Native Vision: Interview with Jhane Myers
Jhane Myers, a member of the Comanche and Blackfeet Nations, is an Emmy Award-winning and Producers Guild of America-nominated filmmaker who is recognized for her passion and dedication to films that preserve the legacies of Native communities. She has established herself as a vital cultural and community resource for Native projects, including the films Prey, 1883, The Wilds, Monsters of God, Magnificent Seven, Winder River, The Lone Ranger, and Apocalypto.
Jhane chairs the Native American Advised Fund at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, a Native-created and -led initiative supporting systems and practices that empower Indigenous people and communities.
How did you get involved with the Native American Advised Fund (NAAF)?
NAAF was founded by Allan Houser, the renowned, beloved sculptor and instructor. He was originally from Oklahoma, as I am – so we have that special connection.
I first served as a member of NAAF’s all-Native advisory committee, and now I’ve been the chair for the past five years. Oh my gosh, it’s such an honor to be able to serve Native people in need.
The fund started with a small endowment, and we’ve grown it through the years. Today, it has evolved to support Native causes throughout New Mexico.
We regularly contribute to organizations that lift up Native youth and art – groups like the Santa Fe Indigenous Center and New Mexico Kids Matter. I go to the Santa Fe Indigenous Center programs when they have food distributions every other Friday to pass out the food for the kids.
Basically, we support any organization that promotes Native people, that does community work. We’re here to counter the severe lack of funding for Native communities. The Santa Fe Community Foundation has been one of the largest foundations to give grants to Native causes.
There’s this idea that giving is a Native value that predates today’s philanthropic efforts.
Yes, this is a natural part of Native core values: giving, reciprocity, and generosity. If you go back to the Native people on Plymouth Rock, they didn’t let any person perish; they shared the food that they had.
I have been raised that if people are in need or ask something of you and it’s within your power, you do your best to do it. Don’t even say yes or no, just do it.
And you were a traditional artist before that?
I originally worked for Ralph Lauren for nine years, before I had my three children. And today, I serve on their American Indian and Indigenous External Advisory Board. I also have a background in public relations for films. I started working with Disney, where I did Native community engagement.
A lot of big companies, when they’re borrowing from a culture, don’t necessarily engage the culture. So, it’s my mission that when you borrow something from, say, the Comanche culture, you do something with the Comanche culture. You need to be involved in the community.
Community work has always been my focus – to make sure our Native people are supported and that there’s a gift of reciprocity.
I started in film as a cultural advisor, language consultant, dialect coach – basically a cultural consultant for movies that had Native culture in them. I eventually moved into producing. Since then, I’ve produced eight documentaries, four shorts, and an opera. Right now, I’m starting an animated project with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas!
It seems like giving and reciprocity is foundational to everything you do.
Yes. It's the core of everything.
Photo: Jhane Myers, Producer, Prey, 20th Century Studios/Disney
Interview excerpt from the Santa Fe Community Foundation's publication Vital.