Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  73 minutes
Date:  2001
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: Grades 9-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
You must register and login to preview and purchase items.
You might also be interested in...

In the Light of Reverence

New to Docuseek2? Please register and login to preview and/or license this film. If your institution has already licensed this film, you will need to access this page from your institution's network to watch the film. For help on using Docuseek2, please visit our help wiki.

A stunning portrait of land-use conflicts over Native American sacred sites on public and private land around the West.

In the Light of Reverence

Across the USA, Native Americans are struggling to protect their sacred places. Religious freedom, so valued in America, is not guaranteed to those who practice land-based religion. Every year, more sacred sites - the land-based equivalent of the world's great cathedrals - are being destroyed. Strip mining and development cause much of the destruction. But rock climbers, tourists, and New Age religious practitioners are part of the problem, too. The biggest problem is ignorance.

IN THE LIGHT OF REVERENCE tells the story of three indigenous communities and the land they struggle to protect: the Lakota of the Great Plains, the Hopi of the Four Corners area, and the Wintu of northern California.

'This beautifully-crafted film shows how the places most sacred to Native Americans are being both disrespected and destroyed, and how Indians are fighting back to save their own religious heritage. This film is a wake-up call for everyone who cares about the environment and human rights and deserves every opportunity to reach a broad and diverse audience.' Robert Redford

'For those who know nothing about the denial of Native American religious freedom, this film will change minds and open hearts. For those of us already involved in the struggle to save sacred land, this film will energize and inspire.' Walter Echo-Hawk, Native American Rights Fund

'The film clearly articulates some of the issues indigenous peoples all over the world face as they struggle to prevent their spiritual beliefs from being marginalized by people who believe spiritual places are structures built by men, not the Creator.' Wilma Mankiller, author and former Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation

'This respectful, brave, and understated film, which urges the redress of profound historical errors, is itself an act of reparation. In the Light of Reverence reaches beyond cultural disputes to reveal and document the arena of human wisdom.' Barry Lopez

'The voice of native peoples has been drowned out. Instead, corporate CEOs and those Indians the corporate press has selected to be the spokespeople are featured on front pages. This film allows us to hear new and different voices.'
Jack Forbes, Professor Emeritus, Native American Studies, UC Davis, Co-Founder, DQ University

'The Middle East may get the headlines, but there are battles involving sacred ground in the United States, too, as nicely documented by In the Light of Reverence, on PBS.' The New York Times

'In the Light of Reverence shines a beam on the fundamental differences between two world views, one based on individual rights - including the right to exploit the land for profit - the other, on responsibility to a community that includes people, ancestral spirits and the spirits of the forest and mountains themselves.' Sara Jean Green, Seattle Times

'Highly recommended...' MC Journal

'Done...superbly well...a stunning example of truth being stranger than fiction. Comments from both sides of the issue could be dialog from an award-winning drama, instead of real life interviews.' Sharon Abercrombie, EARTHLight Magazine

'With its timely subject matter, even-handed approach in addressing multiple views, and excellent production values, this is highly recommended. Editor's Choice' Video Librarian

'A compelling comparative study of environmental and cultural threats facing three contemporary Indian nations as they strive to protect their most sacred lands...The filmmakers have done an outstanding job of delivering a remarkably accessible presentation on a very sensitive and infinitely complex issue.' Samuel R. Cook, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Anthropology Review Database


Awards

National PBS Broadcast on 'POV'
Best Documentary Feature, American Indian Film Festival
Eagle Award, Taos Talking Picture Festival
CINE Golden Eagle
Chris Award, Columbus International Film Festival
Jury Award, MountainFilm, Telluride
Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media, Council on Foundations Film and Video Festival
Best Documentary, Wilbur Awards
Certificate of Excellence, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Award of Excellence, Indian Summer Film and Video Image Awards
Second Place, EarthVision Environmental Film Festival
Third Place, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
Best Cinematography/Videography Award, Siskiyou Environmental Film Festival
Native Visions, Native Voices Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
Vermont Inter

