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Posted on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 : 10:48 a.m.

Documentary about Native Americans in sports, 'Bright Circle,' to be screened at U-M

By Staff


On Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 5:30 p.m., producers Russ Bolinger and Shawn Kakuk will introduce and screen their independent documentary film, "Bright Circle," in the University of Michigan’s Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery, at 913 S. University. Admission is free.

"Bright Circle" explores the history of Native American Indians’ participation and achievement in athletics.

The 19th century saw the founding of “Indian Schools” — boarding schools that brought Native American children together from many different tribes, most often against their will. The objective was assimilation. The motto was, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” In addition to the insistence on removal of tribal customs and conventions, the “Indian Schools” focused their male population on sports, particularly football. Unintentionally, these institutions produced some of the best athletes and teams of the late 19th and early 20th century. Jim Thorpe, honored as the greatest athlete of the 20th century, is one example. Members of his family appear in the film.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Native Americans dominated intercollegiate and professional sports, but over the past one hundred years, Native American participation in popular sports has decreased at an astonishing rate.

Kakuk and Bolinger met in the context of football scouting, when Kakuk was coaching a prospective player. This collaborative film grew from shared observation of the underrepresentation of Native Americans in football.

"We are both excited and honored to be presenting 'Bright Circle' at the University of Michigan, not only because of the rich history of Wolverine athletics but, more importantly, because of the commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles, and choices, for Native Americans. We are proud that Bright Circle is a part of this commitment and feel that our film is a natural fit with these efforts as an educational and inspirational tool," said producers Bolinger and Kakuk in a press release.