Jan 31, 2015 - Sundance Film Institute Advertising Actual Sundance Scars? By Chase Iron Eyes

Everytime I see the paid-for promotion by @Adobe announcing “#Sundance-ers: What inspires you? Show us in a vid & share using #SundanceSpotlight” it freaks me out because I know many Sundancers, not film festival goers, but actual ceremonial practitioners. I quickly dismiss it because I know Robert Redford is behind the Sundance Film Festival and Robert Redford produced Incident at Oglala, the story of how Leonard Peltier is the longest incarcerated Political Prisoner in the United States. So I support the Sundance Film Festival. However, being made aware of the Sundance Film Festival (“@SunDanceInstitute” on Instagram) photo of a man’s torso and lower face that highlights and shows very clearly the man’s sundance piercing scars, I became eviscerated, like something sacred had been ripped from our being. People showing off their sundance scars is nothing new; we see a few people do that for reasons all their own but, “that ain’t none of my business.”


What is my business, and the business of every member of the Sundance Nation, the real Sundance Nation, is the protection of the sanctity of this most supreme and universal sacred ritual. For us to allow, uncontested, the apparent advertising of sundance scars crosses a line that we must hold.  To take pictures of the sundance ceremony is patently dishonorable but it is less of an offense to take pictures of sundance scars for the purpose of promotion or advertisement. To profit, by gaining social or financial capital, from the proliferation of a sundance scarred chest with the Sundance Film logo above the scars, is a sacrilege and violation of the collective esteem within which our values and principles live. We, the “real Indians,” so to speak, not to say others are “fake,” but I refer to those Ikceya, those Anishinabeg, Pikuni, Dine, Hopi, Haudonasaunee and other Earth Nations, those who protect our original living essence; we must hold the line and we do this by calling it out when we see it while being open to rebuttal and willing to yield to different logic at same time in any discourse.

It is our responsibility alone to uphold these principles. So with all due respect to the otherwise awesome Indigenous instagrammer @redshoes_x who created the graphic, and whose subject (the sundancer in the photo) is unidentified, I mean no personal attack, but I feel responsible to introduce this because of its implications for the evolution of our consciousness.

We do not know what the consequences will be for us to take this next step in the process of creating media with artists, comedians and content creators pushing the limit of what is sacred (we have our own “sacred clowns” who push those boundaries) but we must consider this. We have the lens, the clouds and other tools to reach the world and with that comes the ability to destroy the sanctity of our gifts in an unprecedented manner by doing this to ourselves. Will we choose to objectify ourselves (as we currently do when we make mascots out of ourselves)? Will we choose to shock our own collective conscience? Will we choose to present ourselves in a romanticized fashion exploiting ourselves and outsiders at the same time? That is our choice; nobody, not even Creator, is going to tell us no.

Each of us is imbued with a free will, an intellect, a consciousness and an ability to choose our own destiny. However, it is the place of thought leaders, the deliberators, the big-bellies and the silent-eaters to engage in the powerful act of insight to lay the foundations and guide posts of our spiritual and artistic expressions as Indigenous peoples. We’ve got to respect the Creator, we’ve got to respect ourselves.

Again, no disrespect. Each person exercises their free will at their own expense but I feel we have to hold the line so the coming generation will have the same gifts we have by keeping the sacred, sacred.

Update: The Sundance Film Institute removed the Sundance scar ad January 30, 2015.

Last Real Indians