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It’s a wrap: film captures Elgin Jumper’s varied talents

Elgin Jumper talks about his artistic expression in the documentary. (Courtesy SMP)

BIG CYPRESS — The documentary film is complete, but the journey continues.

The Seminole Tribe’s Elgin Jumper presented the final cut of a film that highlights his life and creative endeavors April 8 in the theater at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation.

An early version of – “Elgin Jumper’s Colorful Journey” – had been screened at the museum in October 2021. Jumper said the final cut added about 10 minutes to the documentary, which makes it about 30 minutes long. He also features more of his poetry in the final version.

“We’ve been working on this documentary for nearly a year now,” Jumper said at the April 8 screening. “It’s been a wonderful, great experience. I’m so glad that we did it with collaboration.”

Jumper worked alongside videographer and editor Matt Fernandez and others at Seminole Media Productions on the project.

“We would schedule and plan and then we would film and edit,” he said of Fernandez. “He would listen to my ideas and make them happen.”

Jumper said the documentary speaks for itself, in that it presents a picture of Seminole life that some think is only, or mostly, about gaming.

“There are Seminole artists out there working on the art scene,” Jumper said. “I hope more Seminole artists are inspired by this and share their stories.”

Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, the director of the museum, is one of the tribal members featured in the documentary. He and Jumper became good friends years ago when the two started performing at an open mic night at the museum. Wareham would tell stories and play the flute and Jumper would read his poetry. Jumper said it’s how he began to overcome a fear of speaking in front of people.

“When I first wanted to get in front of people and share my poetry I’d get nervous,” Jumper said. “The only thing I saw was the paper; I didn’t see the people out there and I was trembling a lot. But seeing the response from people that was all positive – [Wareham] kept saying ‘keep it up, keep it up, keep doing what you’re doing.’”

Jumper said those who inspire him to write include N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), Sherman Alexie (Spokane-Coeur d’Alene), Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), Joy Harjo (Muscogee Nation) and the Seminole Tribe’s late Betty Mae Jumper.

The documentary also highlights Jumper’s affinity to paint. He said he picked up a pencil and started drawing at an early age and that it wasn’t long before it became part of his identity – a craft that would help him navigate challenges throughout his life. He’s now regarded as one of the most prolific Seminole artists, using a variety of mediums and styles.

“Elgin’s art represents the Seminole’s ability to work within the modern world and also have relevance with our past and in our own truths and knowledge,” tribal member and artist Durante Blais-Billie, said in the documentary. “Seminole art is really important. It’s claiming that voice for us in contemporary society. It’s more than just an expression of our culture; it’s a negotiation of our identity.”

Jumper’s artistic arsenal also includes music and performance art.

“Elgin will get an idea and give me a call, so we sit down and work on it,” Wareham said in the documentary. “Through rehearsals, ideas start to develop. The creative process with Elgin is mind-blowing; you think you are going in one direction and he’ll come back and say ‘let’s do this and let’s experiment with this.’ He’s always pushing the boundaries.”

A line Jumper reads in the documentary from one of his poems summarizes his work ethic, too. “Moving forward, forward, ever forward,” he reads.

Jumper said his next big project is already in work – “Spread Your Wings and Fly” – a short film about his life that, unlike the documentary, is to be cast with actors playing different roles.

Those interested in seeing “Elgin Jumper’s Colorful Journey” or his other work can contact him via email at JMWConstable@gmail.com.

Good friends Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, left, and Elgin Jumper perform at an event outside of the History
Fort Lauderdale museum. (Courtesy SMP)
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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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