Standing on Sacred Ground: Eight Cultures – One FightFeb 19th, 2015 | By David Yarlott, Jr. | Category: 26-3: Global Indigenous Higher Education, Media Reviews
Directed by Christopher McLeod, narrated by Graham Greene
Bullfrog Films (2013)
Review by David Yarlott Jr.
This film series illustrates the struggles of Indigenous communities standing up against large and powerful organizations to protect and preserve sacred lands. With Graham Greene narrating, director Christopher McLeod captures voices of Indigenous leaders speaking in defense of cultural practices and sacred places.
The series is divided into four segments, the first being “Pilgrims and Tourists,” which focuses on the Altai of Russia and the Natives of northern California. “Profit and Loss,” the second segment, examines how Indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea and Alberta, Canada, are struggling to safeguard lands from mining and oil industries. “Fire and Ice” examines the plight of Indigenous peoples from the highlands of Ethiopia and the Andes Mountains of South America.
In the last segment, “Islands of Sanctuary,” McLeod and his crew travel to the Northern Territory of Australia, where the Aborigines work to defend the Rainbow Serpent River against the onslaught of a mining corporation seeking to extract valuable minerals. The mining of lead and zinc has steadily encroached farther into Aboriginal lands, to the point that the river was rerouted.
Aboriginal leaders are not daunted by the powerful mining corporation. Not only are they fighting to defend their sacred lands, they are also defending their human rights as Aborigines to maintain their customs, traditions, language, and, essentially, their culture. The clash between the Aborigines and the mining companies continues, but Aboriginal leaders are standing their ground.
In Hawai’i, Native people have successfully opposed the United States Armed Forces to defend the sacred island of Kaho’olawe after 50 years of military use as a bombing test site. To restore Kaho’olawe, Hawaiians are using ecological and spiritual practices to aid in its healing. The island has been left with many unspent shells and bombs, and the clean-up of these dangerous munitions continues. The people’s belief is that “restoring a place helps to restore its people,” and “take care of land and it takes care of you.” Cultural camps have been created for people to participate in the cultural practices. The camp has also provided an opportunity to revive the Hawaiian language.
Native Hawaiians and many, many volunteers have spent a lot of time and funds to restore the island, but much more needs to be done. The question is where they will find funds to continue the clean-up and the restoration of the sacred island.
The restoration of Indigenous environments and Indigenous cultures go hand in hand. The struggles are real. I recommend the Standing on Sacred Ground for tribal colleges and universities.
David Yarlott Jr., Ed.D. (Apsaalooke), is the president of Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana.