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.

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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Dee Pratt's picture
Dee Pratt
Submitted by Dee Pratt on
UK Chase and Status...why are they using American reservervations in their songs?? shouldn't the peoples who live it be the ones' to talk it?

BP's picture
Submitted by BP on
I think its a nice song.. although i see the message. I was always taught that sundance is something that us Natives still have something that was for us.. one of the last things left.. not to be shared with the white world.. idk

Mrs. Kerr's picture
Mrs. Kerr
Submitted by Mrs. Kerr on
Why do people always see the negative??? What I seen in this video is a young man reaching out to his spiritual leaders for help with his addiction. It's too bad that it took the loss of someone he loved one to see what that poison was doing and does. I see a young man doing the right thing by seeking guidance from his spiritual leaders shows you the power behind the Great Spirit and how it can truly help our youth to participate in ceremonies and sweats. So I say Kudos to this young man and this video. Open your eyes! Feel the Spirit and let it guide you!

bernie stevens's picture
bernie stevens
Submitted by bernie stevens on
great work do more keep telling it like it is .dont back down keep going i am so proud of you.

Badger Blkft's picture
Badger Blkft
Submitted by Badger Blkft on
I watched the video and felt there was a sad truth to it but also seen it as the Blackfeet recognizing the problem and using ceremony to deal with it. The message is that our traditional way of life is there to help all those in need.

Theresa Rosario's picture
Theresa Rosario
Submitted by Theresa Rosario on
I would want my Native children to watch and to learn!

agnes cummings's picture
agnes cummings
Submitted by agnes cummings on
this is very good !! I see in this short film a young man went from being lost in the drug world to finding his way back going back to his higher power and lucky for this young man meth didn't take his life very interesting's picture
this was and is probably one of the better depictions of reservation life that i have seen so far. it has the a perspective most individuals cant relate to because they have never experienced it, as a tribal leader of first nations ppl it is my opinion that more of this type of reality as we live it on the rez, needs to be expressed. i personally felt very connected to what was being shared, i appreciated it not only as an indian, also as an artist. feeling a strong sense of spirituality without the sense of dogma. A morality is being expressed that has nothing to do with christianity and everything to do with natural law and the choice to look inward and not necessarily upward, if you get my drift. as first nations ppl we have been indoctrinated to believe that our moral perspective is pagan, heathen, and out right wrong, and that is not true. im glad i viewed this controversial work of art and that is exactly what it is a work of art. everyone has his or her opinion and this is mine. just find a way to go to the creator and he will guide you. toksa ake waciyaginkta, mitakoyasin.

Ally's picture
Submitted by Ally on
Regardless of anything else, this was beautifully made and inspiring. I'm not sure about the "Poverty Porn" perspective, though I can see why people might take issue. I'll have to put some more thought into that. This could have just as easily taken place in an inner city with a different cast, but I'm not sure if the moral story would have resonated as well under those circumstances.

Seep's picture
Submitted by Seep on
The cultural ceremonies should not be exposed like that. Where's the respect now adays! Gee.....

cathyalexander's picture
Submitted by cathyalexander on
so sad

Kevin23's picture
Submitted by Kevin23 on

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
It made me cry...I know (of) too many kids and adults who are suffering...good ppl...I didn't even hear the song...

Brittany 's picture
Submitted by Brittany on
Wow this video made me cry! And it was very beautiful everything about it inside and out. Everyone can over come struggles that they have had. And I am "white" and I think every culture has a group of people in it that has a drug problem it is nothing new. I think everyone should see this video. It is really touching

Frankie T. KippBlackeet Nation Boxing Club's picture
Frankie T. Kipp...
Submitted by Frankie T. Kipp... on
This was a positive thing for these young people, Poverty Porn ? I am the coordinator for the Blackfeet Nation Boxing Club & youth Ctr. & "The Children of the Sun food Pantry" we are the financially challenged team in Montana but we do it. Maybe you should see this through my eyes, I feed many families w/ what little I get at times. I was a Probation Officer for the court, and seen first hand drugs, and it has been reported that 42% of our babies born withdrawing from drugs, this is reality...this has changed young people so I think drugs is what we should be mad about and let this be a positive thing for all involved, no one is complaining about a man called Horse or Hanta Yo...let us Blackfeet be happy for those wonderful kids 2 of the are and were my boxers...

