Documentary Film, Standing on Sacred Ground, Premieres in Redding

Editor's note: If you appreciate posts like this and want ANC to continue publishing similar content, become a paid subscriber for as little as $1.35 a month.

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,, 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

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

-from press release
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

2 Responses

  1. .

    When I was studying to be a fixed-wing pilot, I dated a beautiful Japanese student learning to fly rotor craft. One night I asked if she had ever heard about the infamous Pearl Harbor attack of WWII. She did not have a clue as to what I was asking. Why? Well, that part of history was purposefully kept from young students in Japan… After we spent a lot time in the Portland Library, she was very saddened to learn that a shocking truth was kept from her all her life. We surmised that it was not "good for business" to teach that part of history in Japan.

    Without reservation I urge everyone: To attend this important event; this is a truly remarkable set of works… presented by the most remarkable, knowledgeable, heroic people you could ever meet! Chief Caleen Sisk and her beautiful Winnemem Wintu are truly world treasures!

    I believe researched and well-crafted presentations produced by the likes of filmmakers Abbe, McLeod (and Will Doolittle) should be a part of every learning environment in the USA! Our children are worthy of knowing our often overlooked Native history and genuine stewardship, rich with clear wisdom and important warnings.


  2. Avatar Teresa Spikener says:

    I hope this goes nationwide! I don't do movie theater's 2 often but I WILL pay 2 c & support this!