Native American Heritage Month Replaces Sherman Alexie with Film Director Chris Eyre

Award-winning author Sherman Alexie, who was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at Muskegon Community College’s inaugural Native American Heritage Month in November, has cancelled all his scheduled out-of-town appearances through early 2017 for health-related reasons.

MCC will replace the Spokane-based author with Chris Eyre, a nationally recognized film and television director and producer, who has received many awards, including both a Peabody and an Emmy. Eyre directed the highly acclaimed “Smoke Signals,” whose screenplay was written by Alexie and which won a coveted Sundance Audience Award and the Sundance Filmmakers Trophy.

“Obviously, we are disappointed that Sherman Alexie will not be able to visit Muskegon and share his insights and perceptions about the Native American experience with our students and community,” said Hollie Benson, an MCC faculty member and coordinator of the inaugural Native American Heritage Month. “We wish him the best and hope that we can reschedule his visit as soon as possible.”

Also being postponed is the planned county-wide Community Reads program, whose 12 libraries were going to encourage as many people as possible to read and discuss Alexie’s semibiographical novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in September and October. Organizers are hopeful that Alexie will be able to reschedule his Muskegon appearance in the future.

Instead, Eyre will be hosting his latest movie, “The Seventh Fire,” on Friday evening, Nov. 18, and “Smoke Signals” on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 19. The location and times have not been finalized.

Eyre’s work for television includes three episodes of the PBS miniseries “We Shall Remain” (2009) – “After the Mayflower,” “Tecumseh’s Vision” and “Trail of Tears.” He also directed episodes of the critically acclaimed NBC show “Friday Night Lights” (2009 and 2011).

After graduating from New York University’s film school, Eyre worked as a fellow in the Sundance Institute’s Directors Lab under the mentorship of Robert Redford. His 2004 film “Edge of America” was selected to show on Opening Night at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. The movie garnered Eyre the highly prestigious award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement from the Directors Guild of America. His latest film, “Hide Away,” starring Josh Lucas and James Cromwell, was released in the summer of 2012 after gaining award recognition at South by Southwest.

The Native American Heritage Month celebration is tentatively scheduled to include speakers, films, and a mini-powwow. Details will be finalized and shared as the event approaches. An MCC organizing committee is partnering with The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to plan the events.

For more information on MCC’s Native American Heritage Month, contact Hollie Benson at  or call (231) 777-0331.