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Native American Culture/Cultural/ historical advisor for a film script

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Question
Hello,

I am currently writing a film script base on Jack London's short story To Build A Fire and I would like to add a native Indian element.

Being from London, UK I am not very aware of native Indian culture, myths and belief as I would like to be to really make the native Indian elements of the script ring true and valuable.

I am looking for someone that can advice me in the short term on general Indian culture, perhaps recommend some literature that will help me to gain a better understanding of native Indian culture and give opinion on genuineness of script ideas.

Obviously this will be based in the Yukon region of the late 19th century during the gold rush so a broad knowledge of Indian culture and nations from that area of America would be most helpful.

If this goes to production then there would be a paid position open during the shoot for an expert/advisor.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind Regards

Barry Wallis

Answer
Barry,
My area of expertise is really the Southwestern Nations, but having lived in the Northwest as a child, I was very interested in the very complex, sea-going culture of the Northwest Coast tribes, the Salish, Bella-Coola, Gwaguiulth (Kwakiutl)and Haida as well as their accomplished graphic arts and wood working and long-term trading with the Russian Empire. For Alaska, you add in the diverse Bering peoples as well as the mainland Athapascans. It is an entire world of its own with completely different influences than the mainland cultures in the "Lower 48" I don;t know how you might plan to integrate these cultures into your script, but there is a little known bit of history when a US Navy Cutter shelled and destroyed a Native Alaskan village in October of 1882 because of the natives interference with trade. The village was named Angoon. Here is a fairly detailed link for more information. This might be an interesting side-story to work in.

http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alph

I would recommend you contact members of the anthropology Department, College of Arts & Sciences,  University of Alaska Anchorage. For a detailed bibliography and research lists.

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Richard Sutton

Expertise

As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at www.sailletales.com I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.

Experience

My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

Publications
I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, www.kivatrading.com and our Ebay Store.

Education/Credentials
UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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