The Standing Rock Resistance Is Unprecedented (It's Also Centuries Old)

NPR, November 22, 2016, By Leah Donella

"As resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D., concludes its seventh month, two narratives have emerged:

  1. We have never seen anything like this before.
  2. This has been happening for hundreds of years.

Both are true. The scope of the resistance at Standing Rock exceeds just about every protest in Native American history. But that history itself, of indigenous people fighting to protect not just their land, but the land, is centuries old.

Over the weekend, the situation at Standing Rock grew more contentious. On Sunday night, Morton County police sprayed the crowd of about 400 people with tear gas and water as temperatures dipped below freezing.

But the resistance, an offspring of history, continues.

Through the years, details of such protests change — sometimes the foe is the U.S. government; sometimes a large corporation; sometimes, as in the case of the pipeline, a combination of the two. Still, the broad strokes of each land infringement and each resistance stay essentially the same. ..."


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Filmmaker tells stories of fight to preserve ‘sacred ground’

KHNS Radio, June 24 2016, By Emily Files

Standing on Sacred Ground is the title of a film project documentarian Toby McLeod worked on for a decade. The four-part series focuses on eight Indigenous communities whose land is threatened by various developments. McLeod is holding film screenings in Haines and Klukwan. KHNS’s Emily Files talked to him about the project:

Listen to the interview: http://khns.org/filmmaker-tells-stories-of-fight-to-preserve-sacred-ground

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Drought Relief Bill Threatens to Drown Sacred Sites of a Northern California Tribe

Truthout, August 26, 2015, By Rucha Chitnis

"The McCloud River gurgles and gushes down the Cascade Range, gathering streams from the towering Mount Shasta, a mountain of mythic and sacred symbolism to many. The river pours down three waterfalls over basaltic lava flows, where Chinook salmon once heroically jumped up the falls to spawn and propagate. This August, members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe gathered for their annual 'salmon challenge,' an effort to trace the path of their revered fish as it once swam its way up the McCloud River. The venerated salmon are long gone: The Shasta Dam's construction in 1944 framed a permanent deleterious barrier, and the salmon were unable to reach their spawning grounds upstream to regenerate as they had for millennia.

'We are a salmon state. We believe that whatever happens to the salmon, happens to us,' said Chief Caleen Sisk, tribal and spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu, a tribe of 125. 'Shasta Dam destroyed the homes of the salmon. The dam also drowned our homes and sacred sites, and we were left homeless like the salmon.'

The Winnemem have survived a violent history and legacy of colonization, diseases and dispossession. During the California Gold Rush, according to Pratap Chatterjee's Gold, Greed and Genocide: Unmasking the Myth of the '49ers, the US government paid bounty hunters to kill Native Americans - $5 for a head in some instances - which decimated their population and drove them off their land. The Winnemem estimate that they had some 15,000 members before colonial contact. By 1910, their numbers had dwindled to 395. ..."


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What Good is an Apology?

Common Dreams, June 11, 2015, By Christopher McLeod

Restorative justice requires many steps, but it begins with acknowledgement of the crimes committed

"I’m a white man who has worked with Native Americans as a journalist and documentary filmmaker since 1977. Mostly, I have worked on exposing problems—environmental injustice, destruction of sacred places, hidden history. Finding long-term solutions has seemed overwhelming and elusive. But four decades of experience have clarified my understanding of our nation’s biggest obstacle to moving beyond the historical injustices confronting the cultures that share this land. There is a shadow in the American closet that will forever prevent healing and reconciliation—unless and until that shadow is recognized and acknowledged. The theft of country, the massacres, the inhumanity of forced boarding school captivity, the denial of historic trauma, and the ongoing injustice, racism and inequality will hold us back as a society until we collectively accept our painful history and change course. Opening the door to let the shadow out will require an apology.

Two instructive stories came to light while filming our new film series, Standing on Sacred Ground. These stories help describe elements of the shadow. ..."

