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Environmental Issues Supplement

Documentaries Featured in the NEH Institute

For the Rights of All:  Ending Jim Crow in Alaska:  Like Native Americans in the lower 48, Alaska Natives struggled to keep their basic human rights, as well as protect their ancient ties to the land. The Bill of Rights did not apply to them. Through extensive reenactments, the film reveals the remarkable people and their struggle for civil rights. Distributor: American Public Television.  Release date: Sunday November 1, 2009 Broadcast Rights: Six (6) releases over four (4) years beginning 11/1/09; SCH/1YR (for K‐12); and non‐commercial cable rights.   Royalty free to members and subscribers of the American Public Television (APT).

Herdswoman (Hjordeliv). The film portrays the indigenous peoples' vulnerability in modern society and the process of globalization and colonization, which has led to the present conflict on land and water rights. We encounter three Sami women and their lives with the reindeer herds. Aina, Elisabeth and Lisa belong to different generations. Their stories reflect life in Sápmi (Lapland) and the transition from nomadic existence to modern society. The film relates their pleasure in working with the reindeer. They live with and for their herds. When a court case questions their ancient rights to the reindeers' pasture their life as reindeer keepers is at risk. Director: Kine Boman; stars: Aina Jonsson, Lars Jonas Omma, Lisa Omma. 2009.

Joikefeber (Yoik Fever, Ellen-Astri Lundby):  Yoik Fever is the story of one young, enthusiastic, urban Sámi girl's captivating journey to find the near-silenced voices of her ancestors through the ancient Indigenous art of yoik. Ylva, a young Sámi-Norwegian high school music major is yearning to connect to her heritage through the dwindling Sámi yoik tradition. Ylva makes personal connections to different yoik traditions and meets legends like Mari Boine and Johan Sara Jr. Filmed in an entertaining cabaret-style mash-up of film styles and genres, the film’s ending might leave you with a serious case of yoik fever! Cinemamas, 2013.

Kautokeino Opproret (Kautokeino Rebellion, Nils Gaup):  Religious and cultural reawakening inspires rebellion in a 19th century Norwegian village. 2008.

Place of the Falling Waters:  Produced by Salish Kootenai College. Directed by Roy Bigcrane and Thompson Smith, the documentary, The Place of the Falling Waters, tells the history of the Flathead Indian Reservation from the perspective of the Indian people who live there. The story relates the complex and volatile relationship between the people of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and a major hydroelectric dam situated within the Flathead Indian Reservation. The documentary is presented in three 30-minute parts.

Reel Injuns:  “Reel Injun, a documentary created and directed by Cree First Nations filmmaker Neil Diamond, chronicles Hollywood’s portrayals of Native Americans from the silent-film era to the present. The films range from stereotyped images depicted by white actors in “red face” to contemporary films like Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, starring Adam Beach (Salteaux), and culminating in Native-directed productions like Smoke Signals, directed by Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho), and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner by Inuit director Zacharia Kunuk. The film includes interviews with Indigenous directors, actors, writers, and political activists such as Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaqui), John Trudell (Lakota), Russell Means (Lakota), Adam Beach (Salteaux), Melinda Micco (Seminole), Jesse Wente (Ojibwe), and others. When the director, Neil Diamond, was asked if he knew most of the actors and directors featured in the film prior to filming, he said that he only knew Amy Beach, who portrayed the World War II Indian hero Ira Hayes in Flags of Our Fathers.”


American Outrage:  Carrie and Mary Dann are feisty Western Shoshone sisters who have endured five terrifying livestock roundups by armed federal marshals in which more than a thousand of their horses and cattle were confiscated -- for grazing their livestock on the open range outside their private ranch.

That range is part of 60 million acres recognized as Western Shoshone land by the United States in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, but in 1974 the U.S. sued the Dann sisters for trespassing on that land, without a permit. That set off a dispute between the Dann sisters and the U. S. government that swept to the United States Supreme Court and eventually to the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

American Outrage asks why the United States government has spent millions persecuting and prosecuting two elderly women grazing a few hundred horses and cows in a desolate desert? The United States Bureau of Land Management insists the sisters are degrading the land. The Dann sisters say the real reason is the resources hidden below this seemingly barren land, their Mother Earth. Western Shoshone land is the second largest gold producing area in the world. 2008

Damnation: “This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.”

Homeland: 4 Portraits of Native Action: “Nearly all indigenous nations sit on land threatened by environmental hazards - toxic waste, strip mining, oil drilling, and nuclear contamination. The realities that the tribes live with are often bleak:  children play near radioactive waste; rivers are poisoned; and reservations are surrounded by strip mines and smoke stacks that spew noxious fumes. This feature-length documentary takes a hard look at these realities and chronicles the efforts of five remarkable Native American activists who are leading the charge in these new Indian Wars. With the support of their communities, these leaders are actively rejecting the devastating efforts of multi-national energy companies and the current administrative dismantling of 30 years of environmental laws. This film takes an in-depth look at specific environmental issues that threaten Indian nations, focusing on a handful of activists who are leading the fight to protect their homelands. This documentary is filmed in some of the most beautiful parts of Montana, Alaska, New Mexico, and Maine.” Similar movies at:

