Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 22-2: Crossing Borders, Winter 2010, Media Reviews

WATERBUSTERWritten, edited and produced by J. Carlos Peinado & Daphne D. Ross
Directed by J. Carlos Peinado
VisionMaker Video (2006) 57 minutes

Review by Ryan Tafoya

In 1953, when the U.S. government built the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River in central North Dakota, it wiped out the town of Independence. And if you were to look for information on the Garrison Dam, you probably wouldn’t find much on how the Hidatsa-Mandan-Arikara (Sahnish) Affiliated Tribes were displaced by the lake the dam created.

In the documentary Waterbuster, J. Carlos Peinado tells the story of the closely knit, self-sufficient community that was destroyed over 50 years ago. More than five decades later, anger persists and is even felt by those who did not experience the tragedy personally.

Peinado tells this story mainly through interviews of family and tribal members who lived through it. Interviewees speak about the U.S. government forcing the Indigenous peoples out of the rich farmland they had been living on and up onto the colder hilltops of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Some speak about fighting in World War II and returning home only to discover their homeland was gone. Others speak of how their family members were displaced.

Waterbuster is a heartbreaking story of the injustice that has happened numerous times when dams were built with complete disregard for the effects they would have on Native Americans. The Hidatsa-Mandan-Arikara peoples may not be able to get back what was lost, but Peinado and Ross give them a voice so that it can still be remembered.

Ryan Tafoya is a junior at Fort Lewis College majoring in English- Communications and a former intern with the Tribal College Journal.

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