Harvey Weinstein and a broken promise in Indian Country

Despite an agreement, royalties from ‘Wind River’ haven’t reached the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

 

The distribution royalties from “Wind River,” set on the Wind River Reservation of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, should have benefitted the National Indigenous Woman's Rights Center. Complications from Harvey Weinstein's crimes prevented it.
The Weinstein Company

If all had gone according to plan, nearly every time someone were to watch Wind River, a 2017 film about the death of a Northern Arapaho woman on the Wind River Reservation, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center would be paid. But the center says it has yet to receive any of that promised money, and it may never get it. So what went wrong? Harvey Weinstein.

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in Lame Deer, Montana, supports work that combats the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. It advocates for jurisdictional sovereignty for tribes, supports Native-run hotlines and creates guides for tribal communities responding to missing persons cases. The agreement over the Wind River royalties was meant to acknowledge and support an organization that combats the kind of violence depicted in the film, as well as the kind for which the film’s original distributor, Weinstein, was arrested.

The New York Police Department arrested the notorious film executive after multiple allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual misconduct came to a head in October 2017. Many films associated with Weinstein’s production outfit, The Weinstein Company, cut ties with him; Wind River, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, was one of them. In November 2017, Sheridan announced that all further distribution royalties — likely millions to be earned, say, when the film is picked up by Netflix, shown on airplanes or sold by Redbox — would go to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. 

But in February 2018, The Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy, thus forfeiting its obligation to the royalty agreement. In July, Texas-based Lantern Entertainment acquired the assets. Lantern isn’t bound by the arrangement — and, as the resource center wrote, “It remains unclear whether it will voluntarily honor the agreement.” (Lantern Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment from High Country News.) The royalty agreement should have been a silver lining to the Weinstein’s saga, but, instead, his actions helped terminate it.

“It’s all somewhat disappointing,” said Lucy Simpson, executive director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. “I think we still have some hopes that that’s something that might happen.” After the agreement was announced, other organizations wondered how the center would use the promised funds. That, Simpson said, is the reason the group wanted to publicize the defunct agreement — to let people know that the money was never available to them.

Wind River opens with the death of an 18-year-old woman and follows the two white law enforcement agents who tackle the case despite jurisdictional issues and hang-ups. While the film has been lauded for illustrating the real-life struggles in Indian Country, it’s also been criticized for the “white savior” complex of its main characters. Jason Asenap, in a review for High Country News, wrote that “Wind River does its best to avoid clichés, and say something new. Yet while it’s great to see Native people portrayed with some depth, they are, for the most part, incredibly sad and, in the case of some, dead.” 

“I think there’s a history of Hollywood of appropriating our stories,” Simpson said. When it comes to Wind River, she is grateful that director Taylor Sheridan used his film to explicitly raise awareness of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. But she’s not optimistic about the phantom funds.

“We’re used to doing a lot with a little,” she said of her organization. “We move on and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Elena Saavedra Buckley is an editorial fellow at High Country News. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • BRN DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING MANAGER
    The City of Fort Collins is seeking an Environmental Planning Manager in the Natural Areas Department. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $13...
  • WEB DESIGN AND CONTENT MANAGER
    We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER
    The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • JOHN DEERE SNOW BLOWER 24"
    Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • CARPENTER RANCH MANAGER
    Hiring a part-time ranch manager to live on The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch property in Hayden, CO. Responsibilities include: facility maintenance of historic ranch house,...
  • STRAW BALE, ADOBE, TIMBER FRAME, HEALTHY HOME, NEAR LA VETA PASS, CO
    unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KANIKSU LAND TRUST
    Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    10-day tour from Los Mochis airport, 2/nyts El Fuerte, train, 2/nyts canyon rim hotel, 5/nyts camping. 520-324-0209, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, ALASKA
    Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    to lead an organization that funds projects in National Parks. Major gift fundraising and public lands experience critical. PD and app details @ peopleinparks.org.