Note: This post is part of a series on School Library Media/Materials for a course

Skinner, D. (Producer) & Eyre, C. (Director). (1998) Smoke signals [Motion picture]. USA: Miramax.

Smoke Signals follows the travels of Victor and Thomas from the Coeur d’Alene Idaho Indian reservation to Arizona to collect the ashes of Victor’s father who abandoned his family years before. Arnold (Victor’s father) rescued Thomas from a fire when he was a baby. Thomas thinks of Arnold as a hero, Victor resents his father’s alcoholism, violence and abandonment of his family. Throughout their journey, Arnold and Victor recall memories of Arnold and Victor discovers more and more about his father through Arnold’s eyes and ultimately through his own. Smoke Signals is a story of personal journey, coming of age and friendship.

As with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, this film involves a culture that is rarely accurately seen and is highly misunderstood by society. If Native Americans are underrepresented in print, they are also underrepresented in film, and often misrepresented in the medium. Much of American understanding of Native Americans is still holdover from inaccurate stereotypes from old “Cowboys & Indians” type films. This title would be especially important in the libraries of New Mexico communities, as approximately 10 percent of New Mexico’s population is Native American.

English/Language Arts Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.7 Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Links to supporting content:

Native American Tribes of Idaho

Native Peoples of Idaho

Subjects/themes: coming of age, friendship, Native American literature