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Hearing the Echoes

Las Cruces filmmaker Ed Breeding captures native voices in a new work to be broadcast this month.

By Jeff Berg


Las Cruces filmmaker, writer and artist Ed Breeding was sitting at home in his den one day when it hit him: "What if we had tried to embrace the native cultures instead of change them?" In response to his own question, Breeding has produced a beautiful and thought-provoking 30-minute documentary film, called "Echoes from the Ancestors." The title came to him at the same time as the idea.

Filmmaker Ed Breeding.

Breeding's film will be broadcast on KRWG-TV on May 20 and 29 at 9.30 p.m., and at a screening this summer (date still to be determined) at the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla, at which Breeding will be present.

"Echoes from the Ancestors" incorporates 24 quotes by Native American leaders, past and present, as they are read over Breeding's cinematography, some of his own oil paintings, and brief snippets of American Indian dancers and singers. The locations that he used for the film are all in Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado, many of which he visited while backpacking in the Rocky Mountain West.

The background music for the film is by Yolanda Martinez, a NAMMY award winning, Las Cruces-based singer/drummer of Native American descent. The opening of the film features a short poem by a cousin of Breeding's, Ann Russell, and a brief statement by Dr. Don Pepion (Blackfeet), the director of NMSU's American Indian Program (see the October 2006 Desert Exposure).

"I researched hundreds of quotes," Breeding says, "and chose these because they have a constant theme: Why did white men do this to us?"

Breeding has some Cherokee lineage in him from his father's side. He lived most of his life in Michigan and eastern Tennessee, before relocating to Las Cruces about three years ago.

"I was born in a primitive area," he says of his upbringing. "As a child, I was always outside, building lean-tos and such, and my family made use of a lot of the wild food that was available to us. I still do today. My neighbors refer to me as the guy who eats weeds, but it is just part of who I am."

Breeding adds, "And I was always studying Native American culture."

He moved west for good after "15 to 20 years of flying to Denver and visiting western states and backpacking. I had a cabin at Dubois, Wyo., which is near the Wind River Reservation (Shoshone), and had some good friends in Cut Bank, Mont., that I used to visit quite often." Cut Bank is in far northern Montana, near the Blackfeet Nation. He has also spent time with the native people of Australia during his travels, and descendents of the Inca in Mexico.

"We would talk about the treatment of minority groups, and how we felt that everyone should be treated equally," Breeding relates as he adds to the reasons he made this film, his third. "I was drawn to the way that native people would embrace the planet, the mountains and their close relationship to Mother Earth. It's no wonder we are going through a climate change. What if someone kept kicking you and kicking you? [The earth] has been cut, it is scarred, and abused. It is time we wake to this, and I feel that one of the greatest resources we have to stop this is the native people."

Moving west, Breeding found Las Cruces much to his liking—affordable and filled with people "more like me." He says with a laugh, "Living here is like living in a gold mine. One neighbor brings me strawberry pies, another knows I like chicken, so she'll share that when she makes it, and another appreciates my love of dark, German-type beer, and he'll bring me a cold one once in a while."

To finance his film, which he has also submitted to about a dozen film festivals around the country and to PBS stations in Tennessee and Kentucky, Breeding sold a small trailer and plot of land that he had near Cloudcroft.

He was further inspired after a screening of his earlier work, "Ambassador of the Aztec Nation," a short film about a man who is reviving Aztec dance. The film was screened in Santa Fe and at the Fountain Theatre's "Not Columbus Day" festivities last fall (which will be held again this year on Oct. 6), to sell-out crowds. Breeding was moved by the response to his film work, which he has done without any real formal training.

An avid film fan who prefers selecting a DVD from his personal library of 500 to watch, as opposed to going to a cell phone-infused theater, Breeding says his informal schooling in cinema comes just from watching movies. "I note the lighting, the directing, and get strong ideas from just watching a movie."

Breeding has also completed 10 or more manuscripts, including one available as an online book through Amazon.com, The Belt and Beyond, and has just started working on a new book.

Much as with his books, he hopes that "Echoes of the Ancestors" will help viewers "get to the root of things."

He explains, "I go beyond the surface as a writer, and try to deal with whole issues. I also believe that everyone has a gift, even the worst criminal. We all should embrace that. When I was teaching, I would try and get the students to see how great they were, and to let them know that I was introducing you to yourself."


Ed Breeding can be reached at edbreeding@juno.com or 524-4193.

Senior writer Jeff Berg coordinates the CineMatinee film series, Saturdays at the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla.

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