Native 1's picture
Native 1
Submitted by Native 1 on

Sky D.'s picture
Sky D.
Submitted by Sky D. on
Sometime facing truth and reality can be painful. I have sat with those I thought were my friends and smoked that bad smoke and went to their funerals yrs later. Awareness is all this video is bringing to the forefront.

Desmond Brooks's picture
Desmond Brooks
Submitted by Desmond Brooks on
this is every rez , or poverity stricking community .. this shit is real , and it is TODAY ..

WalkingstickAudry's picture
Submitted by WalkingstickAudry on
beautiful... Im a nonrez native, and its hard for people to understand the hardships natives have to face the rez is like a non existent world to "white people" but alot want to help theyd want to help if the knew ... trust is okay

WalkingstickAudry's picture
Submitted by WalkingstickAudry on
beautiful... Im a nonrez native, and its hard for people to understand the hardships natives have to face the rez is like a non existent world to "white people" but alot want to help theyd want to help if the knew ... trust is okay

Louise L.'s picture
Louise L.
Submitted by Louise L. on
In the end it really doesn't matter to me who put this together. Native or Not its that story of rising from the pain of what society has brought so many of our people to. The video opens up that pain with what that boy goes through trying to feel alive. I really understand that feeling of wanting to feel alive, of just wanting to be us, you know; The real us - who we are as complete human beings. Knowing that our people once were complete and whole, yet having to live with the feeling that we are cut off from being alive that way because our living room has been taken up by others. For me, its really about wanting to be alive the way we are supposed to be as Onkwehonwe, as Anishnabe, as Indigenous. I lived through terrible angst in my youth because of that, but I was lucky to be born to a family that gave me encouragement to grow. They were resisters. My parents and grandparents kept the values of the people in the little living room we had. I have learned to deal with that angst by growing toward resistance in numerous small acts of defiance throughout my day-to-day life. Telling my kids about the things my family taught me; Keeping up little traditions like cooking cornbread, burning the medicines, greeting the day when I look out on the land in the morning, and feeling the love of the earth rise up with the sun; Keeping the oral histories of family and the people alive in my children; Trying and often managing to deal with racism without showing anger or pain by acting all stoic and walking with my head up, fighting back by only allowing racists to see my pride in who we are; Keeping my children connected to their extended families; Keeping my hair long; Being stubborn about our rights in the pharmacy and grocery store. Small things that society never really notices, but these were/are my ways of resistance. Those small things add up over the years and the angst gets weaker all the time. But, now and then, angst still visits me - especially when I look around at the things that surround our young people today. The video brought angst back and it hit bottom with the girl’s burial. Then it changed. The beautiful part started. I felt good watching the return to the life of the people, the Elders bringing healing and support with the sweat, the sundance. That act of resistance – just going ahead and being alive in the way of the people. It was uplifting and hopeful. I was watching the boy start to really feel alive. It made me think of the bravery of so many people in the past year. People who refuse-to-be-idle-any-more. And then he is shot for turning his back on the life of misery he left behind. That happens just when he starts to feel alive. In the end he dies the noble savage – riding off on his horse onto the land – his spirit dressed and ready to meet the spirits greeting him. So what’s the point? What’s the message? Is the message a warning to avoid resistance or die? Does this tell us that there is no living room to really be alive the way we are supposed to be as Indigenous Peoples? If that is the message, then it does matter who put this video together. If it was a NonNative, then it’s just the modern version of the old stereotype of the noble savage disappearing to make way for the superior ‘others’. It is nothing new, just another update on the old myth. If it was a Native then it means some of us are starting to believe it is true. That is really scary. If we really believe in the stereotype, then we have to stay idle or die. The credits tell us that this was a cooperative effort. Hmm… I wonder, how did that happen? I still think that, no matter who created this, its a story of rising from the pain of what society has brought so many of our people to. The disappearance myth is false. We are still here. We are not going away. We need to shout that out. We need to be like those Elders who brought the healing and support back to the youth who was searching for his way to feel alive. We need to join those who are actively keeping the values of our people alive. Resist. Resist even if it is in little ways. Resist, resist, resist.

