Tracy Rector is a mixed race (Choctaw/Seminole) filmmaker, curator, educator, co-founder of Longhouse Media, and community organizer based in Seattle. Her award-winning films have been screened worldwide at festivals, exhibitions, and on television. All her projects are for, by, and about Indigenous communities, particularly the Coast Salish peoples on whose territories she lives and works. Over her career she has made hundreds of films, and in 2016 she created the first virtual-reality video by a Native artist, Ch’aak’ S’aagi, which is on view in the exhibition.
As an extension of her filmmaking practice, Rector also creates media mentorship and training programs to provide Native youth with the tools to tell their own stories. I first met Tracy Rector during the summer of 2007 as a moody 16-year-old participating in one of her SuperFly Film Workshops. She taught us how to plan, shoot, and edit short videos, which were debuted at the Seattle International Film Festival. I remember going to the premiere, expecting the kind of small back room, half-filled with parents that is typical for youth events, and instead walked into a packed theater in the heart of downtown Seattle. We watched our films, and to my teenage surprise received a standing ovation. The experience was a revelation in more ways than one, and I glimpsed a potential future as an Indigenous artist that I hadn’t realized was possible before.
Recognizing media as a modern continuation of a long tradition of storytelling and intergenerational mentorship, Rector utilizes a collaborative filmmaking process. In both films on view, Ch’aak’ S’aagi and Clearwater: People of the Salish Sea, Rector works with Indigenous peoples in our region to share their experiences adapting to a rapidly changing landscape. She remains out of the camera’s view, but her deep personal connections to the communities she films can be felt in the openness of her interview subjects, or in the firsthand perspective from inside a canoe skimming across the water. She brings these scenes to life at SAM by creating engaging viewing environments for both films, filling the gallery space with shells, tools, and cultural creations by fellow artists.