Over 200 people got a first hand glimpse into the Standing Rock Protests at a discussion and film screening surrounding the events Tuesday.
Attendees viewed a documentary, “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock” which was followed by a Q&A session with one of the co-directors. The event was held at the Heard Museum in partnership with Arizona State University as part of the Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community, which holds a series of lectures involving issues and topics within humanities and arts.
One of the co-directors, Myron Dewey, an indigenous journalist, educator and activist was a featured speaker of the event. He is known among the American Indian community for his live stream and drone coverage of the peaceful protests over the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline that took place near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
The documentary “Awake” depicts the #NoDAPL journey, and how it captured world attention. It tells the story of the Stand Rock tribe and its peaceful protest. James Riding In, interim director and associate professor of American Indian Studies, opened up the event with Dewey and their associates.
Dewey said he wanted people to take away from what had happened on their side of the story, but in different views.
“This is something for us to, as citizens, to look at and see what is our government doing when they let an international energy company have eminent domain. This is something for America to see,” Dewey said. “Now you know when you see this, what it feels like to be indigenous because it didn’t happen just to indigenous people; it happened to American citizens. With that, it’s not just an indigenous issue. It’s a human issue. It affects us all.”
Amanda Blackhorse joined the event and helped with the Q&A session as a surprise guest. Blackhorse is also a known activist as she and other American Indians founded the group Arizona to Rally Against Native American Mascots. She’s known for standing up against the Washington NFL team for their name and logo.
Vanessa Dundon, or “Sioux Z Dezbah,” had also been at Standing Rock but was injured in the front lines against police, and shared her experiences. In her right eye, her retina had been severed due to being hit directly with a tear gas canister. She was told she had a five percent chance of ever seeing in her right eye again, but she recovered and told the audience she can now see at about 15 percent.
Phoenix resident Risa Cole attended the event with her friends for an educational purpose. Cole knew what had happened at Standing Rock but had never seen actual footage.
“I was very surprised with what I saw, it was pretty bad… The whole thing was a peaceful protest,” Cole said. “Seeing these officers and enforcers just attacking these people who are only trying to protect their land and their water. It’s just hard to watch because nothing had been done about that.”
Besides some of the speakers, there was a handful of people who had been to Standing Rock themselves. Roberta Tekala, an enrolled member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, with her daughter, Cora Picard, and drove two days to North Dakota last year in August to spend a week at the campsite.
Picard, 17, is a student at Trevor Browne High School and went with her mother to the screening. She said the film and her own personal experience became a motivation for her to take action.
“It inspired me to make a difference,” Picard said. “[To] make awareness about things that are happening everywhere like Mother Earth, around the world and what these companies are doing to their environment.”
Tekala wanted her daughter to learn from what happened at Standing Rock along with the documentary and take pride in her American Indian identity.
“I think he [Dewey] did a good job of being able to source from the beginning to the end. And the parts that were most important stood out, as well as what we should be learning. I really admire how he put that all together,” Tekala said. “It really depicted what was going on there. You could feel the emotions even by the look of the people, the nonverbal, the actions and the sense.”
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