“Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco” was named Best Topical Documentary of the year at the Upper Midwest Emmy awards gala Oct. 7 in Bloomington.

A collaboration between ClearWay Minnesota and Twin Cities PBS, the program explores tobacco use by Native-Americans in Minnesota.

“Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco” features Native-American Minnesotans discussing traditional tobacco practices, and how the commercial tobacco industry corrupted those practices into harmful behaviors such as cigarette smoking. In Minnesota today, 59 percent of Native-Americans smoke, compared to 14 percent of the general population. “Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco” attempts to show how restoring traditional ways can move people away from cigarette smoking and toward healthier living.

Accepting the award was Dakota/Diné producer, Leya Hale of Twin Cities PBS, who directed the film with guidance from Anishinaabe and Dakota elders.

“This project was unique, because it looks at the tobacco issue from within American Indian communities, rather than outside,” said Hale. “We are so grateful to the dozens of participants who agreed to be interviewed and share their stories with us.”

The film seeks to inform diverse audiences about the differences between traditional and commercial tobacco use. According to Hale, Native-American health advocates are using it in innovative ways, including showing it in clinic waiting rooms on tribal lands. Additionally, it has been broadcast on public television stations around the state, and continues to be screened at Native film festivals in Minnesota and around the country, including the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, where it was nominated for Best Public Service film last year.

“We are very proud of this project, which is one of several collaborations supporting Minnesota tribes as they work to undo the tobacco industry’s harms and improve health,” said David Willoughby, CEO at ClearWay Minnesota. “‘Reclaiming’ is helping American Indian advocates, but it’s also educating non-Native Minnesotans about the importance of understanding and respecting Native ways.”

The film can be viewed at www.tpt.org/reclaiming-sacred-tobacco.

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