Being Seen

BEING SEEN is a short film about American Indians in the realm of higher education. Students and faculty alike detail the importance of proper representation while they combat stereotypes and utilize tradition as a positive force in their community. The film follows Nicholas Gomez, a student at San Francisco State University, Bay Area resident, and the president of the student­ run organization SKINs (Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations) as he plans a Powwow. This film explores the mental health issues that can arise as a result of being a part of a culture that experiences historical trauma and is often marginalized or overlooked. This film examines how we can all, Native and non­-Native, challenge these issues and be a part of effective solutions along the way.

Discussion Guide

This guide is intended to promote critical discussion amongst students, faculty members, administrators, and also the broader public regarding the presence of American Indians not only on college campuses but within our society at large.


  • How cultural misrepresentation can create a sense of invisibility.
  • The mental health issues that can arise when American Indians are not visible within the broader community.
  • The importance of a community that combats invisibility and speaks to Native issues.
  • The lasting effects of historical trauma.
  • Education and alternative pedagogy as a means towards a solution.


  • Prior to watching this documentary, how much did you know about the American Indian community?
  • Did you consider them to be extinct or exclusive to reservations?
  • What community do you identify with?  Do you feel like your community is well represented in the media, research, and popular culture?
  • Likewise, do you think the American Indian community is well represented?
  • Many Natives face cultural incompetency like Nicholas when his teacher told him, " All California Natives are extinct." After watching this documentary, do you consider yourself more culturally competent? If yes, how? If no, how do you intend to further educate yourself on cultural competency?
  • Vivian says that education can help people, "unlearn a lot of the lies you have been told." How can education help to challenge preconceived notions of a people or culture?
  • How can stereotypes about Native Americans be harmful? What sorts of harm might they inflict or cause?
  • What are some of the stereotypes you heard about in the film?
  • According to Andrew Jolivette, “A lot of people say that native people are vanishing or disappearing, that we are invisible” What are your thoughts about this statement? Do you think natives are invisible or vanishing? What suggestions do you have on addressing this issue of invisibility?
  • As faculty, students and individuals, how can we be more inclusive of the Native Americans in our discussions, research, literature, and media?
  • According to Andrew Jolivette, “We wanna say were color blind. I tell students it is not better to live in a color blind society” What are the dangers of living in a color blind society?

Facts and Resources


  1. Native Americans are often portrayed as an “other” in society and a separate entity in American culture (Büken, 2002).

  2. American Indians make up roughly between 1 and 2 percent of the U.S. population, meaning they do not have the numbers to even compete with other people of color when it comes to representation (Lucero, 2014).

  3. Seven out of ten American Indians and Alaskan Natives live in metropolitan areas (USCB, 2011).

  4. Most people think American Indians are either extinct or live on a reservation (Gonzalez, 2001).

  5. Native American communities continue to suffer cumulative psychological and emotional wounding across generations. This is often referred to as soul­wound, intergenerational trauma, or effects of the American Indian holocaust. (Duran, Duran, and Braveheart, 1998).

  6. Native Americans have been overgeneralized and stereotyped in their depictions in the media and popular culture (Büken, 2002).

  7. American sports from high school all the way up to professional teams appropriate the American Indian culture e.g. Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves,. etc (Grose, 2010).

  8. Native Americans often preserve their individual traditional cultural patterns through inter­tribal unity. (Fixico, 2000).

  9. Racial misclassification and discrimination are especially prevalent amongst those who self­identify as American Indian and these phenomena have been proven to lead to increased stress, depression, hypertension and higher blood pressure levels (Campbell & Troyer 2007; Walters & Simoni 2002).

  10. There is a lack of funding for quality mental health care programs for American Indians as only 1 percent of the federal budget for Indian Healthcare is allocated to Urban Indians (United States Census Bureau, 2011).


  • Büken, G. 2002. “Construction of the Mythical Indian in Mainstream Media and the Demystification of the Stereotype by American Indian Artists.” American Studies International. 40(3): 46­56
  • Campbell, M. and Troyer, L. 2007. “The Implications of Racial Misclassification by Observers.” American Sociological Review. 72(5): 750­765.
  • Deschenie, T. 2006. Historical trauma. Tribal College [H.W. Wilson ­ EDUC], 17(3): 8.
  • Duran, B., Duran, E., & Brave Heart, M. (1998). Native Americans and the Trauma of History. In Studying Native America: Problems and Prospects (pp. 60­76). Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Fixico, D. (2000). The Urban Indian Experience in America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Gonzales, A. (2001). Urban (Trans)Formations: Changes in the Meaning and Use of American Indian Identity. In American Indians And the Urban Experience. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.
  • Grose, J. 2010. “Time to Bury the Tomahawk Chop: An Attempt to Reconcile the Differing Viewpoints of Native Americans and Sports Fans.” American Indian Law Review 35(2): 695­728.
  • Lucero, N. 2014. “ ‘It's not about place, it's about what's inside’: American Indian women negotiating cultural connectedness and identity in urban spaces.” Women's Studies International Forum. 42: 9­18.
  • United States Census Bureau. (2011). Profile America facts for features. Retrieved from 1­ff22.html
  • Walters, K. and Simoni, J. 2002. “Reconceptualizing Native Women's Health:  An ‘Indigenist’ Stress­ Coping Model.” American Journal of Public Health. 92(4): 520­524.

Partner Organization

SKINs (Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations)

SKINs is an organization founded by Richard Oakes in the late 1960’s. The original purpose of the organization was to provide a space for American Indian students attending SFSU to meet and foster a sense of intertribal community. The organization was formed in the midst of the occupation of Alcatraz island and provided an opportunity for students to coordinate. Today the club is still thriving on campus, holding meetings weekly, throwing an annual pow wow, and raising funds for the American Indian studies graduation ceremony

Phone: (415) 338­1929


Meet the Filmmakers

  • JESSE DUMONT is an American Indian studies and Health Education major at SFSU. He is a member of the Klamath tribes (the Ewksiknii) from Southern Oregon. In the future he wants to return to the Klamath, Modoc, Yahooskin reservation in Chiloquin, OR and work with the tribe on improving the K­12 education system.

  • CHIKA EGEMBA graduated from San Francisco State University in the Spring of 2015 with a major in Health Education and minor in Women’s Health Issues. Born and raised in Nigeria, she has always being passionate about public health, social justice, arts and culture. She hopes to make a global impact in those fields in the near future.

  • MAX KETCHUM is a cinema major at San Francisco State University with an interest in cinematography and documentary film. 

  • MARY MONDRUS is an aspiring cinematographer and editor from Los Angeles. While her work varies from documentaries to music videos, she believes it is her responsibility as a filmmaker to create honest and socially conscious media no matter the field.