Imagining the Indian
Imagining the Indian
Imagining the Indian
Imagining the Indian
Imagining the Indian
Imagining the Indian

Imagining the Indian

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    • Directed by: Ben West & Aviva Kempner
    • Released: 2023 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2022
Running Time: 95 minutes
Language: English, 
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Race Power and Privilege, Indigenous Studies

Native American mascoting contributes to the ongoing bastardization of the history of Indigenous People. 

Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting is an award-winning documentary that examines the movement that is ending the use of Native American names, logos, and mascots in the world of sports and beyond. The film details the current uprising against the misappropriation of Native culture in a national reckoning about racial injustice that has succeeded in the removal of Confederate imagery, toppling statues of Christopher Columbus and forcing corporate sponsors of Washington’s NFL team to demand it change its most-offensive name. It examines the origin and proliferation of the words, images, and gestures that many Native people and their allies find offensive. Imagining the Indian explores the impact that stereotyping and marginalization of Native history have had on Native people. It chronicles the long social movement to eliminate mascoting.

As many schools, teams, and institutions choose to make the change and others meet with continued resistance, The Ciesla Foundation invites you to engage with the film and consider the important subjects it addresses.  

Smithsonian Museum presents Panel Discussion | Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting

Winner of the Audience Choice Award for Documentary Film at the 2022 SOO Film Festival, Winner of the 2022 Best Documentary at the Boston International Film Festival and Official Selection at the Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for film


 "We love this film’s who’s-who on the subject matter, including psychologists, professors and government leaders, plus Ho-Chunk NBA player Bronson Koenig and gold medal winner Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota) and others. And we can’t get enough of Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), a lifelong activist who in some ways is the real star of this production." - SF Reporter

About the filmmaker 

 Aviva Kempner

A Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker, creates successful and critically acclaimed documentaries about under-known Jewish heroes and social justice. In 2019, she premiered her fifth commercially-released film, The Spy Behind Home Plate. Her other films include Rosenwald, a documentary about how Chicago businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington in establishing over 5,000 schools for African Americans in the Jim Crow South, which she dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement; Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, about Gertrude Berg, who created the first television sitcom; and the Emmy-nominated and Peabody-awarded The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, about the Hall of Famer who faced anti-Semitism during the ’30s.  Both Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, and Hank Greenberggrossed over a million dollars at the box office and are highly ranked, along with Rosenwald, on Rotten Tomatoes.  She also produced the award-winning documentary Partisans of Vilna, about Jews fighting the Nazis.

Kempner also co-wrote and is co-producing the dramatic script Casuse with fellow Imagining the Indian director and producer Ben West. The film is about the Navajo activist Larry Casuse, who Kempner knew while a VISTA volunteer in New Mexico in the early ’70s. While attending the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., Kempner interned at the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs. Upon graduation, she worked at the National Tribal Chairman’s Association and the National Conference of American Indians.

Kempner is an activist and advocate for statehood for Washington, a board member of DC Vote.


Ben West (Cheyenne)

A freelance writer, producer, director, and consultant with the Ciesla Foundation. He spent many years in television production at Carsey-Werner Mandabach LLC and has worked on feature films for companies like Telenova Productions, and outlets such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. He is currently developing content for television and film. In addition to his endeavors in entertainment, he is Southern Cheyenne and an advocate for Native American rights. West was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.



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