READ MORE from the Standing on Sacred Ground filmmaker: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/06/11/what-good-apology

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Indigenous Reflections on Christianity

YouTube.com by Sacred Land Film Project, May 26, 2015

"What are the ecological implications of Christianity?

There’s a story that has has played out all over the world. First come the missionaries doing good. Indigenous communities split apart and connections to land, ancestors and spirits of place weaken — not everywhere, but almost everywhere. Then come, in some order or another, government agents, land speculators, mining companies, the military. Some get rich. Some feel saved. But land and culture suffer. Sacred places are targeted at the same time as political and spiritual leaders are taken down. The connections have to be weakened for the colonizer to win.

We all know about this history but we rarely talk about it in any depth, or assess the relationship to our planet’s environmental crisis. And we rarely listen to what indigenous historians have to say about this—their analysis. Here it is. Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Native Hawaiian historian Davianna McGregor, Australian Aboriginal elder and former Catholic priest Patrick Dodson, and Anishinaabe author and activist Winona LaDuke offer their insights into the history of Christianity in relation to indigenous peoples and ecosystems around the world.

While filming Standing on Sacred Ground: Fire and Ice — in both Ethiopia and Peru — our cameras captured scenes of Christian harassment of indigenous ceremonies on sacred land. These interview bites in this YouTube clip are outtakes from some of the profound interviews we were fortunate to conduct during the making of Standing on Sacred Ground. While our four-hour series does include key sound bites that you will hear in these longer comments, some important thought sequences take a while to unfold. This needs to be a long, long conversation — so let’s have it!"

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Why Sacred Places Matter

Earth Island Journal, May 22, 2015, By Christopher McLeod

"In the last month, Native Hawaiians blockaded construction machinery headed for the top of sacred Mauna Kea, where a 30-meter telescope is to be built. Thirty-one people were arrested. In Arizona, members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe walked 45 miles to Oak Flats and occupied a ceremonial initiation site that the US Congress has handed over to a London-based mining company for a copper mine. In California, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe continues their fierce opposition to government plans to raise the height of Shasta Dam, which would flood Winnemem sacred sites.

Sacred places are alive in the hearts and minds of native people around the world. Mountains, springs, lakes, rivers, trees, groves, caves — these are sites of ceremony, inspiration and learning for human cultures throughout time. From Mt. Fuji to Uluru, from Taos Blue Lake to the Grand Canyon, sacred lands anchor peoples’ souls to earth.

The public relations push to proclaim national parks as 'America’s Best Idea' missed an important historic fact: Sacred places are the oldest protected areas on the planet. This is an old idea. Perhaps it has been buried by monotheistic Christian ideals that instruct man to dominate nature, or capitalist market values that dictate extraction and profit off land that is bought and sold. But long before there was a 'protected area movement' to counter environmental threats, there were culturally protected places on every continent. And there still are.

Sacred lands are more than esoteric, spiritual sanctuaries. These places protect biodiversity. The World Bank reports that indigenous people make up 4 percent of the world’s population and control 22 percent of the earth’s surface — and on that land is 80 percent of the planet’s remaining biodiversity. People whose connection to land goes back centuries and who have maintained cultural value systems rooted in sacred places have a superior land ethic. Period.

Over the last ten years I have traveled around the world documenting the uniqueness of indigenous cultures and the universality of values that honor the sacred spiritual dimension of land and water. Reciprocity. Reverence. Respect. Relationship. Yet everywhere I go, aboriginal lands are under siege, as new technology and energy addictions push corporations into more and more remote places to satisfy global consumer demand.

The resulting film series, Standing on Sacred Ground, shows Altaians in Central Asia fighting Russia and China’s plan to build a natural gas pipeline across a sacred burial ground on the Ukok Plateau, a World Heritage site. In Alberta, Canada, First Nations people suffer an epidemic of cancer, pull deformed fish from rivers and lakes, yet face a government that is totally supportive of a tar sands industry it helped create. In Peru, the Q’eros make pilgrimage to sacred mountains, their apus, but see glaciers — their water source — disappearing before their eyes as far-off carbon emissions warm the Andes.

