Healing the Warrior's Heart

The Western Folklife Center's public television documentary Healing the Warrior's Heart aired on KUED Channel 7 in Salt Lake City on Monday, November 10, 2014, in honor of Veterans Day, and rebroadcast on Sunday, November 16. Healing the Warrior's Heart recently won the LA Skins Fest award for Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking. The film was screened at the 7th annual festival which took place in Los Angeles in mid-November 2014. Skins Fest is a showcase for documentaries and films about Native American topics.

Click here to visit the online forum From November 10 through 14, the Western Folklife Center hosted an online discussion about the film. Comments and questions were welcomed by veteran Cory Navarro, Medicine Man Arnold Thomas, scholar Edward Tick, and producer Taki Telonidis. To visit the forum, click the button on the left.

Healing the Warrior’s Heart examines the emotional trauma of war through the prism of Native American tradition and ceremony. The program reveals the central role that military service plays in Native life and explores the spiritual traditions that help returning American Indian soldiers reintegrate into society. These traditions hold lessons for the nation as we seek to bring comfort and healing to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The program’s narrator is Peter Coyote, who is perhaps PBS's most recognized voice. He's done work for Ken Burns, and also appeared in feature films including Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” Healing the Warrior's Heart is produced by the Western Folklife Center’s Taki Telonidis, in collaboration with Gary Robinson of Tribal Eye Productions, and KUED Channel 7, Salt Lake City’s PBS affiliate.

Much of the documentary focuses on members of the Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana. The Blackfeet Nation is a place where warrior identity is very much alive in our time, even though many current soldiers have lost the connection with the healing traditions that were practiced by their ancestors. Yet there are others for whom those traditions remain relevant, both during their deployment as well as in their re-entry to society. The documentary includes interviews and scenes with spiritual leaders, veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, elder veterans, family members and tribal leaders.

Healing the Warrior’s Heart has been screened at the Native American Journalists Association annual conference in Santa Clara, California; the Utah Governor’s Native American Summit in Orem, Utah; at the 39th Annual American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, California;  in Salt Lake City at the Natural History Museum of Utah; and at the LA Skins Fest in Los Angeles, California. We are seeking other opportunities to show the film to Native and veteran audiences.

Major funding for Healing the Warrior's Heart was provided by the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation; George Gund; the Interculture Foundation;and the the R. Harold Burton Foundation.

Additional support was provided by the Kalliopeia Foundation;  My Good Fund; a Pacific Mountain Network Enhancement Grant; the Utah Humanities Council; Gordon and Shirley Rock; The Barton Family Foundation, a donor advised fund of the Denver Foundation; and Western Folklife Center stakeholders.

Visit our blog and Facebook page for detailed accounts of the film's production. Members of the media, for a digital press kit, click here. Read the latest press release. Following are some photos from our first film shoot on the Blackfeet reservation:

Vietnam War veteran Marvin Weatherwax presents an eagle feather to Martin Connelly, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
To help tell some history about Blackfeet warriors, we organized a re-enactment that included several riders in full regalia.

Taki interviews Earl Heavyrunner, who served in Desert Storm as well as in the recent war in Iraq. Upon his return, the elders of the Blackfeet tribe gave him the title War Chief.
The intrepid crew scans the horizon: Paul Maritsas (Sound), Taki Telonidis, Gary Robinson (Partnering Producer), and Doug Monroe (Director of Photography).

Listen to a radio story for NPR's All Things Considered that was derived from our research into Healing the Warrior's Heart.

Sweat Lodge at the Salt Lake City, Utah, VA Center, photo by Taki Telonidis



 George  Gund

 R. Harold Burton Foundation  interculture-logo