‘Connecting with Mother Earth’: Mitchell Museum to host film screening of ‘Inhabitants’

Green grass and plants in front of a red door of the Mitchell Museum

Photo courtesy of Kim Vigue

The Mitchell Museum is hosting a film screening of “Inhabitants” and a panel discussion.

Jessica Ma, Reporter

The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian is hosting a film screening of “Inhabitants: Indigenous Perspectives on Restoring Our World” and a virtual panel discussion with its filmmakers, Costa Boutsikaris and Michael Kotutwa Johnson on Sunday.

The film follows five Native American tribes as they restore ancient relationships with the Earth through traditional land management practices after centuries of colonial disruption. The film highlights Native communities leading the fight against climate change.

Mitchell Museum Executive Director Kim Vigue, a descendant of the Menominee Tribe and an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation, said Native scientific and ecological knowledge has been historically dismissed. She said it’s exciting to see Indigenous expertise be valued.

“We have a very connected relationship with the land — physically, spiritually and economically,” Vigue said. “It’s unfortunate it’s taken the destruction of the environment to get to this point, but I think people are really seeing the reality of things and looking for Native people to lead the way.”

One of the tribes featured in the film is the Menominee Tribe, which Vigue said is known for sustainable forestry practices that help cultivate pristine and dense woods. Vigue said her family’s lives have focused around the forest for generations.

Mitchell Museum’s Board President April Chancellor, who is of Prairie Band Potawatomi ancestry, said the museum aims to celebrate past and present Indigenous accomplishments through its programming.

“We really want to highlight contemporary voices and contemporary perspectives,” Chancellor said. “It’s living history. It’s there. Native Americans are still here.”

Visitors can also watch the film virtually from April 22 to 29. Both virtual and in-person viewers can participate in the virtual discussion panel with the directors. Chancellor said she’s excited to see visitors return to the museum in-person. She said the virtual option allows the museum to reach a wider audience.

Josee Starr, the museum’s director of operations, is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes) of North Dakota who also represents the Omaha Nation of Nebraska and Wiikwemkoong First Nation from Ontario, Canada. Starr is working with an Indigenous caterer to provide Indigenous foods and refreshments at the film screening. She said she’s excited to have in-person events because food plays a large part in cultural activities.

The film screening’s proceeds will go toward the museum’s new project, the Indigenous Medicine Garden. Vigue said the museum is working with a Native ethnobotanist and anthropologist to develop the project.

With the garden, the Indigenous community can access native plants and visitors can learn about traditional ecological practices, Vigue said.

“We want (the garden) to be a space that it feels like it belongs to (Indigenous people) but also to have the garden be something that the broader community can learn from,” Vigue said.

The film screening is in observance of Earth Day and Earth Week. Starr said appreciating the land is an everyday practice.

“It’s about connecting with Mother Earth,” Starr said. “It’s about … giving thanks to everything that is given to us … We can’t take something without giving something.”

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Twitter: @jessicama2025

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