Bird Runningwater stepping down from Sundance post
GALLUP, N.M. — Bird Runningwater, the Native American and Indigenous Program Director at the Sundance Film Festival, said he plans to step down from the job Oct. 4 after a 20-year run with the organization, according to a news release.
The Los Angeles-based Runningwater (Mescalero Apache, Cheyenne) said he plans to move into producing.
“I saw the work of supporting Indigenous artists as a ceremony of transitioning storytellers into their full potential, much like my Mescalero community does when we ritually sing our young women into womanhood and into our matriarchy,” Runningwater said. “I’ve always believed our artists needed a culturally grounded support model in order for their stories to become their strongest and to make the long journey to the screen. It seems to have worked, launching so many careers and creating a body of work that previously didn’t exist.”
Adam Piron will become the Native American and Indigenous Program’s interim director. A member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Piron is a member of the Sundance Film Festival's Short Film Programming team and most recently served as Film Curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Runningwater, a University of Oklahoma graduate with degrees in journalism and Native American Studies, grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. He has a masters in public affairs from the University of Texas.
In his early days at the Institute, Runningwater worked on Institute labs and brought in Native artists for support with development and festival premieres.
“During those early years,” he noted, "this work was done often in the face of significant disinterest from the industry, but Sundance’s commitment remained steady.”
At Sundance, Runningwater oversaw the Native Lab of the Institute which has launched projects such as Four Sheets to the Wind, Sikumi, Miss Navajo Billy Luther, Shímásání and Drunktown's Finest (Sydney Freeland).
Runningwater also established Filmmaker Labs in New Zealand and Australia.
Runningwater has seen Sundance mentor and support 154 Indigenous filmmakers through Sundance labs, grants, and fellowships. More than 119 films written, directed and produced by Indigenous filmmakers have been curated to premiere at the festival.