NARRATOR:
All over America, for 500 years, native people have struggled to protect their sacred places: burial grounds where ancestors rest, sanctuaries for medicinal plants,  landscapes of unusual natural power, sources of prophecy. Native Americans are still losing ground -- sacred ground.
CHRIS PETERS:
The first Americans, the indigenous peoples who have lived and occupied this land for eons and eons of time, are being deprived of a central principle on which the United States of America was established, that of religious freedom.
WILLIAM PERRY PENDLEY:
These people are true believers who want to engage in a religious practice. The problem is, this is federal land.
FLORENCE JONES:
This is my church. I don't go down to you white people's church and go in there and raise hell.
ED MORGAN:
They have the right to come up here and worship. They have the right to do anything anybody else does on the public lands. But so do we have the right to mine.
VINE DELORIA:
The irony of the situation is that you can go on public land to ski, you can go on public lands to strip a mountain and leave a cyanide pool, but you cannot go on public lands to pray for the earth and its continued fertility.
STORYTELLER:
A long time ago, the sun and Spiderwoman created the earth. With her saliva Spiderwoman molded clay, breathed spirit into it, and gave birth to the people. Then, she taught them how to care for land and life.
NARRATOR:
For most Americans, the Holy Land exists on another continent. But for Native Americans, the holy land is here. On public land and on private property, Native Americans are fighting for hundreds of sites. This is the story of three communities: the Lakota, Hopi, and Wintu, and the places they care for––threatened by mineral extraction, recreational uses, and competing religions.
VINE DELORIA:
If you look at the earth, there are certain places that seem to have power and we don't know what kind of power it is, except you have a different feeling, you feel energized...
VINE DELORIA:
...and that's why a lot of the ceremonies are: you simply go out into the land at a certain place under supervision of a medicine man and open yourself up. And what I think is powerful about these religions is you can continue to have revelations. All the revelation is telling you is how you and your community, at this time in life, can adjust to the rest of the world.
So, it's not like we designated a place and said, "This is going to be sacred." It came out of a lot of experience. The idea is not to pretend to own it, not to exploit it, but to respect it. Trying to get people to see that that's a dimension of religion is really difficult.
JOHNSON HOLY ROCK:
The Black Hills was the center of life. If a man was dying, he was starving, he was poor in spirit and in body, and he went into the Black Hills, the next spring he would come out of there in excellent health. His life and body would be renewed. So to our grandfathers, the Black Hills was the center of life and all around it, those areas that were considered sacred, were kept in the light of reverence.
JOE MORRISETTE:
OK, right over there Eric. Go stand by Marvy. All the lead runners over here with Marvy. C'mon you guys, let's get on the road!
NARRATOR:
Each summer, Lakota runners circle the Black Hills -- 500 miles in 5 days.
The runners follow the course of a mythic footrace between the two-legged and four-legged animals to determine who would be the strongest and the wisest.
Now, the humans run to renew their spiritual claim to land they never gave up.
One of the most important sites on the Run of the Sacred Hoop is Mato Tipila, or the Lodge of the Bear.
ELAINE QUIVER:
Mato Tipila is like a beacon in the ocean, the lighthouse. And one of the things that really inspires me is the quiet serenity of that area.
OFF-CAMERA CLIMBER:
Climbing...
ANDY PETEFISH:
...Just tell her you're the reincarnation of Sitting Bull.
ELAINE QUIVER:
My grandmother said, "This is where they have the vision in the month of June." And she said, "Everything comes back to life in the month of June. And this is where we should all get together and renew our own life."
NARRATOR:
For the Lakota, the Tower was created to save a group of children fleeing an angry bear. For most people, it was created by Hollywood.
After the Tower was popularized as a magnet for space aliens and their human followers, the numbers of annual visitors doubled. Then, the sport of climbing experienced a population explosion. The National Park Service confronted the issue of crowds of rock climbers on a place considered sacred to Plains Indians.
In 1995, the Park Service asked climbers to voluntarily stay off Devils Tower during the month of June, and tried to ban climbing with hired guides. Commercial guide Andy Petefish, represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, sued the Park Service, challenging the proposed ban.
WILLIAM PERRY PENDLEY:
This is not private land. This is federal land.  It is set aside by the Congress for the enjoyment of the American people. And people go there for that reason.  And now, the Park Service comes in and says, "Well, it's not totally open." A whole part of the reason for its establishment is closed off to people because, unless they practice  a certain faith.  And I think that's a very dangerous precedent.
ANDY PETEFISH:
To me, climbing lifts my spirits more than any other activity that I've ever participated in. When I climb the tower, and I get up on top there and I'm fully engaged with nature. I'm actually feeling it and touching it and wedging my body into it...
FRANK SANDERS:
I've received the criticism of: I am climbing on someone's church. I don't mean to offend anybody, but if there's a climbing ban that's put in effect, then I'm being locked out of my church. I think the church ought to be open.
Hey, good morning Brenda. How you doing?
RANGER:
Good, how are you?
FRANK SANDERS:
Well, it's another day of climbing, so it can't be bad, can it?
RANGER:
'Course not.
We close off the tower to climbing during the month of June. It's a voluntary closure. We ask you not to out of respect for the American Indians and the ceremonies that they come and do, especially around the time of the summer solstice. Sundances take place here, vision quests and sweat lodges as well. So, I would like you to read this and decide whether you want to climb. If you decide that you do want to, I'll give you a card and you're more than welcome to go up.
FRANK SANDERS:
Are we ready?
OTHER CLIMBER:
Yes sir.
FRANK SANDERS:
Let's do it.
DEB LIGGETT:
Indian people feel that anyone on the tower, or anyone pounding bolts in the tower, is acting in a disrespectful manner. They believe that that disrespectful act is actually interfering with the efficacy of their ceremonies. It's two different belief systems in conflict.
Climber off-camera
Ha ha ha. Kick ass! Ha ha ha.
JOHNSON HOLY ROCK:
As I looked up at the tower, it imparted to me a feeling of violation, a sense of desecration. And I thought to myself, "Why are they doing this?  Don't they have any respect for anything?"
ANDY PETEFISH:
When a land-based religious practitioner walks up to me and tells me to stick my rope, my climbing shoes and my rack in my pack, and hit the road, and get the hell out of Devils Tower and never come back, which is what they're advocating, they're not advocating strictly the month of June if you talk to them, they don't want climbers here period.
NARRATOR:
While a handful of climbers sued the Park Service, June climbing at Devils Tower has dropped off by eighty-five per cent. These rock walls are at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial  in the Black Hills, eighty miles from the tower.
JOHN GUNNELS:
I live and stay in Wyoming because I love it. My favorite spot on the planet is Devils Tower. It keeps me there. I go other places during the month of June because I choose to respect Native American beliefs.
JOHNSON HOLY ROCK:
I'm thankful that the majority of the climbers have thus respected our wishes. We also recognize that some of those people, it's a way of life for them, economically, they have no spiritual connection to the Lodge of the Bear. It represents something far different than as we see it as Lakota people.
NARRATOR:
When their territory was penetrated by the Americans, the Lakota and other bands of the Sioux fought to defend it, and they won. It was the first military conflict ever lost by the United States. By treaty, the Black Hills and Devils Tower belonged to the Sioux. In 1874, an expedition led by General George Armstrong Custer broke the treaty, entered the Hills, and found gold. The Black Hills gold rush was on.
Since then, the Sioux have battled to regain title. It is the longest standing legal battle in U.S. history, fought from reservations far from their sacred places.
STORYTELLER:
The racetrack around the Black Hills is a ring of red rock, stained with the blood of the animals who raced there.  Magpie raced for the humans, and caught a ride on Buffalo. When the finish line was in sight, that clever bird flew ahead and won.  Thus, humans won the right to hunt buffalo, and accepted the responsibility of caring for all species.
OLIVER RED CLOUD:
You run for a reason. You're not running for yourself. You're not racing -- who could be the best runner. It's not that.
ELAINE QUIVER:
We may be the poorest people in Shannon County, but we're rich in our culture. Prayers are important. Because that's the backbone of our nation. We pray wherever we go, every day. We don't need a church to say we love one another, because we do.
WILLIAM PERRY PENDLEY:
Recreation is one of the top five income generators in every western state. It's very, very important. But what we also see is the potential that mining activity, oil and gas activity, or timber harvesting, or ranching or water development, or these other activities that are very important economically, could also be stopped as a result of, "Well, somebody thinks it's sacred, and that's enough for us."
VINE DELORIA:
It's not that Indians should have exclusive rights there. It's that that location is sacred enough it should have time of its own. And that once it has time of its own, then the people who know how to do ceremonies should come and minister to it.  See, and that's so hard to get across to people.
CHARLES WILKINSON:
In the corner of the mind of many judges is the idea that these just can't be real religions. Religion is something you do in a church. Real religion isn't something you do in nature. The category for that is recreation.  And the idea that a religion could be tied to a particular place is not part of the life experience of these judges.  
NARRATOR:
A Wyoming judge issued a preliminary injunction against the Park Service's ban on commercial climbing, ruling it was a government endorsement of native spirituality in violation of the First Amendment. The Park Service dropped the ban. The climbers went further. They challenged the remaining Park Service policies that ask visitors to change their behavior in deference to Native American beliefs.
DEB LIGGETT:
The basic issue here isn't legal. The basic issue here is respect for other human beings, that somehow we must co-inhabit this planet. And we do that by making accommodations for each other. Throughout the national park system we have religious structures and religious features. We have Quaker churches, we have Baptist churches, we have Spanish missions. Talking about religion, or talking about cultural beliefs, is not proselytizing.
RANGER:
The Great Spirit answered his prayers. The two little girls standing on the boulder, the boulder grew to where it is now today, 865 feet.
JOHNNY CASH SONG:
Now I will tell you buster,
That I ain't a fan of Custer's.
And the General, he don't ride well anymore.
To some he was a hero,
But to me his score was zero,
And the General, he don't ride well anymore.
WINNIE BUSH:
Our culture is as important as the Indian culture, and we people who have lived here all our lives, we have our own culture that's being invaded by the Indians coming here all the time and taking over, I think.
NARRATOR:
Hulett, Wyoming is the town closest to Devils Tower. Locals involved with Wise Use, a property rights movement, were plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Park Service.
MIKE TOKANCZYK:
This tactic of claiming religious areas is happening all over. It's happening at the Medicine Wheel, at the Big Horns. It's just not used to stop climbing. It's used to stop all kinds of activities. I think that it's just being used as a land grab versus, y'know, actual Indian religious purposes.
JESSE DRISKILL:
Our family history goes back seven generations in Crook County in the ranching business. And there really were no Native Americans here -- until they were invited by the park service.
ELAINE QUIVER:
We always been there. But they would not see us because we didn't go there to be seen, really. In the 1800s, we were prohibited from practicing our own religious way of life. Our vision quests were stopped. Now we can go back again, and that's when we started going back to the sacred sites. But you don't see an Indian visibly going to a place to pray. I went up there and prayed, and so has a lot of people. They walk into the hills and pray, and they walk back after four days and leave. We was always been there. So, I think that's a culture. You have to know the culture to identify what you see, and if you don't know the culture, you don't see nothing.
WINNIE BUSH:
And we don't go out and hang our dirty laundry out. And all the prayer bundles at Devils Tower to me is offensive, I must say that.  They have all the rest of the United States to hang 'em in. why do they have to hang em at Devils Tower?
JESSE DRISKILL:
Could they possibly worship it any more than we do?
WINNIE BUSH:
No!
JESSE DRISKILL:
And they surely do not take as good a care of it as we take.
WINNIE BUSH:
When I go to Devils Tower, I definitely have a religious experience. I think it's one of the most awesome sights I've ever seen, and I've been looking at it all my life. But it's not like the church. It has no similarities at all.
VINE DELORIA:
The central problem is that western religion is basically materialistic, and I think that's because of the western tradition that God works in history, which is to say in events, but not in people and places. So, what you end up with then is the capability of establishing a church or shrine anyplace that's convenient to people. That's not, that's treating earth as an object, and Indians don't believe it's an object, and they base that on thousands of years of experience.
STORYTELLER:
To honor the Great Spirit, Lakota gathered at Mato Tipila for a sun dance. A mysterious woman approached, gave the Lakota a pipe, and taught them how to use it in prayer. As she headed back toward the horizon, the woman turned into a buffalo calf. Since then, she has been known as White Buffalo Calf Woman. Mato Tipila is remembered as the place where the Lakota received the pipe from the spirit world.
ELAINE QUIVER:
This is our way of saying, "We respect our ancestors. We love our ancestors." And this has to go on to the next generation. Because someday we're not going to be there. And they will have to continue, and teach their children, and their grandchildren.
WEATHER REPORT ON RADIO:
For today: northwest winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, an additional one to two inches of rain is possible in the Black Hills this morning.
RANDY LAYS BAD:
A lot of people are countin' on us to complete this run, five day trek around the Black Hills. So, that keeps us going. Heart. It's all heart.
DEB LIGGETT:
What we're accommodating here at Devils Tower is Indian peoples' rights to their culture. They're here for the long haul, and they know it. These sacred sites are central to the perpetuation of their culture, and one of our jobs here at Devils Tower is to protect that right.
NARRATOR:
The courts have agreed: the Park Service's attempt to discourage climbing in June is an accommodation, not an endorsement, of Indian religion. Those who choose to climb are still allowed on the Indians' sacred monument without penalty...
It is a federal crime to climb the faces of Mt. Rushmore, anytime of year.
HOPITUTSKWA:
"Hopi Land"
STORYTELLER:
The Hopi entered the fourth world through the emergence place we call Sipapuni in the Grand Canyon.
We encountered Massaw, the spirit guardian of this land.
We made a covenant with Massaw, and promised to be good stewards of the earth.
Migrating through the land to find our home on the Hopi mesas, we left behind evidence of our spiritual stewardship: petroglyphs, villages and shrines.
Through the use of these sacred places, we still maintain our claim to this land.
THOMAS BANYACYA:
