NMPBS original digital series 'Indigi-Genius' looks at the innovation of Native Americans - Albuquerque Journal

NMPBS original digital series ‘Indigi-Genius’ looks at the innovation of Native Americans

“Indigi-Genius” host Lee Francis IV gets up close and personal with an adobe brick wall. (Courtesy of Vision Maker Media)

What’s old is new again.

It seems today’s world is embracing old practices from Native American and Indigenous people, as they are the architects and engineers behind modern society.

This is also what “Indigi-Genius” is about. The original digital series is devoted to sharing the scientific and cultural impact of Indigenous creations and knowledge – on not only the past, but the present world we know today.

At the helm of the project is Lee Francis IV, Pueblo of Laguna, and a self-described “Indigi-nerd.”

“This is why I wanted to do the show,” Francis says. “There are so many stories that we can tell. It’s a way to educate Indigenous and non-Indigenous people about some amazing things.”

The series will premiere on Tuesday, Feb. 15, on the New Mexico PBS YouTube channel with a live watch party at 6 p.m., as well as on the PBS Video app.

A new episode will be arriving every two weeks.

Once posted, all episodes will remain online, giving viewers the option of watching any or all of them at their convenience.

Francis says the concept for this series came from local producer Anthony Rodriguez, and with assistance from Vision Maker Media and NMPBS.

“New Mexico PBS is proud to share this new, original digital series with New Mexican communities and with Indigenous and non-Native viewers everywhere,” says Franz Joachim, NMPBS general manager and CEO. “NMPBS’ roots are in educational broadcasting and this is the next step, broadening our reach to serve viewers wherever they watch. Indigenous cultures have so much to share, historically and today, and the reach of social media platforms is a new way of connecting these fascinating and engaging stories, providing new ways of learning with new generations of viewers, anytime and anywhere.”

Vision Maker Media Executive Director Francene Blythe-Lewis (Eastern Cherokee, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Diné), says science is an important matter, and to bring Indigenous science into the fold of ancient science knowledge, marks a place for Native Americans to bring more understanding of our world environment.

Actor Charles Montoya readies for his “Indigi-Genius” close-up for the episode on communication. (Courtesy of Vision Maker Media)

Francis is not only the host, but the writer for the series.

He says “Indigi-Genius” aims to educate, inspire and engage Indigenous communities and others, across the world.

“By analyzing the creative solutions applied by Indigenous communities within architecture, food, farming, design, engineering and more throughout time, the goal is to inspire new solutions to the world we face today,” he says. “We want this series to speak to this quick, visual media generation.”

Francis was approached by Rodriguez about the series as he was looking for writers.

“They put out a call for hosts,” Francis says. “I wanted to audition and Anthony took a shot on me. This is right up my alley. It’s a reimagining and releasing of what Native Americans and Indigenous people have been and continue to be. It’s taking control of the narrative and telling the complete story.”

The premiere episode dives into the traditional dish of blue corn mush and what makes it so healthy.

“In the blue corn episode, we talk about nutritional science and the practices that people are coming back to,” Francis says. “We look at the cause and effect of issues. We have to understand that Indigenous people have spent a millennia developing these practices. It is based off of science and chemistry.”

In the other episodes, Francis explores waterproof clothing, wampum, jerky, adobe bricks, communication, drum-making, cartography, cosmetics, water management, original treaties and baby carriers.

As the digital series gets ready for its premiere, Francis hopes an audience sees the sense of fun and spirit.

“I want an audience to see Native folks not of relics of the past or a tragic narrative,” he says. “I want young Native people to recognize that they come from a long line of inventors and thinking. I want non-Native relatives to have those ‘I didn’t know that’ moments. Ultimately, this series has so much more to explore in our communities. We’re just getting started with season one.”

A new episode will be arriving every two weeks.
Tuesday, Feb. 15 – “Blue Corn Mush”

March 1 – “Waterproof Clothing”

March 15 – “Wampum”

“Indigi-Genius” host Lee Francis IV takes on the green screen during a taping in the NMPBS studios. (Courtesy of Vision Maker Media)

March 29 – “Jerky”

April 12 – “Adobe Bricks”

April 26 – “Communications”

May 10 – “Drummaking”

May 24 – “Cartography”

June 7 – “Cosmetics”

June 21 – “Water Management”

July 5 – Original Treaties”

July 19 – “Baby Carriers”

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