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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Documentary Review: “Awake: A Dream From Standing Rock” is a sobering, crucial film

One of the first tan­gi­ble tragedies of the Trump regime was the exec­u­tive order signed just a few days into his term, over­turn­ing a deci­sion by Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to halt the Dako­ta Access Pipeline (DAPL) project until a full envi­ron­men­tal impact study could be com­plet­ed. Trump’s exec­u­tive order allowed DAPL to move for­ward, along with the pre­vi­ous­ly-stalled Key­stone XL pipeline project.

Awake: A Dream from Stand­ing Rock” is a doc­u­men­tary in three parts about the DAPL protests at the Stand­ing Rock Sioux Reser­va­tion in North Dako­ta.

Part I, direct­ed by Josh Fox, is writ­ten and nar­rat­ed by Floris White­bull. Accom­pa­ny­ing video and images from Stand­ing Rock, DAPL con­struc­tion, White­bull and her chil­dren, and the protests, White­bull talks about a dream she had.

Awake, a Dream from Standing Rock

Awake, a Dream from Stand­ing Rock
Release Year: 2017
Direc­tors: Josh Fox, James Spi­one, and Myron Dewey
Run­ning time: 1h 29min
Watch trail­er

“The bat­tle for the future is laid out clear­ly before me. On one side, greed, fear, mon­ey, vio­lence, hate, and oil. On the oth­er, gen­eros­i­ty, faith, free­dom, peace, and water.”

She notes DAPL has to run under the Mis­souri Riv­er, a water source for over 17 mil­lion Amer­i­cans, and the only source of water for Stand­ing Rock Nation. Burst pipelines in oth­er parts of the coun­try have per­ma­nent­ly destroyed mul­ti­ple water­sheds, like the Kala­ma­zoo Riv­er.

Part II of the doc­u­men­tary is direct­ed by James Spi­one and is made up of footage, with­out com­men­tary, from Stand­ing Rock, includ­ing mul­ti­ple inci­dents of law enforce­ment assault­ing pro­tes­tors with pep­per spray, rub­ber bul­lets, and by spray­ing water.

Tur­tle Island is a bur­ial ground at Stand­ing Rock and as such is a spe­cial, sacred place for mem­bers of the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribe. Yet law enforce­ment occu­pied this land, ignor­ing pleas from trib­al mem­bers to leave it.

On Thanks­giv­ing Day, which some Native Amer­i­cans refer to as Survivor’s Day due to the trag­ic con­se­quences for Native Amer­i­cans of the first Thanks­giv­ing and the Euro­pean col­o­niza­tion of Amer­i­ca, pro­tes­tors decid­ed to make a bridge to be able to set foot on Tur­tle Island and hon­or their elders who had passed away.

Police on mega­phones at the top of the hill on Tur­tle Island said that they had no choice but to treat peo­ple com­ing on to Tur­tle Island as an act of aggres­sion and warned that they would have to defend them­selves, even though no one was attempt­ing to go up the hill and con­front police.

Overnight, police put up razor wire around the island, pre­vent­ing pro­tes­tors or trib­al mem­bers to get on the island again.

Part III of “Awake” is direct­ed by Myron Dewey, a Native Amer­i­can film­mak­er and activist. He came to Stand­ing Rock in order to see for him­self what was hap­pen­ing and to fill a gap that he per­ceived in media cov­er­age of the protests: that none of the cov­er­age was pro­duced by Native Amer­i­cans or from a Native per­spec­tive.

His footage shows many of his inter­ac­tions with law enforce­ment in and around Stand­ing Rock. He notes that Mor­ton Coun­ty didn’t charge pri­vate DAPL police for pep­per-spray­ing and set­ting dogs on peo­ple, but did harangue non-vio­lent pro­tes­tors with felony charges for tres­pass­ing.

He also has a con­ver­sa­tion with black author, intel­lec­tu­al, and activist Cor­nell West, who came out to Stand­ing Rock to show his sol­i­dar­i­ty with the water pro­tec­tors.

“Human rights have already been vio­lat­ed on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent lev­els. They’re using domes­tic resources on behalf of an inter­na­tion­al cor­po­rate enti­ty to con­tain and repress sov­er­eign nations as well as cit­i­zens of the Unit­ed States who are in sol­i­dar­i­ty with sov­er­eign nations,” West said.

In the con­clu­sion of the film (directed/written by Fox and White­bull, who cre­at­ed Part I), the sad events cre­at­ed by Trump’s Exec­u­tive Order are recount­ed, includ­ing the deploy­ment of fed­er­al and state troops onto trib­al land in late Feb­ru­ary to force­ful­ly remove what remained of the peo­ple and protest camp. Tepees were slashed with knives, and peo­ple were tack­led and arrest­ed.

Water pro­tec­tors remain proud of the move­ment they start­ed, which has spread across the globe as peo­ple protest oth­er pipelines and push for divest­ment from banks that fund DAPL and oth­er pipeline projects.

As Mor­ton says in the film, cli­mate change is not just about the Earth, but about our rela­tion­ships to each oth­er, how we treat each oth­er, and about jus­tice.

Watch “Awake” and be inspired to treat the plan­et and each oth­er bet­ter, and to con­tin­ue fight­ing for social and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice.

“Awake” is cur­rent­ly steam­ing on Net­flix.

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