Sacred places are important to hundreds of cultures that have suffered at the hands of missionaries who have warned them of their sins — including veneration of nature. As Winona LaDuke says in the film, 'Sacred places are spiritual recharge areas, places of reverence where we are not only careful, but prayerful. In those places we reaffirm our relationship to our relatives, to spiritual beings, and to the land that is the source of our power.' ..."


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Defenders of Sacred Sites Around the Globe Featured in PBS Series

Indian Country Today, May 19, 2015, Marc Dadigan

"In an opening scene of the documentary Profit and Loss, Mike Mercredi, Athabasca Chipewyan, describes how thrilling it was for his teenage self to get a job driving one of the biggest rigs in the world at a massive oil sands extraction area in Alberta, Canada.

Yet the allure slowly transformed to horror, as he began to understand the extreme effects of the oil sands industry, which uses heated water from Lake Athabasca to extract oil from the sand, on his homelands. The films shows nightmarish visuals of a landscape that has seen the oil sands industry denude the boreal forests, poison culturally vital fisheries and, many believe, infect astoundingly high numbers of local indigenous people with deadly cancers.

'I had this overwhelming anxiety. I walked into the office and put my badge down and I quit,' Mercredi says in the film. ...

From Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia to California and Russia, the indigenous people in the documentary series represent almost all the continents, but they face many of the same threats to their sacred sites and ancestral lands: government megaprojects, consumer culture, competing religions, resource extraction and climate change. But, producer Christopher McLeod said, the films show far more is at stake than indigenous religion.

'The sacred places are the heart where the indigenous worldview, the values and languages are anchored,' he said. 'They’re a source of information and insight about adapting to climate change. It’s no coincidence the planet is dying and the sacred places are being destroyed.'

The film series is the culmination of nearly 10 years of work for McLeod and the Standing on Sacred Ground team, and he said it truly began almost 30 years ago when he was working on a film about uranium and coal mining in Hopi and Navajo territories and elders told him his work was missing an entire dimension: the sacredness of certain places and the obligation of indigenous people to care for them."


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Standing on Sacred Ground PBS World Series Premieres Sunday

The Huffington Post, May 15, 2015, by Georgianne Nienaber

"... Wherever you live in the United States, it is likely that you are within a short drive of sacred ground. You may be standing on it as you read this. But the threats to sacred lands are global. The premiere of Standing On Sacred Ground is a stern warning about what the world stands to lose in the pursuit of infrastructure and profit.

The filmmakers risked their lives to develop this series. While reporting that five million tons of toxic mining wastes are being dumped into the ocean in Papua New Guinea by a Chinese government nickel mine, the film crew was detained and questioned at gunpoint in a shipping container.

All that is sacred is local. None of us are untouched by the possibility of deep loss.

Winona LaDuke lives on the White Earth reservation, just up the highway from the small Minnesota town where I spend my summers. LaDuke, Former Vice-Presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2000 is featured in this film. Having seen first hand what she and Honor the Earth have done to protect sacred lands in Minnesota, Canada, the Dakotas and elsewhere from mining, big oil and reckless development, her statement in the trailer for Standing on Sacred Ground carries a lot of weight for people in the Midwest. It is at once political and deeply spiritual.

We end up with a belief that is doesn't matter what we do here, because salvation is someplace else. So, let 'em mine. Let 'em dam.

This film speaks far beyond the threats facing indigenous people. In some ways, Native cultures are the unheralded guardians of all that is holy on the planet.

Get engaged with this thoughtful series. Organize a screening party or two. What better way to begin the season of outdoor exploration than to gain an appreciation of the spiritual beauty of the planet? ..."


