Standing on Sacred Ground shares eight stories of indigenous communities around the world protecting their traditional sacred lands from government megaprojects, consumer culture, resource extraction, competing religions, tourists, and climate change. It was produced by the Sacred Land Film Project, sacredland.org, a project of Earth Island Institute.
Pilgrims and Tourists in the Pastures of Heaven focuses on the indigenous shamans of the Altai Republic, Russia, and Northern California’s Winnemem Wintu Tribe who find common ground in defending ancestral burial grounds and protecting their sacred places. In both countries, communities are confronting changes from modernism, recreational land use, and resource development.
Winnemem Wintu tribal members remember the exhumation of their relatives in the 1940s, to make way for the rising waters of Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California. They face an uncertain future and a second flood, if the US government’s plan to increase the height of Shasta Dam is approved by Congress. Dozens of sacred sites and burials would be affected by the increased water storage. Teenage girls grind herbs on a medicine rock during their coming-of-age ceremony on the banks of the McCloud River, as elders protest plans to enlarge one of the West’s biggest dams and forever submerge this touchstone of a tribe.
Halfway around the globe, harsh weather and high peaks have long protected the secrets of a mountain culture in Russia’s Altai. Snow leopards hide in the forests, and standing stones mark a green landscape that emerges with each snow melt. After brutal repression by the Soviets, hidden Altai culture has re-emerged, with shamanism, throat singing, and renewed reverence for sacred places. Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, new challenges have arisen. In Altai, native people create and patrol their own mountain parks to protect significant lands from privatization, teach the practice of respectful tourism, and resist a gas pipeline that would cut through a World Heritage Site. The film revisits the 1993 archaeological excavation of remains from a Pazryk burial site that removed the body of the Ukok Princess, an iconic figure in local art and culture.
Visitors from Altai witness the trauma of the Winnemem people, as they discover their sacred spring, high on Mt. Shasta, has run dry. In similar rituals using prayer, song, fire and water, the two cultures exchange spiritual and practical knowledge of the landscapes they consider sacred, and how best to protect them.
In the film, authors Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) and Barry Lopez, Chief Oren Lyons (Onondaga), and philosopher Satish Kumar provide insights on a growing global indigenous movement for human rights and environmental protection. It is narrated by Graham Greene (Oneida) and storyteller Tantoo Cardinal (Metis).
The filmmakers’ previous works include In the Light of Reverence (about Mt. Shasta and the late Winnemem Wintu medicine woman Florence Jones) and Angle of Inspiration (on Redding’s Calatrava-designed Sundial Bridge). Jessica Abbe, writer and co-producer of Pilgrims and Tourists, is a former resident of Redding.
What: U.S. premiere of Pilgrims and Tourists. Russian shamans and a northern California tribe both confront massive government projects—and find common ground. The film is Episode One of the new four-part documentary series Standing on Sacred Ground, which chronicles the struggles of native people around the world facing threats to lands of spiritual, cultural, and environmental significance.
The documentary tells the stories of indigenous people of the Altai Republic of Russia and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe of Northern California. A question-and-answer session with the film’s producers and the chief of the Winnemem follows the screening.
Tickets are $12 for the film event, or $35 for the film plus a reception in the theater lobby. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at www.cascadetheatre.org.
Where: Cascade Theatre, 1731 Market Street, Redding, California
When: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
Reception in theater lobby at 6 p.m.
Who: Filmmakers Christopher McLeod and Jessica Abbe of the Sacred Land Film Project and Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk will answer questions after the screening.
-from press release