Joanelle Romero Discusses Native Indigenous Representation

I have talked with founder of Red Nation Television Network, Joanelle Romero, and the future of Indigenous representation looks bright.

Richard Schertzer
Richard Schertzer
September 18, 2022

Incluvie has a rich history of welcoming all kinds of people into the conversation. 

Quite recently, I have talked with actress, filmmaker, recording artist, and founder of Red Nation Television Network, Joanelle Romero. Her mother went on to make several Elvis Presley films as a background dancer. Romero learned from a very early age how movies were made, practically born into the entertainment industry. 

She has been in the industry for 45 years and her first leading role was in 1977 called The Girl Called Hatter Fox. She guest starred in television and even starred in a George Harrison-produced film called Powwow Highway

When it came to Red Nation Television, she created a platform for Native Indigenous content creatives and created the aforementioned non-profit Red Nation Celebration Institute. 

Romero elaborated saying, “Under that banner, we have now the largest Native Film Festival in the country, we have Native women in film and television in all media, we have the Native Indigenous Student Academy for Cinematic Arts and we launched Red Nation Television Network predating Netflix or before anyone was online streaming. So, we’ve been doing this for a hot minute and we just keep growing.”

Romero did not wait for funding from any outside sources for her company. About twenty-seven years ago when her institute was launched, the filmmaker and her team were in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was during Indian Market and there were 200,000 tourists coming into town to collect Native art and Romero noticed that no contemporary music was being performed. There was no representation on the Grammys or on mainstream radio and she got tired of waiting. So, she founded her non-profit getting a 501c3 and launched a huge concert during Indian Market at the famous Paolo Soleri Amphitheater. 

Her team brought in $70,000 from the concert and brought in Native bands, singer-songwriters, and dance groups from all over the world. The concert sold out within a week and from 1995 her company continued to grow as they launched the film festival the same year and launched the television network in 2006. 

Romero was also shortlisted for an Oscar for her documentary American Holocaust: When It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian

In the future, Romero would like to see more Native Indigenous people in writing rooms and as executives represented in Hollywood. We at Incluvie wish her all of the best.