Documentary explores healing on reservation

By Eve Newman

Laramie Boomerang

Via Wyoming News Exchange

LARAMIE — A new short documentary filmed on the Wind River Reservation last fall aims to push back against negative stereotypes and showcase avenues by which tribal members find peace and healing.

“Good Medicine,” directed by filmmaker Jackson Tisi, is now available online. A Laramie screening is also scheduled for Wednesday at the University of Wyoming Arts and Sciences Auditorium during a cultural presentation sponsored by Wyoming Humanities.

The presentation is in conjunction with WY-Wind River: Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium, which focuses on ways the state and the reservation can work together to foster economic development.

Tisi, who grew up in Jackson but now lives in New York, said the film was commissioned by Facebook as part of a series for Facebook Watch called 365 Days of Love. Tisi said he’s long wanted to return to Wyoming and especially the Wind River Reservation to film a documentary.

“I grew up so close to (the reservation), but also feel like I didn’t know much about it,” he said. “Being in New York and seeing how underrepresented Native Americans are — if I didn’t know much about them and I grew up close to the reservation, people where I’m living now definitely know nothing about them.”

In preparing to shoot the film, Tisi was inspired by hearing about a skateboard contest in Riverton. Then he reached out to friends and eventually connected with James Trosper and 12-year-old Patrick Smith as his main subjects.

Trosper, a UW graduate, directs the High Plains American Indian Research Institute UW and is the great-great-grandson of Chief Washakie. Smith is a young skateboard enthusiast.

Trosper said he supported the film’s aim to promote positivity.

“Our goal is really to get a positive message out and maybe help others not familiar with the Wind River Indian Reservation develop a positive perspective of our community,” he said in a news release.

Tisi spent hours on the phone with Trosper and Smith as he prepared for the shoot in order to get to know them before jumping into the filming process.

“It’s nice to deeply establish a connection before you have to sit down and interview. I was talking to James for 2-3 months before we were actually here,” he said. “And then those connections are lifelong.”

“Good medicine” is a Native term that refers to anything that brings peace and healing. The film touches on generational trauma experienced by members of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes. It then explores the ceremonies and traditions maintained by elders as well as highlighting young tribe members who are passionate about skateboarding.

“The film is about healing and also about pushing back against common negative stereotypes and looking at what life is actually like for a young kid growing up Native American,” Tisi said.

For kids across the country, he said, skateboarding is a positive force that provides motivation for making good choices. The same holds true for Native American youth.

“I think it’s really cool to showcase how these kids are managing pop culture, and having one foot in the modern world while having one foot in their traditions, and balancing it all with a lot of grace,” he said.

Tisi and a crew of eight traveled to Wyoming in October for three days of shooting on the Wind River Reservation and in Riverton.

Tisi, who spent three years as the video editor at Teton Gravity Research in Wilson, left Wyoming to attend film school at New York University. He graduated about a year ago.

He described himself as a filmmaker who’s passionate about telling stories through strong visual images.

“If I make something that doesn’t look visually appealing, no one is going to stick around to listen to what is important to be said,” he said.

To watch the film online, go to