Sandra Johnson Osawa
Sandra Sunrising Osawa is an independent filmaker and a member of the Makah Indian Nation in Washington State. She is a pioneer in advocating for the rights of Native Americans to tell their own stories. Although the barriers to Indian women in the media remain formidable, there have been some significant advances. For example, she was the first Native American Independent to produce for commericial television with an informational series on Native Americans that aired in 1975 on NBC. She was the recipient of an Outstanding Producer Award for that ten-part series. She was the first Native American to produce a one hour documentary for the network television, called The Eighth Fire, which aired on NBC stations. Lighting the 7th Fire, aired on PBS nationally on a series called P.O.V. (July 4, 1995) and it is P.O.V.'s first Indian produced program. Pepper's Pow Wow, screened at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and will air nationally on PBS in November. Sandra was honored as the "Native American Filmaker of the Year" at the 1996 Taos Talking Pictures Film Festival in Taos, New Mexico.
She is one of the few Native Americans to belong to the Writers Guild of America and has written several dramatic scripts. Her video work has been featured at national and international festivals including the Amiens Film Festival in France, the Munich International Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Vienna Film Festival, and the Margret Mead Film Festival. Her work has also been featured at the Museum of Modern Art's Video Viewpoints in New York.
Her half-hour documentary, In The Heart of Big Mountain, aired on the Learning Channel and was nominated for an ACE Award as part of The Spirit of Place series. An Ethno-Visions Film and Video Festival in Los Angeles, called it a "more aesthetic approach to the more widely known work on this same subject." She has produced more than 40 video for non-broadcast use. Much of her work explores Native American political issues and the unique, positive cultural aspects of Native American life today. Osawa holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and has one year of graduate school in filmmaking and creative writing at UCLA. She has taught script writing at The Evergreen State College and video production at Seattle Community College. Her poems are published in Dancing on the Rim of the World, an anthology of Northwest Indian poets. She and her husband currently own their production company, Upstream Productions, in Seattle. They have two children, Jongie and Saza.
Sandy headed her tribe's War on Poverty program as the first Community Action Director and she launched the first Indian Head Start Program in the State. She began efforts to retain Makah songs and language in the mid 1960's by developing summer classes for 1-12 grade levels. She developed the concept of bringing Makah elders into the local school, where Indian culture had been noticeably absent for decades.