Pocahontas No More: Indigenous Women Standing Up for Each Other in Twenty-First Century Cinema
Abstract: Sydney Freeland’s fiction feature Drunktown’s Finest (2014) represents the return of Indigenous women’s feature filmmaking after a hiatus caused by neoconservative politics post-9/11. In the two decades since Disney’s Pocahontas (1995), filmmakers such as Valerie Red-Horse have challenged erasure and appropriation, but without coherent distribution or scholarship. Indigenous film festivals and settler state funding have led to a reestablishment, creating a cohort that includes Drunktown’s Finest. Repudiating both the figure of Pocahontas, as analysed by Elise M. Marubbio, and the erasure of Indigenous women in the new Western genre described by Susan Faludi, Drunktown’s Finest relates to both the work of white ally filmmakers of the early 2000s, such as Niki Caro, and to the work of contemporary Indigenous filmmakers working in both features (Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu of Arnait) and shorts (Danis Goulet, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers). Foregrounding female agency, the film is framed by a traditional puberty ceremony that—through the presence of Felixia, a transgender/nádleeh woman—is configured as non-essentialist. The ceremony alters the temporality of the film, and inscribes a powerful new figure for Indigenous futures in the form of a young woman, in line with contemporary Indigenous online activism, and with the historical figure of Pocahontas.