TWITTER/@FredTJoseph

Comcast: A Commitment to Native American Voices

A contributed piece by Bird Runningwater, Director of the Native American and Indigenous Program at The Sundance Institute. Mr. Runningwater serves on Comcast NBCUniversal’s (No. 29 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) external Joint Diversity Advisory Council.


Many people’s perceptions of Native American history and culture are shaped by media portrayals, and too often those portrayals are created by individuals who do not understand our communities. Unless Native Americans play an active role in how we are depicted on television and movie screens, we risk letting others tell their version of our story.

Storytelling is power, and we have an incredible opportunity to empower Native American artists. At the Sundance Institute, we’ve supported three generations of Native filmmakers in their journey to find a voice, through the Native American and Indigenous Program. Mandated by our Founder Robert Redford, we’ve nurtured and supported Native filmmakers going back to a time when almost none existed.

Today, dozens of Native filmmakers, many whose careers we helped shape, have been responsible for meaningful and impactful depictions of Native American culture. This is how the learning is done, by people telling their story in their voice. Think about Chris Eyre, director of Smoke Signals, Skins, and Edge of America, and Ian Skorodin, whose films are featured in a special Native American Heritage Month collection on Comcast’s XFINITY On Demand platform. These filmmakers are breaking away from taboo depictions of Native Americans and introducing real characters that are relatable and complex.

Sterlin Harjo, a member of the Seminole Nation and a past Sundance fellow, is yet another powerful voice for Native Americans. Through his storytelling, he has been responsible for a number of accurate portrayals of Native Americans on screen. His feature film, Barking Water, tells the story of a dying man and his trip home with a former lover to see his family for the last time. Harjo’s depiction of their lives is not only an honest story about two Native Americans, but a story of love, forgiveness, and confronting one’s past. This is an American story.

Today, there are more Native filmmakers than ever before, and we hope to bring forward the fourth generation of Native filmmakers to solidify a continuum of artists whose voices can have an important impact on American Cinema and culture. Their work will have even more reach and meaning today, with the growing number of platforms viewers use to consume content anywhere, anytime.

There’s so much promise and power with this fourth generation of Native filmmakers, and one can hope that these rich and innovative stories and images will fill an important void, giving representation in American popular culture to America’s first peoples. Our hope is that this will ultimately benefit relations between Tribal Nations and the United States, and deepen people’s understanding of what it means to be a Native American today.

Read more stories regarding diversity in the workplacein“On Diversity” Comcast NBCUniversal’s D&I newsletter.

Latest News

Syracuse University campus

News Roundup: TV Diversity, Syracuse Hire, and Segregated Training

Check out our news roundup of diversity and inclusion updates and insights from across the U.S.: Syracuse University Creates Athletics Diversity Position  While most colleges and universities around the county are making COVID-19-related cuts in regard to their athletic departments, Syracuse University has hired Salatha T. Willis as the associate athletic…

Cesar Conde

NBCUniversal Sets Ambitious 50% Diversity Goal for Women, People of Color

Cesar Conde, chairman at NBCUniversal News Group, announced a groundbreaking goal to have a 50% diverse workforce at NBCUniversal, according to Deadline. Conde, the first Latino in this role, outlined his plans in an internal video for employees on Wednesday. The ultimate goal is for NBCUniversal, No. 7 on DiversityInc’s 2020…

Stop TB Partnership and Johnson & Johnson, with support from USAID and The Global Fund, Announce Price Reduction for SIRTURO® (bedaquiline) for Treatment of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Originally published on jnj.com. Joint efforts aim to accelerate scale-up of WHO-recommended all-oral treatment regimens – a transition urgently needed to help protect the health of people with drug resistant-tuberculosis who are particularly vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic In 2020, the initiative aims to reach at least 125,000 patients and could…

Toyota, Alabama A&M and Huntsville Hospital Collaborate to Make COVID-19 Testing Easier

Originally published on pressroom.toyota.com. $100,000 grant provides free service to the community Alabama A & M University (AAMU), Huntsville Hospital and Toyota are developing a mobile health clinic initiative to provide free COVID-19 testing to underserved communities in Madison County. Launching later this year, the mobile medical clinic program has…

Sanofi and Regeneron Provide Update on Kevzara® (sarilumab) Phase 3 U.S. Trial in COVID-19 Patients

Originally published on sanofi.com. Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) today announced that the U.S. Phase 3 trial of Kevzara® (sarilumab) 400 mg in COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation did not meet its primary and key secondary endpoints when Kevzara was added to best supportive care compared to best supportive care alone (placebo)….

TD Bank: How a PPP Loan Saved Essential Jobs for Hundreds of Frontline Healthcare Heroes Amid COVID-19

Originally published on newscenter.td.com. Yet, “it’s not about earning a paycheck” for these medical responders A hero is defined as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.” Never has that word resonated more than right now, with millions of frontline responders risking their…

Boeing Dreamlifter Transports 500,000 Protective Face Masks for Utah Students and Teachers

Originally published on boeing.mediaroom.com. Partnered with the state of Utah, Atlas Air, H.M. Cole, Cotopaxi, Flexport and UPS to deliver face masks to school districts with the greatest need Boeing [NYSE: BA] today completed its 12th COVID-19 transport mission, using a Boeing Dreamlifter to bring personal protective equipment (PPE) to the United…