intermarriage with Blacks overshadows their Indian identity - and that the Lumbee are less “real” because they don't have an obvious tradition or a native language. She quickly notes that many other tribes also have not retained distinctive traditions or their native language.

Maynor also comments that some of the other Indians who object most strongly to recognition of the Lumbee are involved in the pan-Indian movement. They have borrowed dancing, feathers, and clothing from other tribes, using cultural appurtenances that were not part of their own tradition. She notes that those Indians have adopted a stereotype that they don't even realize is a stereotype. Maynor summarizes the other Indians' objections to the Lumbee: “No reservation, no ancient language, and too much bad blood.” She comments, “I'm not a John Wayne/Pocahontas/cigar store Indian. War paint just doesn't become me.”

The Native American women from other tribes then comment on what makes up the essence of Indian identity. One remarks that she once ascribed to certain stereotypes; but as she traveled across the country and interacted with Indians from other tribes, she came to believe Indianness is an outlook. What seems recognizable to her is a connection to home, a sense of place and roots. The other woman remarks that her mother and grandmother had always retained their own connections with past family members and ensured that she also had those connections by telling her stories and giving her history lessons.

Maynor ends the film by recalling how she and her father would drive through Robeson County--remembering, planning for the future, and exploring. He told her that she could go into any Lumbee house, tell the people that she was Waltz Maynor's daughter and Wayne Maynor's granddaughter, and they would take her in and take care of her, because her family was their family. Maynor remarks, “That's tradition; that's what's real.”

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DVD released in 2009