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Changing the Narrative

IC Magazine (A publication of the Center for World Indigenous Studies), May 15, 2015, By Rucha Chitnis

Film Series on Public TV Reveals Profound Insights on the Significance of Sacred Lands & Indigenous Worldviews

"'You've been trying to instruct Indians to be capitalists ever since you got here. But we don't value what you value.' This quote of Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, a respected Native American elder, in the film series Standing on Sacred Ground, sums up an indigenous worldview in sharp contrast with the modern paradigm of profiting from the Earth.

Standing on Sacred Ground is a four-part film series, debuting on The PBS World Channel on May 17, which maps the courage, heartbreaking pain, and philosophies of eight indigenous cultures in seven countries beset with the development ideologies of an industrial world, where mines and fossil fuel extraction are destructive to traditional spirituality and way of life. The films illustrate how a sacred connection to land kindles a deep reverence for the natural world—springs, rivers, mountains, totemic animals and forests, and where this relationship with nature weaves a rich and complex tapestry of culture that is predicated on its health and abundance. ..."



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Winnemem Wintu Plight On TV

Jefferson Public Radio, May 12, 2015, By Geoffrey Riley & Emily Cureton

"The concerns of California's Winnemem Wintu Tribe get an airing on public TV with the creation of the film series "Standing On Sacred Ground."

The title is apt for the tribe, which is not currently federally recognized, and concerned about plans to raise Shasta Dam. 

The resulting raising of the lake would inundate what few historic sacred sites the tribe still has access to. 

Tribal leaders join us to talk about the issues and the film coverage."


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Tar Sands Map Rap – Mike Mercredi & Lionel Lepine

YouTube.com by Sacred Land Film Project, April 3, 2015

In Standing on Sacred Ground's second episode, Profit and Loss, we have a couple brief scenes featuring Mike Mercredi explaining a detailed map of the tar sands that he and Lionel Lepine created for their Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation tribal government. The four clips we use in the film are about 20 seconds each, but they are cut from a 19-minute “map rap” in which these two amazing indigenous activists run through a powerful stream of consciousness describing the tar sands from a dozen angles. Enjoy the full story!

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Obama Vetoes Bill Pushing Pipeline Approval

"President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by lawmakers to force his hand on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, using his veto pen to sweep aside one of the first major challenges to his authority by the new Republican Congress.

With no fanfare and a 104-word letter to the Senate, Mr. Obama vetoed legislation to authorize construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum a day from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.

In exercising the unique power of the Oval Office for only the third time since his election in 2008, Mr. Obama accused lawmakers of seeking to circumvent the administration’s approval process for the pipeline by cutting short 'consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest.' ..."


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Federal Appeals Court Backs Protections for Central Valley Salmon

Counterpunch, Weekend Edition December 26-28, 2014, By Dan Bacher

"On December 22, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that a 2009 “biological opinion” that protects the habitat of endangered salmon in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers from increased water exports to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California water agencies would stand in its entirety.

The decision by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit preserves “science-based guidelines” for managing water flows through the San Francisco Bay-Delta at levels that protect imperiled fish and orcas and help to restore the Delta ecosystem, according to a statement from Earthjustice. ...

The legal opinion is available here.

Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council represented the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Sacramento River Preservation Trust, San Francisco Baykeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers, Friends of the River, California Trout and Bay Institute as defendant intervenors. ...

In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation continues to fast-track a plan to raise Shasta Dam that also threatens winter-run Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon. The plan is opposed by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, other Tribes, fishing groups and enviromental organizations. Instead of raising the dam, the Bureau of Reclamation should be working with the Winnemem Wintu to bring back the native run of McCloud River winter-run Chinook salmon from New Zealand to be reintroduced to the fish’s original spawning grounds above Shasta Reservoir.

To read about the Winnemem Wintu’s War Dance in September against the Shasta Dam raise, go here. ..."