Native people are the only ones who take care of that area by prayer, fast, meditate, ceremony. That's how we keep this land in balance. White people don't understand this kind of thing. They only look for money and jobs and a good time. They don't care about land. They only sell and buy and destroy everything.
DALE MCKINNON:
I didn't realize I was destroying anything but a big ugly pile of rocks out in the big ugly middle of nowhere. When the Native Americans came with their concerns, I had to take a step back, and I tried to put myself in their position. And realizing that I can't totally agree with them, for my own religious reasons and beliefs, but I was willing to make a compromise.
DALTON TAYLOR:
It's pretty hard to really describe how I felt, because all at sudden I seen it was destroyed, and what can I do? It's already done. There's no way I can say, "Stop it." Nobody's going to listen to me.
NARRATOR:
As a Hopi, Dalton Taylor's most important obligation is to maintain a ring of shrines around the vast landscape of his ancestors. Mining has altered the path of his pilgrimage.
Hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites blanket the Southwest. This is the landscape for which the Hopi claim spiritual responsibility. Long ago, they marked the heart of their homeland with a ring of shrines essential to their religion.
Reservation boundaries left many shrines and pilgrim trails outside. Now, some stand in the way of mineral extraction -- at Woodruff Butte, at Black Mesa, and at the San Francisco Peaks. To the Hopi, the Peaks represent the home of the kachina spirits, the bringers of rain. Clouds form here and travel a trail in the sky to the Hopi mesas. At the base of the Peaks, archaeological sites have been destroyed by pumice extraction, and Hopis have fought the expansion of the White Vulcan Mine.
DALTON TAYLOR:
There are some prehistoric sites our ancestors has left there before. So, we don't make a writing with black and white.  So, therefore, these petroglyphs, and the sites, are our history book...
LINDA FARNSWORTH:
...on the land.
DALTON TAYLOR:
On the land.
LINDA FARNSWORTH:
Right.
DARRYL LINDSEY:
This is Forest Service land. This is not Indian land. I don't want to sound cold or bitter, but they lost the war, and they were put on reservations. As far as sacred ground goes, this ground is really sacred to me. And other mountains, you can't single this one out.  If you go to a building, a house, look at the floor, it's made out of concrete.  Concrete is rock, sand, and pea gravel.  And that comes from a mountain.  You can't make roads,  you can't make anything without tearing into a mountain, it's just impossible. That's how we make things. That's our culture.
ED MORGAN:
When we started out, we started out strictly doing light-weight concrete. And then in the 80s, it kind of took off. What sparked it was a stone-washed jean fad, which is still a pretty good market for us.  We did between two and three million dollars worth of business last year.
LEE WAYNE LOMAYESTEWA:
The only thing that they're concerned about is the money.  And, I don't know, it's just, they have dollar signs in their eyes and it's hard to stop people when they're just making money off of something that's not supposed to be sold.
NARRATOR:
Pressured by tribes and the Sierra Club, the Clinton Administration solved the conflict at the San Francisco Peaks -- with money. For one million dollars, the owners agreed to shut down the mine.
STORYTELLER:
Spiderwoman  watches the disputes between the takers and the caretakers. Each time the people lose their way, she leads them through a hidden doorway to a new world. Three times, previous worlds were destroyed after humans wandered off the spiritual path and misused technology.  Three times, people were given another chance. This is the fourth, and final, world.
VERNON MASAYESVA:
In the previous world, the people living there perfected technology to the point where they began to use it for the wrong reasons. Accumulating wealth, power. They did magnificent things with technology, to the point where they felt that God was no longer --  the Creator -- or whatever you call it, was no longer needed, that we have become the gods. We're now letting technology out of control again, giving it a life of its own.  We're repeating the mistake.  We haven't learned our lesson.
DALTON TAYLOR:
The Hopis named this butte after this plant, and the Hopi call it tsimona. So, they named it Tsimontukwi, Tsimontukwi.
NARRATOR:
Tsimontukwi, or Woodruff Butte, is private property. Early settlers renamed the Butte after a prophet of the Mormon Church, Wilford Woodruff.  Ancestors of the Hopis camped here, and left rock writing that can still be read. Until 1990, Hopis on pilgrimage visited their shrines here without interference.
VERNON MASAYESVA:
There are places on earth where we set up shrines to deliver our offerings, our prayers. Those shrines are kind of like doorways to the spiritual world.
DALTON TAYLOR:
The shrine is where we deposit our prayer feathers. We pray for rain. So, this is a pretty important butte. Not just for the medicine but for people to come and pray, too.
NARRATOR:
In 1990, bids were opened for repaving Interstate 40.  Despite Hopi protests, a gravel mining quarry was opened at the butte, to supply the rock for asphalt.
LEIGH KUWANWISIWMA:
About 1991, the Hopi tribe was informed that bulldozers were up on Tsimontukwi. The local residents were very frantic because they had a very personal association with the butte. It is a very important landmark for early Mormon settlers. But for the Hopis, it is not just a landmark, it is the place of at least eight Hopi religious shrines.
DALE MCKINNON:
There's nothing out there on this piece of property that's tangible to me. I've been out there a lot, and I stand there some days by myself and try to understand what they're telling me.  And there's nothing I can see, so I can't perceive it being important to this degree. It's not a burial site, there's not artifacts scattered all over it. This is not what I'd consider a beautiful piece of property, with birds and trees and a creek running through it. This is a barren piece of rock, sticking up in a barren piece of land, and I just can't get there.
NARRATOR:
When federal funds are used to develop a site that might one day be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, cultural and environmental impacts must be considered -- even on private property. The Hopi sued to stop the mining on Woodruff Butte, demanding that the Federal Highway Administration comply with the law.
LEIGH KUWANWISIWMA:
The operator was there, and we asked him to see if he could delay any bulldozing until we could talk with the owners, but they refused. We literally saw one Hopi shrine bulldozed before our presence there.
DALE MCKINNON:
What incentive was there for me to work around something I couldn't see, and why should I? When we all visited the property, I was told that if they showed me specifically where it was on the property, then it would not have religious value to them anymore. In other words, they couldn't show me.  So, I guess I did bulldoze it. I couldn't see it. I didn't know what to work around.
CHARLES WILKINSON:
Five centuries ago, the Indian world view and the Anglo world view clashed and were never reconciled. Five centuries later, they still aren't reconciled. And it's not some kind of romanticism. The Indian world view, Indian spirituality, really does have a connection with the land that we're missing in the larger society -- a sense that the land can provide healing, a sense of obligation to the land,  a sense of permanence.
NARRATOR:
For a thousand years, the Hopi have farmed in the desert. Their culture is based on corn, water and ritual. Throughout the year, Hopis journey to hundreds of remote places to pray for the well-being of the entire world. Here, the shrine is a spring. Corn meal and an eagle feather are offered to invite the spirits of the ancestors to visit the cornfields as rain clouds.
THOMAS BANYACYA:
It's a sacred site because the ancestors came through here, and marked this and moved on, telling the world that somebody'd been here a long time ago.
NARRATOR:
In the secretive Hopi society, traditional law forbids identifying certain places to the uninitiated. When places are known, they are more vulnerable.
JAN BALSOM:
