Not Just a Day at the Movies

Representation and Community Are Topics as Chancellor May Treats Students to Showing of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

Group photo of students and Chancellor Gary S. May in movie theater lobby.
Chancellor Gary S. May, LeShelle May, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Pablo Reguerín and students, about to see Killers of the Flower Moon on Friday (Nov. 11). (Cody Kitaura/UC Davis)

Chancellor Gary S. May took dozens of students to the movies last week, and this time he let them pick the film.

May has an ongoing tradition of renting out an entire theater and filling it with students, and past outings have followed his personal love of comic book adaptations: He took students to see both Black Panther movies, in 2018 and 2022.

This time, a group of students with the Native American and Indigenous Advisory Committee to the Chancellor, or NAIACC, asked May if he would work with the Native American Academic Student Success Center to treat students to a showing of Killers of the Flower Moon. Based on a true story, the Martin Scorsese-directed film chronicles a series of murders in the 1920s that targeted members of the Osage Nation as they came into wealth from oil discoveries in Oklahoma.

About 50 students met Friday (Nov. 11) at the Native American Academic Student Success Center, also called The Native Nest, to walk to the Regal theater in downtown Davis. May was there, waiting with campus leaders like Pablo Reguerín, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. The chancellor welcomed the students — who also received gift cards for the theater concession stand upon arrival — and said he was looking forward to the movie, having read the book it was based on.

Movie outings like this, especially off campus and on a day when classes aren’t in session, are a good chance to interact with students in a relaxed atmosphere, May said.

“It’s something nice we can do to help the students cope and get through the quarter,” he said.


And this movie was the perfect opportunity for important conversations, coming as it did during Native American Heritage Month.

“The movie was just a godsend at the right time,” said Veronica Octaviana Moreno, a third-year Native American studies major. Moreno is a reentry student who advocates for students on their first undergraduate experience to have resources and access to university leaders.

“I want to show them that the chancellor is around if we ask him to be around,” she said, noting May’s willingness to host the movie. “Inclusion in our community and with our academic leaders is crucial to our time at UC Davis. These people are approachable.”

Others relished the opportunity to bring so many Native American and Indigenous students together; such gatherings are often limited to open houses or a yearly grad student symposium, said Ingrid Sub Cuc, the graduate co-chair of NAIACC and a Ph.D. student in Native American studies.

“It’s really hard to find community, and having places like The Nest where we have a lot of presence is a reminder that we’re not alone,” she said. She recalled her undergraduate studies at a small, liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest where she said she was one of only a handful of Indigenous students.

Before the movie, Sub Cuc said she hoped the film would emphasize to the chancellor “that the history of Native people is something that continues to impact our life.”

Others were enthusiastic about seeing Native American representation on the big screen.

“I’m excited for the costumes,” said Cecilia Ammon, a fourth-year art history major.

Sub Cuc and Moreno both noted the emotional weight of the three-and-a-half-hour movie, and said students were scheduled to meet back at The Native Nest afterward to talk about what they had just seen.

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Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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