Aanikoobijigan [ancestor / great-grandparent / great-grandchild]

History, spirituality, and the law collide as one Michigan tribal organization fights to ensure that Native American ancestral remains are returned to their rightful place.

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90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
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Adam Khalil

Adam Khalil is a filmmaker and artist from the Ojibway tribe who lives and works in Brooklyn. His practice attempts to subvert traditional forms of ethnography through humor, relation, and transgression. Khalil’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Sundance Film Festival, Tate Modern, and Whitney Museum of American Art.

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Zachary Khalil

Zack Khalil is a filmmaker and artist from the Ojibway tribe who lives and works in Brooklyn. His work centers indigenous narratives in the present and looks toward the future through the use of innovative forms. His work has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Sundance Film Festival.

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Steve Holmgren

Steve Holmgren is a film producer, curator, and entertainment attorney. As a producer, he has worked with numerous filmmakers including Adam and Zack Khalil, Sky Hopinka, Rodrigo Reyes, and Anthony Banua-Simon. His films have screened at Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, Tribeca, HotDocs, and Berlin Film Festivals.

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Grace Remington

Grace Remington is a producer and director who has worked in documentary film and television in the United States, Mexico, and Peru. Her work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, HotDocs, BAMcinemaFEST, and Camden International Film Festival, and has broadcast on POV, Netflix, and National Geographic.

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The Film

The 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act required U.S. institutions to complete a full inventory of their Indigenous “skeletal collections'' to receive federal funding, and compelled them to reunite ancestors with the nearest possible descendants by working with federally recognized tribes. Since then, thousands of ancestors have been repatriated, but countless more are still waiting in boxes in sterile archives in museums across the country, with even more scattered throughout institutions around the world. Aanikoobijigan [ancestor / great-grandparent / great-grandchild] documents the struggle to return Indigenous ancestral remains while taking a critical look at the reasoning that justified unearthing and collecting them in the first place. 

Aanikoobijigan centers around the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation & Repatriation Alliance (MACPRA). MACPRA is composed of repatriation specialists who each represent one of Michigan’s tribes—the members range in age from 26-70+ and have all been led to this calling for different reasons; each strives to carve out a space for Indigenous worldviews in America’s intellectual halls of power by demanding respect for their ancestors and petitioning for their return. They surmount immense bureaucratic injustice through protracted legal battles peppered with brief, intensely rewarding moments in which justice is achieved, and ancestors who have been in cold storage for generations are finally returned home. The organization’s ongoing struggle illuminates the ideological underpinnings of a longstanding conflict between institutions of science and Indigenous people.