James Cameron Says He ‘Tries to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ in His Films, but ‘It’s Your Stories We Want to Hear in Your Voice’

In a pre-recorded video played at Variety‘s inaugural Indigenous Storytelling in Entertainment Breakfast, James Cameron said he tries to celebrate indigenous peoples through his films.

“I try to celebrate Indigenous peoples as guardians of our fragile living world and show their fight against the destruction of land and culture due to everything: extractive industries, deforestation… and I celebrate their fight against the plundering of the ocean and its wildlife,” Cameron said.

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Cameron went on to explain the importance of centering Indigenous voices in the entertainment industry.

“But, it’s your stories we want to hear,” he said, “in your voice and in the way you want to tell them. And whatever you learn today, know that you already have so much to teach. So I greet you and I celebrate you speaking as a student and with humility.”

Cameron’s flagship “Avatar” franchise draws inspiration from Indigenous tribes, as the fictional Na’vi people must fight against the destruction of their planet Pandora when humans from Earth begin to colonize it and extract its resources.

Cameron made the remarks from New Zealand, where he is shooting live-action pickups for “Avatar 3.” In the video he also applauded Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation leader, producer and Academy Museum trustee. Halbritter participated in a spotlight conversation that explored his upcoming entertainment projects with Variety EVP of content Steven Gaydos.

Cameron’s video aired at the invite-only breakfast event, hosted in Los Angeles. The program featured a series of keynote and panel conversations with creators, talent and executives which centered on Indigenous storytelling and spotlight achievements of Indigenous communities in film and TV. It also explored how the industry is faring in terms of creating opportunities for Indigenous creators on- and off-screen. Oneida Indian Nation and HBO/Max were premier partners of the event. National Geographic was an official partner of the event.

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