MEET: Sterlin Harjo

by Vicki May Thorne


As the self-proclaimed “video ninja” for This Land, Sterlin Harjo shares his vision for telling Oklahoma-centric stories in a variety of visual formats. From interviews to short documentaries, Harjo, along with video producer Matt Leach, has put out an impressive body of work in a short amount of time. Harjo and Leach’s work has been screened in-state and nationally, most recently at the Oklahoma City Museum of Modern Art (Nov. 2011) .

Although Harjo has some serious artistic cred under his belt, with films such as Barking Water earning Sundance attention, and a Tillman Award to his name, at This Land he’s able to showcase a broad range of skills.

What influences you? (alternately, what are your “Must Read/Listen/Watch” items? Print or online).  

I have too many “must watch” movies to list… at the moment I’m in love with this documentary called Heartworn Highways, about “Outlaw” country music in Texas in ’76.  A friend sent me a link to it but you can only watch 70 minutes before you have to pay for it.  I decided to just order it on Amazon.  Can’t wait to watch the rest of it.

I don’t read as much fiction as I used to, but  Flannery O’Conner is my girl.


Who or What inspires you to do the work that you do?   

I’m really inspired by people and their stories.  The work that I’ve been doing for This Land has been great because there’s a lot of pride in telling stories about your community and showing the amazing people and stories we have here in our back yard.  I’m also really into the fact that people can rediscover some of the stories many years after we are gone.


What is your favorite piece you’ve done for The Land Press?  

I would say a three way tie between We Are Still Here, Indian Elvis, and Anton Von Ostendorf.  I think they represent the possibilities of what we can achieve with the short doc format.

With Anton it’s a cool blend of visuals, interview, and a beautiful score by Costa Stasinopoulos.  “We Are Still Here” is a good example of how we make people aware of something going on right in their back yard.  I don’t know how many times people told me that they didn’t even know Yuchi people lived here until they watched the video.  It makes people aware of the diversity of our community and also the importance of language revitalization in native communities in Oklahoma.  It’s sad and hopeful at the same time.  “Indian Elvis” seems like a good blend of all that but with humor as well.  I have too many favorites… Public Secrets as a series is a lot of fun to make.

What do you love about Tulsa and/or Oklahoma?  

I love all the stories in Oklahoma.  It’s overflowing with unique history.  I love dirt roads and the countryside.  Tulsa is perfect because it’s not too big and it’s not too small.  You can get a good cup of coffee,  but you can also get to the country pretty fast if you need to.

What is your drink of choice? Alcoholic or otherwise?

My drink of choice would be coffee.  All day long.


For more information about Sterlin Harjo, check out his bio and browse the “Watch” section of This

Stay tuned for an exciting announcement about the future of This Land films from Sterlin and Matt in the coming weeks!