Collection of images featuring snips from the Reciprocity Project Season 1

Seven Films Examining Reciprocity and Indigenous Value Systems Released to Inspire and Provide Insight to Navigating the Conversation on Climate

Following an award-winning festival run, these films provide a provocative look at how communities have thrived based on mutual actions since time immemorial

Oct 10, 2022

Today, Reciprocity Project, a collaboration between Nia Tero and Upstander Project in association with REI Co-op Studios, launches its first series of original short films made by Indigenous directors on their homelands. The films, previously released at film festivals, are now streaming at and on REI's YouTube channel for all to enjoy in honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Reciprocity Project season one celebrates cultures and learnings from Indigenous communities across Turtle Island in the U.S. and Colombia. The filmmakers worked alongside crucial community partners, infusing the films with their perspectives on reciprocity and their relationships to the land and animals around them.

"Stories from Indigenous peoples about being in reciprocity with the Earth are essential in delivering messages of truth, healing, and transformative change," said executive producer Tracy Rector, who is also Managing Director, Storytelling, at Nia Tero. "Our survival is the result of the efforts from many ancestors who came before us. With the Reciprocity Project films as a guide, we ask ourselves – and you: what does ‘reciprocity' mean to your community, and what kind of ancestor do you want to be?"

The Reciprocity Project season one films and filmmakers are: Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr'eedaa (We Will Walk the Trail of our Ancestors) by Princess Daazhraii Johnson and Alisha Carlson (Gwich'in); ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They've Been Taught) by Brit Hensel and Keli Gonzales (Cherokee Nation); SŪKŪJULA TEI (Stories of My Mother) by David Hernández Palmar and Flor Palmar (Wayuu Iipuana); Weckuwapasihtit (Those Yet to Come) by Geo Neptune and Brianna Smith (Passamaquoddy); Weckuwapok (The Approaching Dawn) by Jacob Bearchum, Taylor Hensel, Adam Mazo, Chris Newell, Roger Paul, Kavita Pillay, Tracy Rector, and Lauren Stevens; Ma's House by Jeremy Dennis (Shinnecock Indian Nation); and Pili Ka Moʻo by Justyn Ah Chong and Malia Akutagawa (Kanaka Maoli). The producers of Reciprocity Project are Taylor Hensel, Adam Mazo, and Kavita Pillay. The executive producers are Tracy Rector of Nia Tero and Paolo Mottola and Joe Crosby of REI Co-op Studios. Cristina Mittermeier, Hindou Imbrahim, and Yo-Yo Ma are co-executive producers.

About the Films

  • In Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr'eedaa (We Will Walk the Trail of our Ancestors) by Princess Daazhraii Johnson and Alisha Carlson (Gwich'in), a grandfather teaches his granddaughter how the Gwich'in people take care of caribou and vice versa.
  • ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They've Been Taught) by Brit Hensel and Keli Gonzales (Cherokee Nation) explores Cherokee ways of being and knowing through a story told by Thomas Belt, a Cherokee elder and first language speaker./li>
  • SŪKŪJULA TEI (Stories of My Mother) by David Hernandez Palmar and Flor Palmar (Wayuu Iipuana) shows a wise Wayuu woman teaching her grandchildren the importance of reciprocity within their culture. Weckuwapasihtit (Those Yet to Come) by Geo Neptune and Brianna Smith (Passamaquoddy) Peskotomuhkati young people lead an intergenerational process of healing through the reclamation of athasikuwi-pisun, "tattoo medicine."
  • Weckuwapok (The Approaching Dawn), co-directed by a collective of directors, shares the song and stories of the Waponahkik (the people of the dawn land) as they bring gratitude to the sun where it first looks their way, accompanied by Yo Yo Ma.
  • Ma's House by Jeremy Dennis (Shinnecock) shares his quest to restore the family home to its central role as a community gathering place for a new generation of diverse artists.
  • Pili Ka Moʻo by Justyn Ah Chong and Malia Akutagawa (Kanaka Maoli) follows a family of native Hawaiian taro farmers in their efforts to preserve their ancestral land from the encroachment of corporate entities.

"These seven remarkable films are an invitation to start a conversation about taking good care of each other, our families, neighbors and communities," said Adam Mazo, Reciprocity Project producer and Creative Director at Upstander Project. "As the world navigates an escalating climate crisis, these films are designed to uplift Indigenous value systems that have steered and bolstered communities since time immemorial."

"We believe stories can inspire a more equitable, empathetic outdoor community, and we are committed to elevating diversity and representation in the storytellers we partner with," says Paolo Mottola, REI Co-op Director of Content and Media. "We are inspired by the Reciprocity Project filmmakers and believe audiences will appreciate the perspectives and creative excellence in their films."

The Reciprocity Project is in production for its second season with a new cohort of Indigenous filmmakers from Kenya, Finland, Sierra Leone, Rotuma, Taiwan, United States, and beyond to continue amplifying Indigenous voices.

In addition to watching the films, you can read more information about the filmmakers and view discussion guides on the Reciprocity Project website:

About Reciprocity Project

The Reciprocity Project is a short film series and multimedia platform, made in partnership with Indigenous storytellers and their communities worldwide, invites learning from time-honored and current Indigenous ways of being. The project aims to promote the healing of the planet by recognizing that we are in relationship with Earth, a place that was in balance for a place that was in balance until the modern industrial age.

About Nia Tero

Nia Tero is a US-based nonprofit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples who sustain thriving territories and cultures to strengthen guardianship of Earth and all beings. Nia Tero's vision is of an Earth where Indigenous guardianship of thriving homelands and waters is enabled everywhere possible. Nia Tero is committed to an antiracist and inclusive culture guided by Indigenous wisdom, practices, and protocols.

About Upstander Project

Upstander Project uses storytelling to amplify silenced narratives, develop upstander skills to challenge systemic injustice, and nurture compassionate, courageous relationships that honor the interconnection of all beings and the Earth.

About REI Co-op Studios

REI Co-op Studios is the retailer's in-house content arm. Across films, podcasts and editorial programs, the studio develops and produces stories that entertain, enrich, and explore the power of time spent outside, while complementing the co-op's broader climate and racial equity, diversity, and inclusion commitments.

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 23 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 188 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.comREI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.