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Climate Change Threatens Quechua and Their Crops in Peru’s Andes

Inter Press Service, December 29, 2014, By Fabiola Ortiz

"PISAC, Peru (IPS)—In this town in Peru’s highlands over 3,000 metres above sea level, in the mountains surrounding the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Quechua Indians who have lived here since time immemorial are worried about threats to their potato crops from alterations in rainfall patterns and temperatures.

'The families’ food security is definitely at risk,' agricultural technician Lino Loayza told IPS. 'The rainy season started in September, and the fields should be green, but it has only rained two or three days, and we’re really worried about the effects of the heat.' ...

In the Parque de la Papa, which is at an altitude of up to 4,500 metres and covers 9,200 hectares, 6,000 indigenous villagers from five communities—Amaru, Chawaytire, Pampallaqta, Paru Paru and Sacaca—are preserving potatoes and biodiversity, along with their spiritual rites and traditional farming techniques.

The Parque de la Papa, a mosaic of fields that hold the greatest diversity of potatoes in the world, 1,460 varieties, was created in 2002 with the support of the Asociación Andes. ...

'People are finally waking up to the problem of climate change. They’re starting to think about the future of life, the future of the family. What will the weather be like? Will we have food?' 50-year-old community leader Lino Mamani, one of the "papa arariwa"—potato guardians, in Quechua—told IPS.

He said that whoever is sceptical about climate change can come to the Peruvian Andes to see that it’s real. 'Pachamama [mother earth, in Quechua] is nervous about what we are doing to her. All of the crops are moving up the mountains, to higher and higher ground, and they will do so until it’s too high to grow,' he said.

As temperatures rise, plant pests and diseases are increasing, such as the Andean potato weevil or potato late blight (Phytophthora infestans).

To prevent crop damage, over the last 30 years farmers have increased the altitude at which they plant potatoes by more than 1,000 metres, said Mamani. That information was confirmed by the Asociación Andes and by researchers at the International Potato Centre (CIP), based in Lima.

But the most dramatic effects for Cuzco’s Quechua peasant farmers have been seen in the last 15 years.

'Nature used to let us know when was the best time for each step, in farming. But now, Pachamama is confused, and we are losing our reference points among the animals and the plants, which don’t have a flowering season anymore,' Mamani lamented.

The soil is drier and the potato-growing season has already shrunk from five or six months to four.

'We are all joined together by potatoes, in our style of life, gastronomy, culture and spirituality. Potatoes are sacred, we have to know how to treat them, they are important for our livelihoods and they connect us to life,' the "papa arariwa" said. ..."


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Vandana Shiva, Winona LaDuke & Desmond D'Sa on a Global, Grassroots Response to U.N. Climate Summit

Democracy Now!, September 23, 2014

"Two days after the historic People's Climate March, world leaders are gathering in New York City today for a United Nations summit on climate change. President Obama, along with more than 100 heads of state, are expected to attend. But the leaders of several major polluters, including China, India and Canada, are skipping the talks. The summit is part of a lengthy and so far failed process leading to climate negotiations in Paris next year, when countries will seek a binding deal to limit the emissions that cause global warming. We speak to three leading environmentalists: Vandana Shiva of India, Desmond D'Sa of South Africa, and Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota."

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Introducing Bullfrog Communities

Welcome to Bullfrog Communities

We aim to energize change, and to help local activists broaden their reach.

  • We provide powerful films and all the support materials you need to create an effective community event.

  • We will send out strategic petitions, asking you to sign and send them on to your network, using the power of this medium on behalf of the people and the earth. These will be either national in scope — asking you to join an uproar of opinion, or very local — asking you to add your voice to attain a specific victory, which may provide a watershed — changing the mindset of the people empowered in a community, of multinational corporations' assumptions as to what they can get away with, and of politicians who notice the change in the wind.

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Please join. Let's see what we can accomplish together.


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