Controversial Video Set on Rez Depicts Drug Use, Violence and Sundance


A music video (below) for the tune "Alive," by UK drum-n-bass artists Chase & Status and directed by Josh Cole is attracting attention in Indian country for its subject matter. The clip depicts young Natives living on a reservation who struggle with crack addiction and commit crimes to fund their habits. After an epiphany, the young man who is the main character of the video is seen in a sweat lodge and participating in a sundance ceremony.

Now, Cole is under fire from critics on Twitter who feel that the video exploits the usual media narrative about reservation life ("poverty porn," as it's sometimes been called) or cheapens the sundance ceremony by depicting it. Cole argues that the video was made with the consent and help of Blackfeet Natives on the rez in Browning, Montana, where it was filmed.

RELATED: "Alive" Director: Blackfeet Thought Rez Drug Abuse Story "Needed to Be Told"

The video's YouTube page includes a note expressing "thanks to the whole Blackfoot Nation and The Crazy Dogs Society for making us feel at home" as well as credits for the cast, which appears to consist largely (if not fully) of Native actors.

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Marlene M's picture
Marlene M
Submitted by Marlene M on
This video is in many ways tellling a story of a young Tribal Boy who was seeking a substance as a way out of getting away from, poverty, boredom, anger at life on what was dealt to him. This video has several different ways of looking at it. But in all, I don't see any place where they were trying to depict Tribal people as crack heads. This video is sad but real in Indian Country; we all know its' real in the white mans world, but making a point across that Tribal people are traditional people and crack has come into our lives and destroy it in so many ways.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
did they bother to contextualize this "poverty porn" of Native peoples in the socio-historic facts of attempted genocide and mass murder by British and American settlers?

Stacey Doxtator/Chrisjohn's picture
Stacey Doxtator...
Submitted by Stacey Doxtator... on
The school of hard knocks will bring him to his faith. We all know how bull headed we were. Why try to help in a way that might hurt more.

Lena Abel-Louie KETLO's picture
Lena Abel-Louie...
Submitted by Lena Abel-Louie... on
Thanks for Sharing This DeeDee. Wow, Powerful = Heavy Heart (Reality) <3

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
The song is Great. The video is very suitable in my opinion. I live close to places like this in the prairies of Montana and see how drug abuse can lead to these sad truths in life; loss of love and will. But those Elders message in the video along with the song inspires!!! "There is HOPE"

Tuk&#039; e&#039; m's picture
Tuk' e' m
Submitted by Tuk' e' m on
So Sad to get involved with drugs. He was on the right path; but it never ends with the young. My prayers to all of my relations! Robert Leon an elder

Ralph Hornsby's picture
Ralph Hornsby
Submitted by Ralph Hornsby on
The song sucked. If outsiders want to come and watch the Sundance, fine, but don't film it. Even if it is staged.

Ralph Hornsby's picture
Ralph Hornsby
Submitted by Ralph Hornsby on
The song sucked. If outsiders want to watch the Sundance, they are more than welcome to come and watch, but it should never be filmed. Even if it is staged.

Chris B's picture
Chris B
Submitted by Chris B on
A conquered people, at one time they did not need money to live, but now after assimilation almost complete, they need money to live like europeans. Once proud people and now defeated. Used to wonder why Vietnamese fought with their all, now it was to fight of colonization. Sad vid.

keyaa's picture
Submitted by keyaa on
Depicts the fuckedupness of drugs...the rez...the sickness. I don't like the video yet it is real. I live on the rez...I am an addiction counselor...

Ariel Williams-Eagle's picture
Ariel Williams-Eagle
Submitted by Ariel Williams-Eagle on
As a veteran in the military, I've had lots of people ask me what it's like to live on the reservation. The majority believe we are loaded with money, which is the exact opposite. This video shows the truth, being from Pine Ridge, SD and Sisseton, SD, I can completely relate. What they're showing in this video is exactly what is happening on the reservations today. It shows our(Native Americans) life isn't as great as we think it is but we're still surviving. Now, I'm not defending anybody but everyone definitely needs to wake up and realize the way we're living isn't the best and we need to fix it. Don't be mad or upset at a video or the media when they're telling the truth.

avery cloud's picture
avery cloud
Submitted by avery cloud on
i love this.

