Oneida Indian Nation Modernizes Story About Living in Harmony
It’s a story about friendship, respecting Mother Earth, and learning to live in harmony. My Home was produced by Four Directions, a production company owned by Oneida Indian Nation, which owns Oneida Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network.
My Home has won numerous awards from film festivals across the country and got a warm reception at the Karl May Festival in Germany.
“They loved it, it transcended communication barriers, the story came through perfectly,” said Four Directions Productions’ studio operations director and Oneida Nation Council Member Dale Rood (Turtle Clan).
The film, which follows Eli, a young Oneida boy on his first fishing trip as he listens to his grandfather tell a story passed down through generations, received a Director’s Citation for Best Animation at the Syracuse International Film Festival, a Gold Award for Best Animated Film at the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival, and an Award of Excellence for Animation at The Indie Fest.
The story follows Turtle through her meeting with Frog. She cares for her home at the lake and nurses Frog back to health. After hibernating for the winter, Frog and Turtle awake to find their home a muddy mess. That’s because Beaver has built a dam in the name of “progress.”
“Civilization has finally arrived!” Beaver announces to Turtle before he flips a lever and turns on his elaborate machine that generates barely enough electricity to make a single lightbulb flicker. Turtle is not impressed and simply rolls her eyes in response. “Not everyone appreciates ingenuity,” Beaver says.
Turtle tries to figure out how to get Beaver out of her home and decides a race will determine their fate. If she wins, Beaver leaves; if Beaver wins, she leaves. During the race Beaver cheats to beat her, and not wanting to lose, Turtle ends up cheating too. Turtle does arrive at the agreed upon end point first but doesn’t touch it until Beaver does, ending the race in a tie.
She suggests that the two of them should find a way to live together. And they do. Beaver lets the water back into the lake.
Oneida Indian Nation Representative and My Home Executive Producer Ray Halbritter said, “We make films like My Home to preserve the Oneida Indian culture for the seventh generation. These animated shorts allow us to share our legends with the world. My Home is a wonderful story that will touch the hearts of audiences of all ages.”
The 20-minute film took Four Directions two years to put together, something Rood is proud of. He explained that they don’t have a huge staff like places like Pixar or Dreamworks but they are still able to accomplish cutting edge affects with a staff of just 12.
He said when people from Pixar saw the film at the Syracuse Film Festival, “they were amazed at the quality of the film itself. They were impressed with the fluid dynamics, like the water. It can take a team of 30 or more at other studios to do that.”
My Home is available for sale. It comes with a DVD, Blu-ray and book adaptation of the story. The Oneida Indian Nation is hoping to eventually develop an educational curriculum to go with its stories.
“I think these stories lend themselves to that for a variety of reasons. It shows that Indian people were progressive and passing stories down, what we call life lessons,” Rood said. “They taught our children that you don’t cheat, you don’t lie, you don’t become conceited, you respect the environment, and you respect nature. All of these stories have been told to do just that, to teach these life lessons.”
At the beginning of My Home, an elder walks out on a stage to introduce the film and the story, he says: “The elders tell us stories that we should be careful and care for the waters and the trees and that everything that the Creator put here we should treasure. We tell these stories from the rich Oneida history to teach lifelong lessons to our children. These stories preserve our culture and heritage.”