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The Faculty in the Department of History and College of Law at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) are leading the Law and Race Initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation with Vision Maker Media and the Institute for Policy, Politics, Law and History.

Together, we are seeking producers interested in making a short documentary that fits within Indigenous legal history. See below for topic choices, or you can submit your own topic idea of Indigenous history and legacy of Law & Race.

Vision Maker Media and the UNL Dept. of History and College of Law will select the production of two short documentaries of 40 minutes or less. Producers should have documentary filmmaking experience and be comfortable collaboratively working with academic experts and/or advisors in the making of the film. Proposed projects should be completed within 12-months of award. Funds support the production of a short film produced by a Native filmmaker. Production costs may be funded in a request amount of up to $25,000.
*Proposal topics must be on U.S. and/or Alaska Native Indigenous legal history.


  • Native filmmakers must hold artistic, budgetary and editorial control and own the copyright of the proposed short film.
  • The proposed project must be a short film of 40 minutes or less.
  • Topics and genres accepted for the Law and Race Initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation are to be short film documentary. Topic ideas are to be within Indigenous history and legacy of Law & Race.
  • The proposed project must be ready for production (funding supports production to completion).
  • Production timeline must have completion within 12 months of receiving 1st payment of awarded funding.
  • All applicants must be over 21 years of age, and a U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident.
  • Proposals must show significant Native American involvement on their production, whether Above the Line, Below the Line or both.
  • Eligible Proposals should meet Vision Maker Media’s mission of empowering and engaging Native people to share stories.


  • Commercial Programs.
  • Industrial or promotional films and videos.
  • Student productions of any sort, such as thesis films.
  • Programs intended solely for theatrical release.
  • Filmmakers or production entities that are foreign-based, owned or controlled.
  • Programs funded in part by a government entity or group featured in the content of the program.


Vision Maker Media and the Department of History and College of Law at University of Nebraska-Lincoln convenes a panel of academics, public media professionals, filmmakers, and faculty to evaluate proposals and work samples. Selection committees consider: understanding and relevance to the scope of the Law and Race initiative, the representation of Native cultures and experiences, the perspectives of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and how well the overall proposal/application meets Vision Maker Media’s mission—empowering and engaging Native people to share their stories. We envision a world changed and healed by understanding Native stories and the public conversations they generate. A key strategy for this work is in partnerships with Tribal nations, Indian organizations and Native communities.

Reaching the national public and a global market is the ultimate goal for the dissemination of Native public media that shares Native perspectives with the world.

Following in-depth evaluation and discussion, the panel recommends projects for support. Recommendations are subject to approval by the Vision Maker Media Board of Directors.

When evaluating, the selection panel weighs the strengths of the following factors for project proposals: Strength of story, production team, budget, timeline, previous experience, quality of work samples, and meeting the scope of the Law and Race Initiative’s focus on Indigenous legal history.


  • Projects that are selected for funding and have not previously received funding from VMM may be required to have a fiscal sponsor or agent.
  • A copy of Producer’s or Fiscal Sponsor/Agent’s completed W-9.
  • If applicable, a draft of the Fiscal Agent agreement before signature. If an agreement has already been signed, send a copy of the agreement between you and your fiscal agent(s), current or former, for the Program.
  • Verification of one Production Account for all Production funds and identification of two authorized signatories.
  • Insurance: evidence of adequate insurance in the form of certificates: General Liability & Worker’s Compensation.
  • Web Publicity Materials: for the purpose of creating a web page on visionmakermedia.org for the Program, which includes the following: Head Shots of Producer(s) (for multiple Producers – headshot should be together), professionally photographed and processed color images at a resolution of at least 300 dpi (printable at a minimum size of 5”x7”) to be delivered in PSD or JPG format, suitable and cleared for print and web publicity.



We are seeking producers interested in developing short documentaries on any of the following stories, or submit your own topic idea within Indigenous history and legacy of Law & Race. 