Sharon Gates's picture
Sharon Gates
Submitted by Sharon Gates on
As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict, I applaud this sad but oh so true video. Our youth are our future, this new generation has so many exposures to things we never did at their age. Pot was the drug of choice then, times change. Many of my friends I grew uo with on the rez have passed on due to addiction. I was allowed to smudge at the rehab I was at, I had never done that before but was compelled to do it. Today I have 21 years clean and sober. Our Creator is good. I like how you brought this sensitive message to be viewed. Keep it going.

susan warren's picture
susan warren
Submitted by susan warren on
Cultural empowerment, realisation of self worth and gratefulness of what's around us...

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
That touched my heart. Thats exactly what i wanted to hear and see.. so sad how drug can ruin uour heart

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
That touched my heart. Thats exactly what i wanted to hear and see.. so sad how drug can ruin uour heart

Winnebago Tribe's picture
Winnebago Tribe
Submitted by Winnebago Tribe on
The young warrior made full circle and now has eternal life without suffering or pain. Sad, but we may all know someone who never finds their way back....

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Clearly the Blackfeet agree with the message they're sending or they wouldn't have helped them through the whole video. They actually did the sundance ceremony in the video. If they were in any way upset that wouldn't have happened. Coming from someone actually from a Montana reservation.

Darren Kagigebi's picture
Darren Kagigebi
Submitted by Darren Kagigebi on
The video is telling the sad truth of drug abuse on today's reservations. I have seen my fair share of drug related deaths this year on my reservation. This video needs to be shared and not criticized. Anyone that lives on the rez knows that!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
wow thank you for sharing this is a very positive powerful story which in my opinion should be show cased in every community as this is real for many of our young people who continue this way of life....i am very blessed and honoured that my oldest grandson who turned 18 yesterday is still drug alcohol free attending university and a role model for his younger brother....sometimes we may not speak our language but are free and poor but make life fun and happy we can make it through our toughest times i believe in step forward makes a lighter path and walk in life...thank you love hugs laughter dolly's picture
Submitted by heathersherrick... on
I am so sick of people being angry this is a GREAT video I love it and this video is the truth it show's the truth and the youth need are help...WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP?? And another thing that is crazy is people saying that the sundance is not to be shared with white people are you crazy there was a movie put out 40 years ago that showed a hell of a lot more than this video you can google it and get more so you saying that makes you look like a big dummy....I love this video made me cry because it reminds me of my family member's....My brother-in-law was just murdered and his body cut up on the reservation and of course they do nothing if this would of happened any where else you would see it all over the news...I am thankful that this video was made to tell the truth maybe now people will see what is happening....The reservations that are doing good need to help the ones who aren't doing good...Help each other...Blessing's so thankful for the making of the video....

AOsceola's picture
Submitted by AOsceola on
I liked the video, however, I do agree that our ceremonies be respected and kept amongst our own people. The struggle is real and to reach out to your spirituality for guidance is powerful.

Iitoomakii's picture
Submitted by Iitoomakii on
I am a traditional person who participates in these ceremonies. Through the last 10 years our ways have diminished tremendously. Many native people of the Blackfeet Nation deny their heritage and will say I am not a traditional person, I don't think of being a traditional person, I only think of it as being a Blackfeet person, I learned from my grandparents. I have raised 3 children & 3 granddaughters in the Blackfeet way and faith. 1 of my granddaughters has to deal with a meth problem her dad has. She deals with it through her faith in Creator and the Pipe. these Medicine lodges & sweats maybe one of the last best things our youth can turn to. The songs interpret what words cannot. I love you Treyace, Iikakiimatsin!