Teachings of the Tree People is a tribute to the life and work of Skokomish elder Gerald Bruce Miller (subiyay), a nationally prominent cultural leader and teacher who brought his talents home to lead a cultural renaissance in the Pacific Northwest.
His story offers a powerful model of cultural and environmental stewardship. IslandWood is honored to have worked with Bruce as a cultural advisor and teacher.
"The trees were our first teachers."
Nationally acclaimed artist and Skokomish tribal leader, Gerald Bruce Miller (subiyay) interpreted the sacred teachings of the natural world to anyone who wanted to learn.
A passionate student of the traditional culture, Bruce became the bearer of the language, oral history, art and spirituality of the tuwaduq (Twana) and Southern Coast Salish peoples. This gentle and generous film documents his race against time and ailing health to pass the knowledge of his ancestors on to those who would listen.
The film chronicles Bruce's youth among his tribal elders; his young adulthood in school (Berkeley), war (Viet Nam) and on the stage (New York City); and his decision to return home and lead a cultural renaissance in the Pacific Northwest. It documents traditional practices of gathering and preparing cedar bark for weaving, uses of medicinal plants, and the presentation of wild foods for the fall Ceremony of First Foods. Throughout the film Bruce delivers lessons from our first teachers, the trees.
The four-part seasonal structure, gradually unfolding narrative, and currents of deep emotion make Teachings of the Tree People a poignant walk through Indian Country.