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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Former Football Player's Film Examines Dehumanizing Experiences Of Oglala Lakota Tribe
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 03/29/2016
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By Craig Morgan, Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jim Warne's family didn't move to Arizona in 1962 for better weather. They came for a better life -- one free from the persecution they faced in South Dakota as members of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribe.

"My parents left the Rapid City area back when there was still a tent city where native people were forced to live," said Warne, who was born in Phoenix in 1964. "It was probably equivalent to the African-American experience in Mississippi.

"Arizona was not perfect by any means, but at least it was a lot more advanced -- probably out of necessity because there are so many tribes in Arizona."

Arizona and America still have a long way to go to understand and incorporate native people's perspectives, but Warne has been working to change that for the past three decades. Since graduating from ASU in 1987 -- and winning a Rose Bowl as the starting tackle on the Sun Devils football team -- Warne played a season for the Detroit Lions, served stints as a Hollywood stuntman and actor, taught at San Diego State for 22 years, testified at a Senate Oversight hearing on the impact of racist stereotypes on indigenous people and was featured on C-Span discussing indigenous stereotypes in sports.

Warne will offer a screening of his award-winning documentary, "7th Generation" on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Memorial Union. The screening is open to the public and free of charge. The film details the experiences and perspectives of multiple generations of Oglala Lakota that Warne said are largely absent, like most native experiences, from the American curriculum and lexicon.

"In talking to people from other countries, I have found that Asians and Europeans know more about our Indian history than Americans do," Warne said. "In America, we get one narrow and uniform tribal perspective when there are over 550 tribes here that are recognized and 200 hundred languages still today.

"It's important to have an understanding that some of the history that has been taught may not be correct, and in many cases it's not even addressed," he said. "It's an ignorance by design, but how could we expect our non-Indian brothers to know when they're not being taught? If we taught the truth from the beginning we wouldn't be dealing with the ignorance and intolerance we're dealing with today."

The film tackles some difficult truths about the American past, including a voice-over segment where Warne says, "there was a holocaust here that we do not acknowledge." The film also examines the infamous boarding schools across the country with their massive graveyards where indigenous children were abused and sometimes died due to suicide, attempted escape or "beatings that went too far."

"There was a lot more positive atmosphere at the old Phoenix Indian School because there was a lot more tribal involvement but the idea was still to end tribal culture and turn them into American Indians," Warne said. "There was no room for our culture."

Warne praised ASU's American Indian Studies program, which emphasizes the latest ideas and research impacting indigenous communities across the U.S.

"ASU's program has Indian people associated with it (including Director John W. Tippeconnic III) which is probably one reason they invited me to do this screening," said Warne, noting that his family members own 10 degrees from ASU, beginning with his grandmother. "They understand the problems our curriculums, our frustrations and our daily reminders of the problems that still exist."

While Warne is focused on change, the film ends on a positive note drawn from Black Elk's famous declaration after the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

"After Wounded Knee, Black Elk said it would take seven generations to heal," Warne said. "This is the seventh generation so there is great anticipation that the seventh generation will do some great things, not just for our people but for the human race."

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