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Artists and prospective filmmakers with Native California ancestry will gain new opportunities and mentorships. That's thanks to a multi-million dollar endowment set up by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, here in Sonoma County.

The Sundance Institute, best known for its affiliated film festival, announced the $4 million endowment Wednesday.

Greg Sarris is tribal chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. He told KRCB Thursday the endowment will expand Sundance's 29-year-old indigenous program.

It is open to members of California tribes whether they are officially recognized by the federal government or not. 

"We see a lot of American Indians who are starting to get in film and television, but it's always plains Indians, which I'm very happy about, but, historically, California Indian people have been overlooked, in politics, in film, in all of that, and I have a chip on my shoulder, and I want to support al of my people," Sarris said.

Sarris made the remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony for an expansion of the Graton Casino and Resort.

Sarris himself participated in the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in 1992.

The endowment will sponsor $25,000 fellowships for emerging and midcareer Indigenous artists with projects in development or production and include creative support.


Applications are open until August 28. The first round of fellowships and scholarships are expected to be distributed next year.

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