Journey of the Universe: Quote By Mary Evelyn Tucker – “Journey of the Universe narrates the 14 billion year story of the universe's development, from the great flaring forth at the universe's inception to the emergence of simple molecules and atoms to the evolution of galaxies, stars, solar systems, and planetary life of greater complexity and consciousness. This is a story that inspires wonder as we begin to understand such complexity through science and appreciate such beauty through poetry, art, history, religion, and philosophy. It also awakens us to the dynamic processes of evolution that are chaotic and destructive, as well as creative and life-generating. The Journey of the Universe is a cosmology, although not just in the scientific sense of the study of the early universe. Rather, it is a cosmology in the sense of being an integrated story that explains where both humans and life forms have come from. All cultures have had such stories. We now have the capacity to tell a comprehensive story drawing on astronomy and physics to explain the emergence of galaxies and stars, geology and chemistry to understand the formation of Earth, biology and botany to trace life's evolution, and anthropology and history to see the rise of humans. Journey draws on all these disciplines to narrate a story of universe, Earth, and human evolution that is accessible to everyone. This is the first such telling of the story in film form and no doubt there will be other expressions, both scientific and artistic.” From: and/or

People of a Feather: From the New York Times: “Featuring stunning footage from seven winters in the Arctic, People of a Feather takes you through time into the world of the Inuit on the Belcher Islands in Canada's Hudson Bay. Connecting past, present and future is a unique relationship with the eider duck. Eider down, the warmest feather in the world, allows both Inuit and bird to survive harsh Arctic winters. Traditional life is juxtaposed with modern challenges as both Inuit and eiders confront changing sea ice and ocean currents disrupted by the massive hydroelectric dams powering New York and eastern North America. Inspired by Inuit ingenuity and the technology of a simple feather, the film is a call to action to implement energy solutions that work with nature.” (90 minutes)

Playing for the World (MT PBS):“The Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School, located in the Sun River Valley outside Great Falls, was one of the first schools in Montana to feature basketball as a recreational sport for girls. In 1902, 10 young women formed a team that would become renowned for its skill, tenacity and mature dignity — on and off the court. The team members, who came from Indian nations in Montana and Idaho, dealt with racial and gender stereotypes, but their talent and style of play began drawing large crowds of enthusiastic fans. In 1904, the team was invited to attend the St. Louis World’s Fair and live in the Indian School Exhibit Hall. They paid their way with numerous basketball games, after which they gave special presentations in native dress, often reciting stanzas of Longfellow’s Hiawatha to enthralled crowds. At the World’s Fair, the team played in exhibition games, defeating all their opponents. School officials, working with Montana journalists, proclaimed the team “Champions of the World.” But when the Fort Shaw team returned to Montana, the story of their sports accomplishments quickly faded — their uniforms, photographs a small trophy from St. Louis were lost over time.” **This documentary was adapted from a book called “Full Court Quest” by Peavey and Smith.

Return of the River:A story of hope and possibility amid grim environmental news. It is a film for our time: an invitation to consider crazy ideas that could transform the world for the better. It features an unlikely success story for environmental and cultural restoration. Fundamentally, the Elwha River in Washington State is a story about people and the land they inhabit. The film captures the tenacity of individuals who would not give up on a river, mirroring the tenacity of salmon headed upstream to spawn. It is a narrative with global ramifications, exploring the complex relationship between communities and the environment that sustains them. The camera soars over mountain headwaters, dives into schools of salmon, and captures turbines grinding to a halt; as the largest dam removal project in history begins. The film features people and perspectives on all sides of the Elwha debate, reflecting the many voices of the Elwha valley.”

The Spirit of Crazy Horse“One hundred years after the massacre at Wounded Knee, Milo Yellow Hair recounts the story of his people-from the lost battles for their land against the invading whites-to the bitter internal divisions and radicalization of the 1970's-to the present-day revival of Sioux cultural pride, which has become a unifying force as the Sioux try to define themselves and their future.” Producers: Michel DuBois,Kevin McKiernan

Suddenly Sami Director: Ellen-Astri Lundby. Suddenly Sami is a personal film about identity. During the directors childhood and youth in Oslo her mother never told her about her indigenous Sami background in the Arctic area of Norway. Why didn't she? And how can the director suddenly become Sami in the middle of life? And does she really want to? Ellen A. Lundby (b. 1959) has worked with film and TV since 1989. She is known for making humorous and crafty short films, both fiction and documentaries. Her films usually have a humoristic touch, despite often dealing with serious topics. She also wrote the screenplay for the short film Salt and Pepper, which was aired as part of a four-part series under the title Love is… on Norwegian TV2 in the fall of 2001. Lundby has also worked as a freelance reporter for newspapers and specialized journals. 2008.

Where the Spirit Lives: “In 1937, a young First Nations (Canadian native) girl named Ashtecome is kidnapped along with several other children from a village as part of a deliberate Canadian policy to force First Nations children to abandon their culture in order to be assimilated into white Canadian/British society. She is taken to a boarding school where she is forced to adopt Western Euro-centric ways and learn English, often under brutal treatment. Only one sympathetic white teacher who is more and more repelled by this bigotry offers her any help from among the staff. That, with her force of will, Ashtecome (forced to take the name Amelia) is determined to hold on to her identity and that of her siblings, who were also abducted.” Written by Kenneth Chisholm.

Storytelling & Song

Professional Storyteller: Susan Strauss, Bend, OR

Coyote Stories/A Cricket in Washington, D.C.

Jack Gladstone: Named “Montana’s Troubador” by Governor Schweitzer

Blackfeet Sing/Songwriter-great music with lyrics that incorporate Blackfeet and

Montana History, as well as Napi “trickster” tales and lessons.