Gretchen Carrol has helped plan the UNO Native Film Festival since the very beginning. Her input has only increased with the festival entering its fifth year showcasing Native American films for local Omaha audiences.
“I’m comfortable dealing with the talent and the budget,” Carroll says. “I handle a lot of the marketing, and I’ve developed great relationships with the talent we bring in.”
Actors who made appearances have included Graham Greene (Oscar-nominated for his supporting role in Dances With Wolves) and Gary Farmer (who played the absent father in Smoke Signals, the acclaimed indie film based on Sherman Alexie’s award-winning book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven).
Carroll, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, was born in Boston and moved to Omaha in 1989. Along with her film festival involvement, she is also a radio producer and DJ who goes by the on-air name “Lady G.”
She never set out to become a radio personality. Although she had spoken on some local podcasts, her first radio airtime came about one year ago. As president of UNO’s Intertribal Student Council, she went on 89.3 KZUM’s The Drum—a two-hour show featuring traditional Native music—to promote an upcoming powwow. She was a natural radio personality, and before she knew it, she was filling in as co-host. A month later, she was running the show.
The Drum has since evolved into Intertribal Beats, a three-hour program airing on 89.3 KZUM on Sunday nights from 7-10 p.m. (broadcast from the station in Lincoln) and hosted by Carroll and John “Johnny G” Garnica.
“We still have a lot of traditional Native music,” Carroll explains, “but now we do all genres of music by Native artists.” And the show is about more than just music: “I wanted to make a connection between Omaha and Lincoln Native communities,” she continues. “So I do a lot of announcements for Native community events going on in both Omaha and Lincoln.”
She doesn’t consider herself an activist, but Carroll’s work goes beyond radio production. “When Standing Rock happened [with protesters camping in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline], I just got this calling that I needed to go up there,” she says. “I would come back and update everybody on Standing Rock issues, spread the word about all the things that are happening, and connect people with other people to bring supplies up.”
Carroll is currently enrolled at UNO and works as a staff assistant in the Native American studies department. She decided to return to school during an honoring ceremony for graduates of the program. “I saw non-Natives knowing and talking about my history, and I had no clue,” she explains. “So I was like, I need to go to school.” Since then, she’s made an effort to teach others about Native issues through her work both on and off the radio.
“It’s all about taking what I know and turning around and sharing that with others,” she says.
Carroll is also a poet and was recently invited to share her poetry at the Reconnecting Struggles Workshop at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, England. She says her poetry started coming out when she sobered up almost four years ago: “I’m trying to break stereotypes within in my culture, too, so I’m really proud that my grandchildren will not see me ever take a drink, and they see that other option.”
Carroll encourages Native and non-Native readers to attend events like the UNO Native American Film Festival on Nov. 4-5 and the Wamblii Sapa Memorial Pow Wow in the spring. “Just get involved with those things, because if you know those things are happening, then you start asking other questions, and you get to meet other Native people in the community, and then you start learning some stuff—that we’re still here.”
Visit unomaha.edu/student-life/inclusion/multicultural-affairs/native-american-support.php for more information about Native American cultural programs at UNO (including the UNO Native Film Festival and Wamblii Sapa Memorial Pow Wow).
This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.