What I've found, being an archaeologist, is that the littlest bit of information about a location often will lead to that location's discovery and destruction. On the tribal side, they can't share too much, because they've been burned a lot in the past, by sharing too much.
VERNON MASAYESVA:
We are not allowed to tell the outside world everything. And a lot of it has to do with land.
NARRATOR:
Hopis never fought a war with the United States, and they never signed a treaty giving up land. During the reservation push, Hopis held on to their homes on the mesas. The dry, rocky ground was not that valuable to settlers, but all around it was up for grabs. If you were an Indian, you were locked out. If you were a miner or a homesteader, you could claim land for two dollars and fifty cents an acre.
Woodruff Butte went from government control to private hands in 1917 for four hundred dollars. In 1991, the McKinnon family paid one hundred thousand dollars for the Butte. Five years later they offered it to the Hopis for three million. It was more than they could pay. In 1996, the Hopi tribe received a videotape in the mail, from residents of Woodruff, Arizona. For the first time, bulldozers were taking the top of Woodruff Butte.
HOME VIDEO:
You can see that they're working right now...you can see where the rocks are now sliding down.
NARRATOR:
By the time the Hopi reached the butte, the summit was gone, and with it their pilgrimage shrine, where Dalton Taylor delivered his prayers.
DALTON TAYLOR:
What can I do to replace it? Because that shrine has been established there thousands of years ago.
LEIGH KUWANWISIWMA:
They pointed out right within the staging area one Hopi shrine that we had previously identified, and they sort of mocked us by saying that, "Hopis you have one remaining shrine here, so what's the big deal? You guys can still, y'know, come to the butte and pray here."
DALE MCKINNON:
The biggest right that we have is private property, and that's huge.
I'm gonna mine it 'til they forcibly remove me from it. And I think they've tried all their intimidation and every other tactic under the sun to get me to go away and I'm not going to because I believe that it's without a doubt my right to go up there and do that.
NARRATOR:
At the base of the butte, Dalton Taylor discovered Hopi petroglyphs had been damaged by gunfire.
DALTON TAYLOR:
This markings tell us that the Water Clan has been settled here before. It comes over here but it's destroyed. They even rub it with a rock and then shoot it with a rifle. It looks like toes, toe prints, it's a baby like. You could recognize it if this was there, this part here. They're just using a rifle to knock all the wall off. Sort of like erasing written paper, Hopis won't claim it because it's erased now.
NARRATOR:
The use of federal funds for Woodruff Butte aggregate was stopped, but not before hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid to extract gravel which ended up on the Interstate. County, state and private construction projects keep up the demand for rock. The mining continues.
LEIGH KUWANWISIWMA:
As a Hopi, when you look out into the landscape, you always have to remind yourself that that's where you came from. And, in Hopi culture and religion, that's where you go back to. Our people had to endure hardship, the elements of the environment that they had to survive in. Through this hardship they were instructed to go back to the earth center, which is today the Hopi mesas. There is now a mining operation that is using up thousands of gallons of water a minute, and we're very concerned. We have seen impacts locally around the Hopi villages where springs are no longer producing, and we have seen springs where they have died completely out.
NARRATOR:
In this landscape, where water is life, the impact of one mine dwarfs all the rest. Black Mesa is not on public or private property, but on reservation land. Here, in hopes of economic prosperity, Hopis themselves, and the neighboring Navajo tribe,  signed away mineral and water rights to Peabody Coal Company, for the largest open pit coal mine in the United States. Coal from Black Mesa is mixed with water and slurried by pipeline two hundred and seventy-three miles to a power plant in Nevada, to provide energy to Los Angeles and the cities of the Southwest. The coal slurry takes 3 million gallons of pristine underground water each day.
VERNON MASAYESVA:
In 1966, when the Hopi Tribal Council signed a mining lease with Peabody, the Council was not aware of the magnitude of the mining.  Our lawyer explained to the Council that underneath us is a huge ocean of water, that the mining company will just take one cup from a sea of water. Today, the mining company is extracting 4,000 acre-feet of water per year. If you take this much water from a desert land that gets less than 12 inches a year, it doesn't take a brainy person to know there's going to be serious damage.
ARCHIE DUWAHOYEOMA AND GARLAND LOMAYAKTEWA:
We can't supposed to sell our water cause it's very important to us. All of our ceremonies are evolved around the spring.  Men's ceremony, winter solstice, women ceremony.  It's utilized throughout the year. Back in 1902, this spring was almost up to the top. But now, the water's real down, into right about in the middle of this right here. When I finally realized what Peabody is doing, sucking the water underneath us, all our springs are dry now, and some are, like this one, it's not what it used to be. It used to be up to the top.
VERNON MASAYESVA:
We broke a covenant. And I think that's what bothers all Hopis these days. How do we make up for it? You know, we made a terrible mistake. We have sold our soul to this company.
NARRATOR:
Under the mining lease, if there is significant depletion of the underground water,  the Secretary of the Interior can shut down the slurryline and force Peabody to find another way to transport the coal.  A review of the government's own hydrology data by the Natural Resources Defense Council found evidence that damage to the aquifer, and to Hopi springs, has already occurred. Peabody Coal Company declined an interview for this film.
VERNON MASAYESVA:
The Hopi say when you die, when every living thing die, they join the cloud people. We rise from our graves as mist, and we travel with them up to the mountains. We come down as rain or snow.  Then we take our long journey back home. The ocean. The underground aquifers. We're going home. We go home, we rest, we come back again. Western science has the same version, except the "we" is disconnected totally from the phenomena, the cycle. We have no part in it. In our world view, we are the clouds. We are the rain that comes down.
BULYUM PUYUIK:
"Great Mountain"
MARK FRANCO:
This is a test of the Indian Broadcasting system. This is only a test.
MARK FRANCO:
We haven't had anybody bring us any coffee.
RICK WILSON:
Or donuts. Those regular listeners know that I don't like coffee. I like hot chocolate.
MARK AND RICK:
And you are listening to listener-supported, community radio for the Sacramento Valley, FM 90.1, KZFR in Chico, California.
JOHNNY CASH SONG:
There are drums beyond the mountains,
and they're getting mighty near...
MARK FRANCO:
Coming back, we came back, we were up there at ceremony, it was a good ceremony. We went to the spring...
RICK WILSON:
Went to the spring...
FLORENCE JONES:
The kids come last, I want to take the big people first.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
When we go to the top of the mountain, she's just a little ol' plain person, not all dressed up, not all a big pipe and a certain way and all that sort of stuff, it's just us, and nature and the spirit world, y'know.
FLORENCE JONES:
When you look around you only see the good things. When you smell this root we give you power and strength to ward all evil away from your heart and soul. When you speak you only speak the right things, so help me Great Spirit.
NARRATOR:
Florence Jones is the top spiritual doctor of the Winnemem Wintu of northern California. Their ancestral home is the McCloud River watershed south of Mt. Shasta.  Healing ceremonies have been conducted here for a thousand years.  Now, Florence Jones is handing them down to her great-niece. For 15 years they have fought a proposed ski resort on Mt. Shasta, and resisted New Age newcomers who congregate at their sacred site.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
