Co-hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, this conversation features panelists in varying areas of media as they discuss the work it takes and what it means to bring Indigenous stories to audiences. Moderated by Cindy Benitez (National Museum of the American Indian) with guests Cedar Sherbert (Programmer), Cody Lightning (Hey Viktor!), and Sarah Eagle-Heart (Lakota Nation).
Cody Lightning is a world-class, generation-defining actor, iconic for his performance as Little Viktor in 1998’s Smoke Signals. Hailing from Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada, Cody began acting at age 5 in the film Geronimo. Since, he has become one of Hollywood’s most active Indigenous actors, best known for his roles in Smoke Signals, Johnny Depp’s directorial debut The Brave, Rian Johnson’s Brick, and many, many more. In 2023, Cody will star in Marvel's upcoming Echo series. In recent years, Lightning has taken on greater creative responsibilities, including producing, directing, and writing, focusing on projects that highlight how fucking hilarious Indigenous people are.
Cindy Benitez is a film curator and programmer specializing in hemispheric Indigenous film and promotion. She is currently the program manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of American Indian (NMAI). She curates and runs NMAI's annual Native Cinema Showcase (NCS), hosts film and conversation series and curates international film showcases. She has worked as a publicist and consultant for various film festivals and Native media organizations, including the American Indian Film Institute, the Native Forum and World Competition sections of the Sundance Film Festival, and the NMAI's Native American Film + Video Festival. She is a regular contributor to American Indian Magazine and Smithsonian.com and advises and serves on numerous Latinx advisory boards such as Cine Las Americas and The Americas Film Festival New York. A graduate from Barry University, Cindy holds a B.A. in Public Relations and a M.S. in Media Studies at CUNY Brooklyn College. Raised in New York and South Florida she continues to maintain ties to her family homeland of Paraguay.
Cedar Sherbert is an enrolled member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, one of the communities that make up the Kumeyaay Nation of San Diego and northern Baja California, Mexico. He earned both his BA and MFA at the University of Southern California and currently works as a writer, teacher and as a features programmer for Tribeca Festival, Urbanworld and AFIFest. His film work has screened at multiple venues including Sundance, MoMA, etc., and he is currently developing the series pilot Bunny with executive producer Bridget Bedard.
Sarah Eagle Heart (Waŋblí Šiná Wíŋyaŋ, Eagle Shawl Woman), Oglála Lakota, is an Emmy Award–winning social justice storyteller, entrepreneur, and philanthropic leader. Sarah cofounded Zuyá Entertainment to create multi-platform stories based on her unique worldview infused by her Lakota culture.
Sarah is an Executive Producer on Lakota Nation vs. The United States, a documentary feature film about the fight for HeSapa (The Black Hills of South Dakota), which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2022 and will be in theatres in July 2023, as well as streaming on Hulu in the late fall.
In 2019, her narrative change partnership with John Legend’s Get Lifted and Baobab Studios Crow: the Legend, a virtual reality story about how the crow became black, led to an Emmy in Outstanding Interactive Media.
In January 2023, her book Warrior Princesses Strike Back: How Lakota Twins Fight Oppression and Heal Through Connectedness published by Feminist Press and was endorsed by actors Mark Ruffalo and Piper Perabo. In 2021, Ms. Eagle Heart contributed to This is How We Come Back Stronger published by Feminist Press.
Sarah is currently writing and producing, and is also an exclusive public speaker with American Program Bureau.