Standing on Sacred Ground Series
Pilgrims and Tourists
In the Altai Republic of Russia and in Northern California, indigenous shamans resist massive government projects that threaten nature and culture.
Directed by Christopher McLeod
Writer: Jessica Abbe
Co-Producers: Jessica Abbe, Jennifer Huang
Editors: Quinn Costello
Storyteller: Tantoo Cardinal
Videographers: Will Parrinello, Andrew Black
Sound: David Wendlinger
Associate Producers: Erin Lee, Marlo McKenzie, Ashley Tindall
Composer: John Herbst
Narrator: Graham Greene
A Presentation of Pacific Islanders in Communications and Vision Maker Media
A Production of the Sacred Land Film Project of Earth Island Institute
In the Russian Republic of Altai, traditional native people create their own mountain parks, to rein in tourism and resist a gas pipeline that would cut through a World Heritage Site. In northern California, Winnemem Wintu girls grind herbs on a sacred medicine rock, as elders protest U.S. government plans to enlarge one of the West's biggest dams and forever submerge this touchstone of a tribe.
"Beautifully portrays the stunning Altai Mountains...and the anguish of indigenous spiritual leaders." Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Center for Eurasian, Russian and Eastern European Studies, Georgetown University
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Satish Kumar and Barry Lopez provide insights on a growing global indigenous movement for human rights and environmental protection.
The other titles in the series are:
Profit and Loss From Papua New Guinea to the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, native people fight the loss of land, water, and health to mining and oil industries.
Fire and Ice From the Gamo Highlands of Ethiopia to the Andes of Peru, indigenous highland communities battle threats to their forests, farms, and faith.
Islands of Sanctuary Aboriginal Australians and Native Hawaiians reclaim land from the government and the military, and resist the erosion of culture and environment.
Grade Level: 9-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014
Copyright Date: 2014
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-294-2
"This engaging film beautifully portrays the stunning Altai Mountains, the dramatic burial removal of the Ukok princess, taken by Russian archeologists without local permission, and the anguish of indigenous spiritual leaders. The parallel story of the Northern California Native community that has lost numerous McCloud River villages and sacred sites to the Mt. Shasta dam is well told, with music and ritual linking the communities' approaches to pilgrimage. Both narratives leave viewers with an appreciation of indigenous struggles as well as hope that protest and attention to their causes can bring some amelioration."
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Research Professor, Center for Eurasian, Russian and Eastern European Studies, Department of Anthropology, Georgetown University, Author of Shamanic Worlds, Editor of Anthropology and Archeology of
"The restoration of Indigenous environments and Indigenous cultures go hand in hand. The struggles are real. I recommend the Standing on Sacred Ground for tribal colleges and universities."
David Yarlott Jr., Little Big Horn College, Tribal College Journal
"This monumental film series is superb. For many indigenous cultures throughout the world, sacred places are arenas of peace, power, and reverence. Standing On Sacred Ground sheds light on cases where religion and identity are under attack, where sacred places are being recklessly transformed into a focus of conflict, power struggles, desecration, and the violation of human rights. The films will prove to be of special interest to a wide range of scientific and academic disciplines, government and NGO personnel, and the general public. They will be most relevant for university, college, and high school classrooms covering subjects in anthropology, ecology, economic development, environmental studies, globalization, government, history, human rights, indigenous studies, law, social justice, sociology, political science, and religion."
Dr. Leslie E. Sponsel, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Author, Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet
"Standing on Sacred Ground is a tour de force! This is one of the most powerful documentary series ever made on indigenous peoples and their resistance to environmental exploitation. Toby McLeod has woven stories of first nations peoples' resilience amidst images of searing beauty and unimagined destruction. An awakening call indeed that should be heard around the world."
Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, Co-author, Ecology and Religion
"Beautiful, heartbreaking, soul-sustaining films."
Terry Tempest Williams, author, Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities, University of Utah
"Nothing like this riveting series of four desperately-urgent films about the fate of our planet has ever been seen...Patiently, lucidly and devastatingly, director Toby McLeod and his team have traveled the globe and painstakingly tracked eight stories of struggles by indigenous peoples to save the ancestral landscapes that have given them sustenance and spiritual anchoring for thousands of years. Standing on Sacred Ground is a magnificent, one-of-a-kind achievement...Containing face-offs at strategic sites, incontrovertible visual documentation of environmental wastelands, poignant voices of clarity and appeal that speak with the grave, quiet wisdom of cultures that have survived centuries of crusades to convert, exterminate, or assimilate them - these four dramatic films keep us on the edge of our seat and at the edge of tears. They absolutely must be seen by every citizen on earth."
Peter Nabokov, Anthropologist, Professor of World Arts and Cultures,
University of California - Los Angeles
"An extraordinary film series highlighting the struggles, losses, and strengths of indigenous peoples working today to protect their sacred places in an industrialized world. Through beautifully filmed case studies where indigenous leaders speak for themselves, this series illustrates how history, law, science, and religion converge in the indigenous world and how critical these struggles are for the well-being of the planet as a whole."
Dr. Melissa K. Nelson, (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University, President of The Cultural Conservancy, Author of Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future
"From the local to the global, from the ancient world to the modern world, from developers to ecological preservationists, from indigenous peoples to outsiders, Standing on Sacred Ground explores the many sides of resource development on indigenous lands...The series provides considerable insight into the issues Indigenous Peoples face, and shows how and why they are fighting to preserve their sacred lands, their traditions, their life-ways, and their cultures. No study of contemporary ecological issues would be complete without hearing and seeing this aspect of ecology and development controversies."
Thomas D. Hall, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology, DePauw University, Co-author, Indigenous Peoples and Globalization: Resistance and Revitalization
"This important educational documentary demonstrates the unsustainable cost of rampant resource extraction and development and the devastating impacts on those who hold sacred the duty to protect the earth, Indigenous peoples. In documenting cases from the Pacific to the remote mountains of Altai and across the Americas, it demonstrates the vital importance of traditional Indigenous knowledge in the preservation of biodiversity and shows that, far from being a primitive relic from the past, Indigenous knowledge is vital to the recovery of the biosphere and to our collective future existence. This is a well-executed documentary, suitable for post-secondary educational programs."
Makere Stewart-Harawira, Associate Professor of Theoretical, Cultural and International Studies in Education, University of Alberta, Author, The New Imperial Order: Indigenous Responses to Globalization
"Standing on Sacred Ground is one of the most powerful educational films, reminding us that Indigenous peoples are the true guardians of Mother Earth and their wisdom needs to be heeded - our future depends on it. Beautifully produced. Outstanding Indigenous commentary on the sacredness of Mother Earth and how we need to stop the plunder before we all vanish."
Dr. Julian Kunnie, Professor of Religious Studies/Classics, University of Arizona, Author, Indigenous Wisdom and Power: Affirming our Knowledge Through Narratives
"Beautifully illuminates indigenous peoples' resistance to environmental devastation and their determination to protect our common future."
"Words that seem most appropriate in characterizing this documentary include awesome, beautiful, ugly, dramatic, revealing, disturbing, heroic, moving, and inspiring...A unique and historic achievement...The film exposes contemporary cultural, ecological, religious, and political realities, transcending the usual 'just-so-stories' of the ethnographic present dominating many textbooks. The film both tests anthropological viewers' adherence to cultural relativism and challenges any scientism because for indigenes nature is alive and spiritual with its sacred foci of power, reverence, and healing...This educational film series is most relevant for instructors and students in universities, colleges, and high schools for a wide variety of disciplines, topics, and courses. The four DVDs will allow instructors to easily use any of the individual eight cases, each 25 minutes long, making the series ideal for classroom use, or for students to pursue their individual interests."
Anthropology News (April 2014)
|Reduced rates for activist and grassroots groups. Please inquire.
include bonus features, SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection. For classroom use, Altaian and Winnemem Wintu stories can be shown separately.
Outstanding Teacher's Guide for "Pilgrims and Tourists"
The series' beautiful website: StandingOnSacredGround.org
Awards and Festivals
Best Documentary Feature, American Indian Film Festival
John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Climate Change/Global Warming
|In the Light of Reverence|
A stunning portrait of land-use conflicts over Native American sacred sites on public and private land around the West from the producers of STANDING ON SACRED GROUND.
Unconquering the Last Frontier
Chronicles Native Americans' struggle to survive in the midst of hydroelectric development.
Heart Of Sky, Heart Of Earth
Six young Maya present a wholly indigenous perspective, in which all life is sacred and connected, as they resist the destruction of their culture and environment.
Voices of the Land
Our spiritual connection to the land, and how wilderness can heal the soul.
Two elderly Western Shoshone sisters, the Danns, put up a heroic fight for their land rights and human rights.
Tells the inspiring story of four battles in which Native American activists are fighting to preserve their land, sovereignty, and culture.
We Still Live Here
Tells the amazing story of the return of the Wampanoag language, a language that was silenced for more than a century.
The Mystery of Chaco Canyon
Unveiling the ancient astronomy of southwestern Pueblo Indians.
The Sun Dagger
The astonishing discovery of an ancient celestial calendar in Chaco Canyon, NM.
Coming to Light
An in-depth portrait of Edward S. Curtis, the preeminent photographer of North American Indians.
Drumbeat for Mother Earth
Toxic chemicals are the greatest threat to the survival of indigenous peoples.
The Buffalo War
The battle over the yearly slaughter of America's last wild bison outside Yellowstone National Park.
... more Reviews
"Standing on Sacred Ground does well to not only allow the voices and experiences of actual Indigenous peoples, scholars, and activists shine throughout the films, but also calls out to viewers asking them what they can do for the land so 'the land can love them back.' This film series is thorough, critically engaging, inclusive, and very well produced. The eight case studies of Indigenous communities around the world offer the viewer a glimpse into the everyday lives of these people and can therefore be an excellent educational tool for students and activists of most ages. I highly recommend this film series for anyone who wants to learn about Indigenous cultures across the globe, as well as anyone who wants to fully understand how and why the earth is slowly being destroyed by the efforts of 'progress,' along with what they can do to help reverse the process of ecological destruction."
Jennifer Loft, University at Buffalo, Educational Media Reviews
"A powerful series...Sacred sites and the earth on which they reside are still under desperate threat. Whether or not a specific site is sacred to a specific religion (and most American Christians have no spiritual link to these places or most American places), the earth is one connected system, and the destruction of one place is a danger to all of them-and all of us. Level/Use: Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of religion, environmental anthropology, anthropology of endangered cultures, and Russian and Native American studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database