Nihunavea: My Heart, My Center

Project type: Nonfiction Feature
Project status: Production
Director/Producer: Colin Rosemont
Director: Sandra Hernandez
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Weaving a tapestry of a place and a people, Nihunavea traces a history of the first CA Indian Reservations, land dispossession, and a centuries-long struggle for land and recognition for the Kitanemuk people of the Tejon Tribe. Diving into both the memories and struggles of Tejon Indian Tribal members working to reclaim tribal community and share their history, the film sets out to tell a collective story of coming home–a 21st century creation story from Native California.


This film is an exploration of a collective story–of loss and dispossession–and a contemporary portrait of return. Through the Treaty of Tejon in 1851, the Tejon Indian Tribe was promised the first and largest reservation allotment in California. Through government corruption, bureaucracy, and outright lies, the Treaty of Tejon came to be one of California’s 18 Unratified Treaties. Instead of remaining the homelands of the Tejon Tribe, the Tejon reservation would instead become the largest contiguous private landholding in California—The Tejon Ranch—while the tribe lost their land and was legally dissolved in the eyes of the Federal government.

Nihunavea bears witness to the complex struggles of reclaiming Native California Indian cultural heritage, spirituality, and Tribal Sovereignty. Through an exploration of both fragmented memory and partial histories alike, the film sets out to explore the ways in which the past is ever present in our lives today. The core thread of this film is one of sharing a collective story of resilience, reclamation, and return. And so alongside animations and the sharing of oral histories, we witness the reclamation work in-process. It is the daily work of self-governing. It is the language revitalization work on Tuesday nights. It is the drumming sessions between elders and youth, it is the annual return to the family cemetery and Indian school on Tejon Ranch where they can care for their ancestors and remember the struggles of the past that have made this future possible, culminating in a ground breaking ceremony of the new Tejon Reservation lands.

Meet the Filmmakers

Colin Rosemont — Director/Producer
Colin Rosemont is a writer and director with a BA in cultural anthropology from Reed College and an MA in environmental studies from the University of Oregon with an emphasis on visual arts and the environmental humanities. His ongoing work with the Tejon Tribe looks at the possibility and extent of collaborative, co-constitutive knowledge production of the past. His previous short documentary, Unearthed, explores this through the lens of an ongoing archeological excavation in the mountains of Southern California. This work is part of ongoing efforts to decolonize methodologies and re-inscribe social histories into the landscape.

Through the collective, Mimetic Films, he has produced and directed a series of short narrative and documentary film projects. He is a directing fellow at the American Film Institute.

Sandra Hernandez – Director
Sandra Hernandez is an enrolled member of the Tejon Indian Tribe. Over the last 12 years she served as an elected Council member in capacity as Secretary and Treasurer. Over the years she has assisted in developing tribal and financial policies, procedures, and resolutions resulting in direct streamlined services to Tejon tribal members. Her work also extends to the Kern County Indian Education Center where she worked to provide assistance to families in need. Sandra is an active tribal member who also volunteers on the Tribe’s Education, Cultural Resources Management, Language, and Powwow Committees. As a cultural practitioner her interests are in Tejon language revitalization, educating in California regional cultural history, creating traditional dance regalia, and sharing with all communities her family’s rich culture and practices. She has an active role working with museums to review their collections with the goal of bringing her ancestors back home.

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