Lucía Martínez and Borderlands Coercion
Yaqui woman Lucía Martínez navigated the borderlands slavery regime of the Arizona-Sonora region in the second half of the nineteenth century and bore three children to a territorial Senator who had held her as a servant in his household between the ages of ten and eighteen. When Woolsey tried to keep her daughters from her in 1871, Martínez challenged him in court, becoming the first known Indigenous woman to file a claim in Arizona’s territorial courts. Her descendants nominated her to the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2021 and remember her as a champion despite her marginalized legal status.

Juana Walker, Rebecca Graham, and Mixed Inheritance
Miscegenation laws banned inter-racial marriages throughout much of the United States prior to the Supreme Court ruling overturning those bans in the 1967 Loving v Virginia decision. Indigenous women who bore children with white fathers faced grave challenges in securing the futures of children deemed illegitimate under the law. Juana Walker, daughter of an Akimel O’odham mother and American father, and Rebecca Graham, daughter of a Duwamish mother and American father, both challenged such laws when they claimed inheritance rights to their father’s estates in 1892 and 1894. Their cases demonstrate the contentious views of Indigenous and non-Indian Westerners who shared both intimate relationships and animosities at the end of the nineteenth century.

Louisa Enick and Sauk Suiattle Land Claims
Sauk Suiattle woman Louisa Enick secured a public domain allotment late in the nineteenth century that allowed her to live and raise her children on sacred and secure homelands between the peaks of the North Cascade Mountains in what is northern Washington today. Along with her Sauk Suiattle neighbors, Enick filed and maintained her claim into the early twentieth century, but shortly before her death, federal officials dismissed her land claims and surveyed Sauk Suiattle lands to establish the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Enick and her descendants struggled to retain title, but lost a bureaucratic battle with devastating consequences. Despite this blow, Enick’s relatives and tribe continue to persist in their homelands today and are seeking means to recover land claims like Louisa Enick’s in negotiation with the federal and state governments.

Standing Bear’s Long Shadow
Standing Bear’s 1879 effort to return to his Ponca homelands in Nebraska after being forcibly removed to Indian Territory is a compelling story that casts a long shadow in Great Plains history. What has been overlooked in that shadow is that Standing Bear’s legal case had its precedent in the 1868 trial of Moses Keokuk, a Sac and Fox leader who successfully sued an Indian agent in Lawrence, Kansas for trying to keep him from leading a delegation to meet with officials in Washington, D.C. Standing Bear’s legal arguments echoed Keokuk’s nearly verbatim, but Judge Dundy failed to follow the standard script, ignoring nearly a century of federal Indian law and local legal practice that recognized Native people’s rights in American law when he instead asked himself whether Native people were human. After Standing Bear’s case, which recognized his human right to mobility but stripped him of his status as a Native person, other Native men similarly sued Indian agents for confining them to reservations. Standing Bear’s case is better understood in the light of cases before and after his, all of which reveal Indigenous people’s sophisticated leveraging of the law in the years immediately following the Civil War.

Boarding School Petitioners
As the federal Indian boarding school system expanded across the American West after Carlisle was established in 1879, Native parents developed creative strategies to resist coercive child removal. In 1885, Tlingit parents successfully used habeas corpus to force Alaska boarding school officials to return their children. Judges found it difficult to justify compulsory attendance and other Native families followed suit, using habeas to challenge boarding schools in Washington, New Mexico, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska into the twentieth century. Although few Indian agents followed the letter of the law, Congress responded to these legal challenges by passing a law in 1895 that banned use of force and threats to compel attendance in off-reservation boarding schools. Each of these stories reveals that Indigenous resistance and legal sophistication prompted federal reform and brings new questions to bear on current investigations into boarding school policy and abuses.

Vision Maker Media (VMM) invites proposals for Documentary Shorts on Indigenous Legal History. We are seeking creative short film format proposals by and about Native Americans and Alaska Natives for production funding that nurtures and encourages new and creative innovative storytelling. We want you tell your story in a uniquely imaginative, inventive, and artistically experimental way to represent the cultures, experiences and values of American Indians and Alaska Natives. At VMM, we empower and engage Native People to tell stories. Founded in 1976, Vision Maker Media, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), receives major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media—to be the next generation of storytellers. For more information, visit www.visionmakermedia.org. For more information or questions, contact visionmaker@unl.edu or 402-472-3522.

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.