Our Land, Our Life, shown twice at this weekend’s Mountainfilm, is one helluva documentary, challenging you to realize that genocidal indigenous policies continue – not only around the world, but right here in the U.S. of A. The black hats in this film are easy to identify. Sometimes audiences can’t help groaning (or hissing) … Stage Center is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (any BLM employee seeing this movie ought to be ashamed of the agency they work for), laying out the story of how Carrie and her sister Mary – working Nevada cattle-ranchers – were cited for trespassing, their cattle confiscated, their horses rounded up with helicopters and run through fences, several raids made, arrests, intimidation, etc. And while it’s comforting to learn that local BLM managers didn’t initiate this policy (it came from “on high,” we are told), it’s disgusting to think that agency professionals would carry out legal orders that were/are morally reprehensible. One shouldn’t forget that in National Socialist Germany, genocidal practices were also “legal” … More black hats get passed out to Indian agencies of successive administrations, Congress, and the U.S. Court system, including the U.S. Supreme Court, all of whom support the concept that the Treaty of Ruby Valley (1863) was abrogated by “gradual encroachment” – as though invading trespass over time becomes somehow sanctified into law … Of course a big black cowboy hat goes to the U.S. President, who has his ambassadors refuse to comply with International Human Rights Law. I mean who can take our Statue of Liberty seriously anymore? … But the Fed turns out just to be enforcers, not the source of the policies stripping the Western Shoshone of their indigenous rights ... It’s like the question, who runs America? Forget Government, that’s merely puppet to the puppeteer. It’s Big Business. The hatless but black-hearted Corporations. If you ask me, this whole Bush League administration is simply the face on the multinational mask of ExxonMobil, Halliburton, I.G. Farber … In the film, the Gages artfully lead us into the clear understanding that it’s the world’s major gold companies, including our own Newmont Corporation, that are salivating to extinguish Western Shoshone title to land. Why? Because their geologists have discovered gold deposits under the very land the Danns have been ranching for a lifetime … It’s a pretty effective formula – show the BLM acting like a more compassionate Gestapo, watch the court system maintain the corrupt status quo, and then show how Newmont and all the major gold mining cartels have directed this script through Dem and Repub administrations alike. The bad guys don’t get much badder than this … Of course, the big-bellied local sheriff and his roughhousing deputies come off like small-town goons, with black ball caps and bulletproof vests (although, having met Carrie Dann, I can see why grown men might be afraid of this tiny but well-spoken grandmother). There are plenty of black hats to go around ... But as for heroes (who you can’t help but rooting for), there are mainly two elderly sisters, Carrie and Mary Dann (who has now passed away). Speaking truth to power on screen. Standing up to several centuries of injustice. Putting their entire livelihood in jeopardy by refusing to violate a treaty that the U.S. government ratified and now fails to want to live up to (because of corporate greed, and the billions to be made from open pit cyanide gold mining) … My goodness! A braver women than Carrie Dann I have yet to meet … Of course, there are a couple other white hats in the movie. As with most injustices brought to the public light of day, there’s a dedicated attorney. In this case, Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project (www.wsdp.org), as well as a team of supporting lawyers and native rights groups … The Organization of American States comes out in support of the Danns and against the actions of the U.S. … And the United Nations issues an Early Warning/Urgent Action rebuke of the U.S. actions in the Dann case (which of course is completely ignored) … Some good guys, but mostly two heroic grandmothers. This is an epic American tale of injustice, probably the most egregious human rights violation case in this country. And it’s happening in our own backyard, the inner-basin West. The Danns and the Western Shoshone are being stripped of their land and their life – happening in our time, on our watch, by our own very government … What the Gages have done is to shine the light of day on one of our nation’s nastiest little secrets – ongoing polices of indigenous genocide. If this film doesn’t move you to action, you need to buy more stock in uranium futures.
MOUNTAINFILM … Congrats to the organization for a great year – terrific films, great presenters, a fine weekend start to the summer season in Telluride. If the Telluride Film Festival has developed an urbane international flavor as Hollywood-in-the-Mountains, Mountainfilm is pure Telluride.
THE TALKING GOURD
Even if love is a blue life form
Attached to all the life it feels
Earth dubs our solitude with a numb word
Looking for meaning in one-of-a-kind.
Against the crease of each folded year
I place a chorus of hammered leaves.
It fits enough to keep the sense of 'no doubt' away.
It is the gift I give to you. whom I-do-not-know.
Suppose you know a tighter weave, a smoother silk.
Start out by telling it, then tell me.
Log Hill Village
© 2007 Art Goodtimes