Brooke Yarborough's picture
Brooke Yarborough
Submitted by Brooke Yarborough on
If they got the okay from the tribe whats the issue its is life on the rez

TsaLiDi Sequoyah's picture
TsaLiDi Sequoyah
Submitted by TsaLiDi Sequoyah on
This may make some mad and it made my Grandmom cry and it makes me know that if our generation does not stop the drug dealers and all those who bring negativity to our lands by putting us down for struggling and struggling to stay strong there will be no us anymore. This is why I chose Haskell Indian Nations Univ. to attend as a student and as a member of Haskell's Mens Basketball team. I could play anywhere, but not with a traditional Lakota Coach who not only teaches us the game of basketball he teaches how to be strong Native men. There is a drug problem on my rez. Every so many days, someone dies because of these drugs and alcohol as well. Our leaders don't care. All they are worried about is how much money they are going make and take from our people, the very people who trusted them to take care of the people. When and how does it stop? Certainly not by running away from our problems or running to another school or town just so we can make ourselves look good and take all of our talent to another place. For what? No one can tell me except its my choice. Its my choice to stand tall and strong at HINU and not let the white and black men or women defeat my people. Our young ones need positive Native role models who will stand and say not in my community. When I first walked on the gym floor at HINU, I felt proud and I knew what my purpose in life is and was. I don't consider myself extremely talented, but I do work hard and I listen to all the traditional people like my Dad, my Uncle Dallas, Mr. Benny Smith, Manny King, and my Coach Chad KillsCrow. Now I know why my tattoos were meant for me. I know why on my left I wear in pride that I am Keetoowah Nighthawk and on my right arm I wear "I AM NOT A SAVAGE I AM HUMAN" all the Keetoowah language. I want to teach, coach as well as continue learning so my Native people wherever you live, will be able to stand tall and proud of who and what they are. I don't ask what I am suppose do with the small amount of ungea blood that is in my little toe as some do on my rez. I know what to do, I live the life of a Native young man. I play for my Native people. I don't wish for riches except to have friends and family who understand me and why I am like I am. If I can keep one Native child from having to live the life as the video shows, I have done my job. If I can keep predators and manipulators way from my Native people and myself, then that one Native child will help someone else stay strong and it will go from there. I will need help though from my generation, because we all need to care. Our elders are not teaching the Native way to our young ones. Most are ashamed of themselves. They say I do not like whites, but then run to their churches. I am privileged and grateful to the elders like my Dad and my Uncle who taught and are still teaching me to be who I am. As I close, I will say that we need teachers, strong Native men to show us the right way. Alcohol and smallpox and all kinds of diseases have been brought our people to destroy us, Now we must "STAND OUR GROUND" and say NO More. I challenge each and every Native who see this video to stop for a moment and say "IT WILL STOP BECAUSE I CARE AND LOVE MY NATIVE People." I say "Wado" to the strong Native men who have been in my life and taught me how to live and care about my people and myself. Wado to Aaron, Micah, Elwood, Uncle Dallas and Aunt Sharon and all their kids, all my NC family and OK family and friends who have pushed me on. Wado to my Gmom and Dad who have raised and taught me since my Little Mom died. Wado to my new team mates and my Coach at HINU for making me part of their families and showing me different ways to be strong. Basketball is what I love, but I love my Native people more and want to stop all the bad stuff that is brought into my people. It's been happening for over 500 years and it is up to my generation to stop it.