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Indigenous entrepreneur Rob Pero, a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, recently signed on as the creative director for Minnesota-based producer Anne Marie Gillen’s upcoming film project, a climate thriller called “The 7th.”

The film recently won a spot at The Redford Center and NBCUniversal’s Hollywood Climate Summit Pitchfest 2024. It combines elements of science fiction, action-adventure, and Indigenous ecological knowledge to address the issue of the climate crisis. The film will be made in a climate-conscious manner, and 1% of total profits will be donated to preserving the planet, according to a statement.  

The storyline follows Piper, a 14-year-old on a quest to unlock her late Lakota mother’s secrets in the Black Hills, guarded by her grandparents. Meanwhile, Piper’s father takes on a global initiative to clean the skies using cutting-edge science. 

Gillen, whose credits include “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Under Suspicion,” serves as producer. Tokala Black Elk (Sioux) and Stacey Thunder (Ojibwe) serve as Native American consulting producers.

Pero’s role as creative director is another job on the entrepreneur’s long list of gigs that help advance Indigenous economic opportunities. He leads Perodigm, producing films, driving marketing campaigns, and offering Indigenous-focused consulting. He's also a leading advocate in the cannabis industry, founding Canndigenous and the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association, while co-founding the Indigenous Business Group to support Indigenous-led businesses.

Native News Online spoke with Pero to discuss his personal connection to “The 7th” and how it integrates Indigenous knowledge in a film that balances entertainment and advocacy.  He also weighed in on his excitement for filming in Minnesota, the film's message of empowerment and its call to action for positive change.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

What inspired you to join "The 7th" as Creative Director?

Well, the picture was pitched to me at the end of last year. I looked at the pitch deck, and it immediately resonated with me. A half Native girl in the future utilizing traditional ecological knowledge to save the world—it just clicked. 

Being half Native myself, and a father to three daughters with Native bloodlines, the narrative of a young teenage protagonist questioning her identity while shouldering the responsibility of preserving culture struck a chord. The commitment of the team to accurately portray Native culture, despite it being a fictional story, was admirable. They wanted to get it right, incorporating historical references and a respect for the Lakota. 

Can you elaborate on how the film incorporates Indigenous ecological knowledge alongside advanced technology to address the climate crisis?

It's about combining traditional practices with modern innovation. Utilizing what you plant and ensuring sustainability aligns with Indigenous wisdom. The philosophy of being good stewards of the land and not taking more than we need resonates deeply. We have the tools to induce natural rewilding, while leveraging new technologies like nanotech. 

It's a call to action, showing that science alone can't solve our problems—we need a holistic approach that integrates Indigenous knowledge.

What challenges do you anticipate in balancing the sci-fi elements of the film with the real-world issues of climate change and Indigenous culture?

It's a delicate balance. We want to entertain with a fictional story, while also raising awareness about pressing issues like climate change. 

By presenting a narrative that's both exciting and thought-provoking, we aim to inspire action. We're showcasing a future where every tool we need to make a change is available now, alongside traditional knowledge and practices. 

It's about emphasizing that the time for change is now — not in some distant future where a young girl has to save the world.

As the creative director, what aspects of the film's production are you most excited about bringing to life?

Filming in Minnesota offers stunning natural landscapes. Our goal is to utilize traditional lands and collaborate with local tribes. 

It's also about involving more Native filmmakers and storytellers in the project. Authenticity is key—we want to infuse the film with the richness of native culture and relationships, reflecting the reality of our communities.

What do you hope audiences take away from watching the film? 

I hope it prompts reflection. The film is an empowering call to action, reminding us of our responsibility to future generations. By highlighting the interconnectedness of science, culture, and nature, we aim to inspire individuals and communities to take meaningful steps towards positive change.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.