This whole area is part of that religion. You can't have a religion without the land. It's not something that you read in a book, but it's the way you walk on the land, and the way you treat your relatives, all of the relatives.
NARRATOR:
The relatives include a whole landscape animated with spirits: in the animals, the plants, the mountain itself, and the Wintu's sacred spring.
FLORENCE JONES:
It's always bubbling, and the sand coming up like that, and if anybody go around there if they greet 'em and then the bubbles go right to you, you're accepted; same old way over 80 years ago, it still is that way, probably always will be that way.
NARRATOR:
When Florence Jones was born, Wintu shamans determined that she was a special baby who would become a healer. She made her first visit to the spring at Panther Meadows, high on Mt. Shasta, in 1908.  
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
I always feel like time is running out. And then when it's gone, it's gone forever, you know there isn't any one else. Like the language,  Grams and Emerson are the last two fluent speakers, and when they're gone the language is gone. You don't get to hear conversation any more. When that language isn't a living language any more, then what?
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
Look at this one, Grams, 1951.
NARRATOR:
At the time of first contact with non-Indians, there were 14,000 Wintu. By 1910, there were only 395. Florence Jones was one of them.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
But your whole family had to move out, right?
FLORENCE JONES:
Everybody had to move out, from Pit River and McCloud River.
NARRATOR:
Like most northern California Indians, the Wintu have no reservation. During the Gold Rush, they quickly lost their lands to miners and settlers. The government paid bounty hunters to kill Indians -- $5 a head. The population was decimated.
A hundred and fifty years later, the United States still does not recognize the Wintu as a tribe. Their religion has survived government policies of extermination and assimilation.  
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
The process of training the doctor starts from birth and extends to a time where they are to visit all the sacred places. And all along the river she had to go, and at 10 years old she had to go there alone, to travel that whole length of the river. Right after that she was captured, when they came in to hunt for kids, and was taken. And the parents had no right to stop it, no rights to say, "You know she's in training. You can't take her. She's our next doctor." In the boarding school, they baptized her, and they started trying to introduce the church into the lives of these kids. They didn't let you speak your language. They marched you around all the time. If they weren't tending to you, they let you march in circles, just to keep you moving.
FLORENCE JONES:
Mt. Shasta there.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
Bulyum Puyuik?
FLORENCE JONES:
Bulyum Puyuik.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
Her family all stayed on the McCloud River, even after the killings  and smallpox and whatever else that came in that kind of wiped out the population. Until the dam came in. All the Indians were moved out of the McCloud River. There are a lot of sacred places under the lake now.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
Grams, what do you think will happen if they build that ski resort and that spring is ruined? What will happen to the people, the Wintu people, for ceremony, and for going on?
FLORENCE JONES:
That's when we have to pray a little bit harder. Maybe someday they'll see the light and see the good and the beautiful world in nature. They might wake up and see all that. Somebody's got to do that, somewhere. We all can't just be dumb and die.
NARRATOR:
Indians and environmentalists were allies against the ski resort. Faced with lawsuits and protests, the Forest Supervisor agreed to meet with the Wintu at their summer camp below the mountain.
KATHY HAMMOND:
We said that we thought it was appropriate to have a ski area there. So, the Forest Service went out with what we call a "prospectus." And the people bid on it, and then we selected someone. So, we are the ones that said "We think that a ski area would be appropriate here."  
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
When those ski runs go in and those people impact that area, and that sewage system is set, every dollar that you're putting in to restoring that area, that's nothing. That's almost a distraction from the real problem of what's going to happen to the spring.
KATHY HAMMOND:
We made a decision to do it, we can't simply undo it. We've spent 10 years or so on this. We were asked to analyze something we hadn't done before, and we're doing that, in good faith.
FLORENCE JONES:
What gets me and hurts my heart is that you people allow all Tom Dick and Harry to come into my church. That's what I'm asking. How could you keep them out of our church?
KATHY HAMMOND:
The only way I can keep people out of that spot is to say that because of the damage to the plants, the damage to the rocks, the damage to the water, nobody goes in there.
FLORENCE JONES:
They did everything under the sun to ruin that place. They detaminated my spring.
KATHY HAMMOND:
Yes, yes. I'm trying to work on this. That's what I think, I'm trying to figure out a way that I can keep everybody else out and still allow for your ceremony. But I don't, I can't break the law -- because it's public land.
LEONA BARNES:
This is sacred ground. And Mother Earth is. And we gotta respect it.  And I'd like to see it go on. I want these little people to know what their great-grandfather and their people done. So they can carry it on when they get older. I don't want to see it die out.
JIM AYER:
It's a wonderful area. When you get up there and it's just so pristine, and so beautiful, and you can ski over to areas and just sit there, and listen and watch and see nothing for hundreds of miles. There's just nothing like it. We can offer that to a lot of people that could never experience that anyplace else. And it could help us financially, locally for a lot of people, too.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
When you look at the land, what is the first thing people see? How they can make money on it. So it's money, or learning how to value what looks like nothing. 'Cause when the people came here, they said, "Look at the Indians, they've done nothing with this land." Well, in our world view it's like, that's great. It looks so natural, that's the way it's supposed to be!
JIM AYER:
The environmental movement, whether anybody wants to see it or not, is a movement of religion.  It's a movement of respecting Mother Earth as opposed to the God of the universe who, I believe, created all things. And how can you fight religion? How can you go against religion? You know, that's a bad thing.
STORYTELLER:
Before there was a visible world, spirit beings roamed. To choose what physical form each spirit would take, Creator called them to his home on Mt. Shasta. One became Eagle and flew off. Another chose Bear and walked away. Sunflower took root in the mountain meadow. All but one anxious spirit had chosen. Creator was tired of waiting. Finally the little being said: "I'm gonna be a human!" and ran down the mountain. Creator thought, "Hmmm, that one's going to need help." So he called back the water spirit, the fire spirit and the mountain spirits and asked them to take care of this little human, because he doesn't know his purpose.
NARRATOR:
Backed by the Bible, American pioneers once condemned tribal religions as pagan. A century later, their descendants imitate Indian rituals. The Harmonic Convergence in 1987 turned Mt. Shasta into a mecca for the New Age. Every summer day, the Winnemem Wintu are outnumbered by other celebrants at Panther Meadows.
ROWENA KRYDER:
Wherever truth is running as a spring, that's what I'm interested in.  And, it doesn't really matter what culture it's coming from, or whether it's indigenous or not. When people are drawn to a sacred place, I feel the need to allow space for inspiration, for a person coming from wherever.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
It's a free country, right? It's a free country, and all of the land out there that's where you can express your freedom.    
CHRIS PETERS:
A lot of the New Age begins to look to traditional native or traditional indigenous peoples for some answers to their own spiritual bankruptcy, to their own need for their own self-gratification. In an effort to find themselves they're appropriating a lot of native belief systems, to plug into it on the weekend, only to get a feeling for themselves alone. They fill an emptiness.
ROWENA KRYDER:
To me, the spiritual lineage has as much importance as the blood lineage. I feel I've been Native American, I feel I've been black, I know I've been Chinese, Egyptian -- many, many different things.
RAINBOW PEOPLE SINGING:
We are one with each other.  We are one with each other like the infant and the mother we are one, we are one with each other.  
We are one with the heartbeat...
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
That area right there is our church, and this is how you behave in our church. But they believe that it's as much theirs as anybody's because it's out here. If we built a building around it and said, "This is our building, and inside this building is our sacred spring, and this is how you behave in it," then maybe they would, because then they can see the boundaries of what is ours. Just like we couldn't walk into the Catholic church and say, "Hey, I think we should have a little fire right here because that's our way. We need a fire, that's a sacred thing." That would ruin the church, right?
JULIE CASSIDY:
Hi, I really like your music. It's great.
SHARON HEYWOOD:
Very nice.
JULIE CASSIDY:
It's very soothing. Good drums.
SHARON HEYWOOD:
Yeah, good drummer. So you know this area is sacred to the Wintu tribe?
RAINBOW PEOPLE:
Well, it feels very sacred. Tell us about the Wintu tribe.
JULIE CASSIDY:
Florence Jones, she's a shaman, she's one of the last native speakers of the Wintu. They never camped here at all. They came up here for ceremonies, and they've told us some of the things that they have a hard time with, and that's nudity, when people are nude here, which is often. I mean totally nude. Sunbathing. Because it offends -- it's like their church. So, like if you walked into their church nude...
SHARON HEYWOOD:
The area means things, has a symbolism, that it's difficult for me as a Westerner to really comprehend. But I think Julie's description of it as her church -- if you think of wherever your church might be, whatever it's like...
JULIE CASSIDY:
Which might be here, right here.
SHARON HEYWOOD:
If somebody desecrated that...
RAINBOW PEOPLE:
...But how would being nude be desecrating it?
Yeah, nudity is no desecration!
SHARON HEYWOOD:
To her, see, it is.  But...
RAINBOW PEOPLE:
...Those are barriers that she has...blocks...
...If a little child walks to the spring and takes some water...
...That's not our blocks...
...That child is innocent.
JULIE CASSIDY:
Well. their tradition is not to bring any children up here 'cause they think the spring is too powerful.
RAINBOW PEOPLE:
Well, we definitely feel the sacredness of it, and we want to treat it with that sacredness, and live in that ceremonial way that the Native Americans did.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO::
Now there are masses of populations that are coming through with no direction. I mean there are so many churches, it's like going down a cereal aisle at the supermarket. It's like, what do you choose? What are you gonna be? And y'know, there's only one box of Wintu.
FLORENCE JONES:
Go back to nature, the most important thing for a human being is go back to nature. From nature takes care of your mind and your heart and soul.
NARRATOR:
Every August, the Wintu return to Panther Meadows. Florence Jones doctors the people, the spring, and the mountain itself with prayers and songs.  
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
The Forest Service is probably, in their own way, waiting for Grams and Emerson to be out of the picture. And then all of us young looking people, they're going to say, "You people don't have no right here, you're just young people, you don't know the old ways." But what are we gonna do? How are we gonna win this? What have we gotta do? Is this so much to ask for, this place, this spot, this spring? There are many springs on this mountain. Why can't those people go there? There's a lot of snow on this mountain. There's a lot of other mountains with snow on it. Why can't those people with the need to ski go there?
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
We believe that there is a spiritual world out there that is more knowing than we are and has been put there by Creator to help when they can. It would be like, if you're in trouble or something happens to you, and you start calling for your mom even though she's nowhere around that could hear you, and you start calling for her...
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
...Sometimes women can actually hear that child.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
For Wintus, that is our Mother, and if you want help, you start calling for those helpers or that spring to come and help you.
FLORENCE JONES:
Is it morning? I'm through. I hope all of you people that's here, your hearts'll settle and have a good, clear mind. Change all your bad habits to the good. You all understand? I hope all of you do. Because in spirit I want to see all of you people again. So we'll adjourn.
SHARON HEYWOOD:
When I went to the place where the ski area would actually be, what became apparent was they could see a part of the ski area, and even if they couldn't see a part of the proposed ski area, they would know it was there. They would know that it had impinged upon their special place. They were looking for a place where it would be peaceful, where it would be quiet, where they could meditate and commune with their creator. A ski area with the attendant traffic, noise, people, et cetera, are just the exact opposite of what these people were saying they needed in order to carry out their traditional activities.  
NARRATOR:
Supervisor Heywood decided against a new ski area on Mt. Shasta
JIM AYER:
Pretty soon we're going to be a country that's fragmented by every group having its own little set of rights. The pursuit of happiness was a pursuit of private property, and now, that's being eroded, in essence, under the guise of religion.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO:
The ruling to not put a ski area up there was a relief. This country's one of the richest countries in the world, and to fight against it with nothing but a belief system, I think it's an amazing decision, that they actually found cause or reason not to do it.
NARRATOR:
In our common land, we do not share a common vision. What is sacred is elusive, like a spider web, unseen, until it catches the light. Tribal religions rooted in the land have been denied the religious liberties guaranteed all Americans by the Constitution. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 was an attempt to redress old wrongs and prevent cultural erosion. But the law has failed to save critical sites from development. Protections granted by public land managers are vulnerable to shifts in the political winds.
CHARLES WILKINSON:
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act is a well meaning act.  It's allowed some progressive officials to protect the old ways. But it's not the same as a statute. Those places are the bases of whole societies and they deserve to be protected. They're worthy of protection -- not as a matter of discretion, but as an absolute matter of right.
JAN BALSOM:
When you look at the public and how they view these places, they don't necessarily recognize the significance from the American Indian point of view, they don't know. But once they are told, once that's explained to them, once they've been brought into understand the significance of place, they'll respect it.
VINE DELORIA:
The attitude of our species is that this whole thing was created for us. It has no value except how we use it. The basic problem is that American society is a "rights society" not a "responsibilities society." What you got is each individual saying, "Well, I have a right to do this." Having religious places, or revolving your religion around that, means you are always in contact with the earth, you're responsible for it and to it.
STORYTELLER:
Spiderwoman told us, if we take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us. Every night, in the doorway between worlds, she repairs her tattered web, and waits.

