FLORENCE — There's a topic that for years has burned in the heart of Florence High School senior Barksdale Klos: social injustices facing Native Americans.
Her determination to learn more about the plight facing those on reservations as well as from other areas throughout the country has resulted in her production of a documentary, "Weaving Dreams: Generational Trauma in the Native American Community."
In the documentary, Klos explores her identity as a young Southern woman in conjunction with her compassion regarding issues relating to Native Americans.
With the painful legacy of the Trail of Tears running through her hometown of Florence, Klos said she doesn't remember a time that she's not been mindful of the atrocities Native Americans faced and the horrors of slavery they endured.
As she has grown older and her research efforts have expanded, part of her mission is to inform others so that the grim statistics, even today, can change.
Thus her documentary, a compilation of more than two dozen interviews conducted with members of various tribes, has received the 2018 Certificate of Merit from the Diversity Leadership Project.
Klos said she has always enjoyed community service and wanted a big project to finish out her high school career.
With the support of Randall Bedwell, a college planner who works with Klos, she focused on starting a local chapter of the Diversity Leadership Project in hopes of inspiring others, youth and adult, to take up causes impacting vulnerable segments of society.
"I hope, through my project, to inspire people to open their eyes, not just to the history of the Native American communities, but to the struggles they face today," Klos said.
For her documentary, she filmed at the 37th Annual Native American Indian Association of Tennessee Pow Wow last year.
Some she interviewed were her high school-age peers.
"There were many elders there, and lots of girls, some of whom were Native American princesses," she said. "They explained to me that their role is to help other children by being role models and encouraging them to steer clear of drugs and alcohol because abuse of those things is rampant within their (communities)."
Klos also talked to elders about their ability, even today, to practice their religion, particularly since the Native American Religious Freedom Act of 1978.
"To know that only then did they gain these freedoms on their own reservations is unfathomable to me," Klos said.
"The poverty on the reservations is even more shocking to me because even now there's no one to help them rebuild communities and even with education, scholarships go largely unobtained because they simply don't have the resources to get into colleges, nor adequate access to the scholarships that would make college possible."
Klos said because so many still succumb to drug and alcohol abuse, most of the various tribe representatives shared with her that those abuses are what they most want to change in the culture.
Bedwell said Klos's determination to shed light on a treasured segment of society and begin the dialogue for making change is refreshing.
"I work with a lot of students from around the country and sometimes there's that student with the heart and determination to run with that passion and evoke change," Bedwell said of Klos. "I knew when she related her experiences to me that she was the one, the perfect fit for this project and that she'd put her all into it. She's a rare, really cool young lady."
Bedwell said the Native American hip hop artist, Supaman, whom Klos quoted, also publicly praised the documentary.
Klos's documentary can be viewed on YouTube or online at DiversityLeadershipProject.org