Honey Moccasin

A film by Shelley Niro

Canada | 1998 | 47 minutes | Color | 16mm/DVD | Order No. 99605


This all-Native production, by director Shelley Niro (Mohawk), is part of the Smoke Signals new wave of films that examine Native identity in the 1990’s. Set on the Grand Pine Indian Reservation, aka “Reservation X”, HONEY MOCCASIN combines elements of melodrama, performance art, cable access, and ‘whodunit’ to question conventions of ethnic and sexual identity as well as film narrative. A comedy/thriller complete with a fashion show and torchy musical numbers, this witty film employs a surreal pastiche of styles to depict the rivalry between bars The Smokin’ Moccasin and The Inukshuk Cafe, the saga of closeted drag queen/powwow clothing thief Zachary John, and the travails of crusading investigator Honey Moccasin. This irreverent reappropriation of familiar narrative strategies serves as a provocative spring-board for an investigation of authenticity, cultural identity, and the articulation of modern Native American experience in cinematic language and pop culture.


  • Big Muddy Film Festival
  • Red Earth Native American Film and Video Fest., Best Feature and Director
  • Dreamspeakers Film and Video Festival, Best Experimental Film
  • Tribe Film Festival, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  • Sedona Film Festival, 1999


Shelley Niro

Multidisciplinary artist Shelley Niro (1954) is from the Mohawk Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and is a member of the Turtle Clan from the Oshwekon, Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada. Born in the United States in Niagara Falls, New York, Niro occupies a space distinguished by her multi-nationality. Her inherent right to belong to traditional territory overlapping colonial borders supports her fluid creative perspectives.

Niro’s practice as a painter, photographer, sculptor and filmmaker has garnered acclaim and accolades at many levels, commanding critical attention including an Eiteljorg Fellowship and the Woman in Film/GM Acceleration Grant. Her contemporary Indigenous perspective is based upon traditional knowledge; her sense of community and colonial critique re-contextualized through matriarchal wisdom, metaphor, masquerade and related expressions of sovereignty. In her flirtatious work Mohawks in Beehives (1990), a hand-tinted photographic series, Niro re-introduced the world to the complex nature and authority of the matriarch, a figure from traditional and contemporary societies that was oppressed under forms of colonialism. By re-addressing matriarchal matters, Niro confronts forms of power, stereotypical attitudes, sexuality, and society. Her aesthetics are doused with humor, play, adornment, and kitsch. (8/14)

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