Accolade Global Film Competition Award of Merit: Documentary Short  | Impact Docs Award of Merit: Documentary Short

A documentary film by Karen Cantor at Singing Wolf Documentaries

Native American Women Reclaim Foodways for Health and Spirit

Concerned about the declining health of people all around them, Native American women are sparking physical and spiritual rejuvenation through reclaiming traditional foodways.

RETURN: Native American Women Reclaim Foodways for Health and Spirit features charismatic Roxanne Swentzell from Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico whose efforts to reclaim ancient foodways are echoed across the continent by Tlingit, Muckleshoot, Oglala Sioux, Menominee, and Seneca women.  At its heart this film is about empowering people to overcome their current circumstances through eating as their ancestors did - nutritiously and locally. RETURN offers an approach to confronting the diabetes epidemic now rampant in Native American communities.


Refugees in their own land, Native Americans were herded onto reservations and deprived of their traditional foods. Instead they ate rationed bleached flour, unhealthy fats, and sugar with few alternative and healthy options for cooking. Today, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Native American and Alaskan Natives adults are twice as likely as non-Hispanics to struggle with diabetes and with the associated maladies of heart disease and stroke. Health experts along with research attribute the higher disease rates in Indigenous communities to cultural disruption, poor education, poverty, inadequate access to health services, and economic adversity. 

Through personal, character-based storytelling, RETURN offers examples of alternative pathways to health and wellness for American Indians. Featuring Native American women from New Mexico, South Dakota, Alaska, Washington, New York, and Wisconsin, the film highlights efforts to return to ancestral practices for healthier eating and living. 

The things that we learned have been more than just, “This is pretty good food,” it’s been, “Oh my God, we are the descendants of the people that figured this out.”
— Roxanne Swentzell

Co-Produced by Vision Maker Media in association with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Distributed by American Public Television

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