Citation

Main credits

McLeod, Christopher (Producer)
McLeod, Christopher (Director)
Abbe, Jessica (Screenwriter)
Coyote, Peter (Narrator)
Cardinal, Tantoo (Narrator)
Parrinello, Will (Editor)

Other credits

Video and cinematography, Will Parinello ... [et al.]; editor, Will Parinello; original score, Jon Herbst.


Distributor credits

Christopher McLeod and Malinda Maynor
Christopher McLeod
Narrated by Peter Coyote and Tantoo Cardinal
A Production of the Sacred Land Film Project of Earth Island Institute
A Presentation of the Independent Television Service in association with Native American Public Telecommunications with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Docuseek2 subjects

Indigenous Sprituality and Religion
Indigenous Peoples
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Anthropology
Earth Science
Environment
Environmental Ethics
Ethics
Film Studies
Geography
Geology
History
Humanities
Indigenous Peoples
Law
Mining
Multicultural Studies
Native Americans
Outdoor Education
Pollution
Recreation
Religion
Social Psychology
Sociology
Western US

Keywords

native americans; light; reverence; religion; land; environment; human rights; social studies; indigenous people; "In the Light of Reverence"; Bullfrog Films;

Welcome to Docuseek2!

Docuseek2 is a streaming platform of the best documentary and social issue films available for the higher education community.

Anyone may search for titles and find detailed information about the titles. To preview films or license them for streaming, you must register and login.

Currently, we support online registration for anyone affiliated with a higher education institution. Please inquire if you are with a K-12 district or school or with a public library.

Click the Close button to get started!