Native Bruins: Past, Present & Emerging – Pamela J. Peters

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center

Pamela J. Peters, a Navajo (Diné) Reservation native, is a multimedia Indigenous documentarian and a 2011 graduate with a BA in American Indian Studies (AIS) and Film & Television Studies. Her photography work is identified by her Diné first clan, Táchii’nii (Red Running Into the Water People). Through her multimedia photography and video work, Pamela explores her concept of “Indigenous Realism,” which delves into the complexities of contemporary American Indians’ lives. She aims to challenge viewers to critically analyze the psychological and historical foundations that shape the representation of Native Americans in mainstream media. As a Navajo residing in an urban setting, she has personally witnessed the social impact of negative and inaccurate stereotypes of American Indians in film and television. Motivated by her mission to combat these stereotypes, Pamela’s portraits capture the essence of Indigenous people in the present, rather than perpetuating clichéd, outdated depictions.

Her dual studies have provided her with invaluable knowledge that she applies in her work as a multimedia artist. Through AIS, she has gained a profound understanding of how the U.S. Government formulated Indian Policies to suppress the rights and cultural significance of Native American individuals in society. Furthermore, her studies in Film & Television have shed light on the historical harmful effects that visual images and narratives can have, further supporting the justification for U.S. policies imposed on Native American communities today.

The purpose of her multimedia work is to address the negative effects and biases that history and film have had on American Indians. She consistently creates socially aware multimedia projects that shed light on the true historical experiences of American Indians and the significant influence of the various sovereign Indian nations in present-day society. She emphasizes the importance of collectively reshaping the perception of Indians in today’s world.

“During my childhood, I observed the significant impact of films, television, and narratives. Specifically, I witnessed how Hollywood Western movies portrayed American Indians as adversaries, destined for destruction. These films not only misrepresented Native Americans but also disregarded their rich historical and cultural heritage. This realization led me to recognize the sociological harm caused by such portrayals. While pursuing my studies at UCLA, I delved deeper into understanding the root causes of these issues and struggled to reconcile the cinematic depiction of Native Americans with the realities of my own life.

Through my studies in AIS (American Indian Studies), I gained insight into the creation of policies aimed at eradicating the existence of native people.  This motivated me to reflect my studies and present a contemporary, respectful depiction of who we truly are as Native people. I am incredibly grateful for my time at UCLA.”

For more information on Pamela’s work, visit: