Coming from director Jesse Short, Laura Tomaselli and IFC Films and featured at the Tribeca Film Festival comes the continual struggle and activism with LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES.
This documentary is first and foremost the struggle that the Lakota and Dakota nation of peoples (Oceti Sakowin or Sioux) continue to have with holding the U.S. Government accountable for its actions, broken promises and attempted bribery (that’s how I see it anyway). It is also an extremely important lesson in the history of a people that have known the almost erasure of their culture.
Beginning with the writer/poet Layli Long Soldier’s narration and her words of struggle mixed with the grace of her people, the narrative starts. It is the stripping of a nation through their lands, the breaking down of language and appearance to make them ‘Christian’ and less ‘savage’, the abuse of children and leaving them to a bare existence.
Their connection to the Black Hills is sacred and the injustices can be documented to the Dakota 38. That is the 1863 execution of thirty-eight men in 1862 for what the government calls ‘an uprising’. From the Battle of Little Bighorn to the protests at Standing Rock, activists and tribes-people such as Krystal Two Bulls, Benjamin Hedin, Nick Tilsen, Milo Yellow Hair, Nick Estes, Henry Red Cloud, Candi Brings Plenty, Alex Romero-Federick, Craig Howe, Mary Kathryn Nagle and Phyllis Young discuss how ‘the land and the people are inextricably connected’.
IFC Films is a leading distributor of quality talent-driven independent films. Some of the company’s successes include BOYHOOD, FRANCES HA, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, TOUCHING THE VOID, CHE, TINY FURNITURE and CARLOS. For more information on films from IFC please visit www.ifcfilms.com.
The film discusses a past that has all but been forgotten or buried in the past and it is the Lakota people who are placing it front and center. In 1980 their case was taken to court and although the decision was in their favor and a large sum of money awarded, the Lakota people refused the money.
It is important that the truth be written (because erasing does not come as easy to the Lakota people) and the ‘whitewashing’ to stop. The mythology created about cowboys and Indians has been allowed to continue which mutes the voices of the Lakota that have been trying to break through the silent barrier.
Explain in a trio of parts, it begins with the ‘Extermination’ with the Europeans arriving, battles, consistently bad treaties. The next part is ‘Assimilation’ with the land grab and civilizing a people they clearly did not understand. Forcing a combination of religion and abuse, it brings lasting effects.
Finally, ‘Reparations’ which is the Landback Movement of activism are looking for justice but not in the way non-natives believe. They are looking for acknowledgement and a relationship based on truth, fairness and a commitment that, to my way of thinking, should include more than a fleeting nod of the past atrocities.
Educators should be given a copy of this film when it is available and made part of history taught from middle school through college. It is an open and honest look at a history that is not built on creative mythology but instead the brutal truth of just one of the hundreds of Native Americans tribes.
I am actually one who does not mind learning about the truth in history. All one has to do is dig into a family tree to see what human beings are capable of both good and not so good (being polite here). Understanding that I am not them or their choices, it becomes my responsibility to make sure the next generation knows the truth and, if possible, become part of a solution.
LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES should easily be the light bulb going off for us all and hearing ‘LandBack’ as a legitimate shout.
In the end – their war cry is ‘Land Back’!