Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 17, 2015

Broadcast Premier of 'On Sacred Ground'

Broadcast Premier of Standing On Sacred Ground Series Begins May 17, 2015
STANDING ON SACRED GROUND took nearly eight years to complete and focuses on eight threatened cultures—one fight. Using ancient wisdom and modern courage, indigenous communities around the world protect lands of spiritual and ecological significance for future generations.

This new series exposes governmental, industrial and consumer-related threats to indigenous peoples' sacred landscapes around the world.

Fourteen years after In the Light of Reverence, which featured the late tribal leader Florence Jones and her successful battle to protect Mt. Shasta from development, Toby McLeod and Jessica Abbe have released another film on the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, currently seeking to stop the US from enlarging Shasta Dam and wiping out their remaining sacred sites on the McCloud River.

The films provide extremely rare access to the wisdom, creativity and passion of indigenous elders and activists battling contemporary threats that affect us all. Whether it is global climate change, or well-intentioned but culturally destructive tourism, or the trampling of human rights in the pursuit of mineral resources—the films touch viewers deeply and offer solutions rooted in respect for traditional practices. As journalism, as education and as art, these films will have a long life.

Within the films, deep background to some of the most compelling and important environmental stories of our time are explored: tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline, melting glaciers, and growing global resistance to mining by indigenous communities protecting sacred lands.

Heres a link to the STANDING ON SACRED GROUND trailer: 

Photo of Winnemem Wintu War Dance Courtesy of Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

original image ( 2987x1991)

Broadcast Premiere of Four-Part Film Series, STANDING ON SACRED GROUND Timed with Asian-Pacific American Month

Series Debuts on WORLD Channel Beginning Sunday, May 17 at 9:00 PM (ET) Through Sunday, June 7 (check local listings)

Berkeley, CA - Standing on Sacred Ground, a four-part documentary series, eight years in the making, on Indigenous struggles over sacred sites, enjoys its national broadcast premiere on The WORLD Channel, Sunday, May 17 at 9 PM (ET) (check local listings).

The next three episodes will run weekly through June 7, 2015. In addition, public television stations nationwide will have access to the programming via the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA), which has also accepted the series for broadcast distribution beginning in April 2015. The WORLD Channel delivers the best of public television's nonfiction, news and documentary programming to U.S. audiences through local public television stations and streaming online. WORLD reached 35 million unique viewers 18+ last year.

KVIE3 will rebroadcast the series on its WORLD Channel on May 17, 23, 30 and June 7 at 6 pm and 10pm (PT). Pilgrims and Tourists features the local Winnemem Wintu Tribe confronting the proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam, which would flood many Winnemem sacred sites.

Standing on Sacred Ground, produced by the Sacred Land Film Project, shares stories from eight Indigenous communities around the globe resisting threats to lands they consider sacred in a growing movement to defend human rights, protect culture and restore the environment. In the series, Native people share ecological wisdom and spiritual reverence while battling government megaprojects, consumer culture, competing religions, resource extraction and climate change.

In episode one, Pilgrims and Tourists, Indigenous shamans of the Altai Republic of Russia and northern California's Winnemem Wintu find common ground resisting government projects: Shasta Dam and a Gazprom pipeline.

In episode two, 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.

In episode three, Fire and Ice, from the Gamo Highlands of Ethiopia to the Andes of Peru, Indigenous communities protect their sacred lands from development, competing religions and climate change.

In the final episode Islands of Sanctuary, Aboriginal Australians and Native Hawaiians reclaim land and resist the erosion of culture and environment.

"Public television viewers will now have the opportunity to access global perspectives from a chorus of Indigenous voices defending against attacks on their resources, and on the future we share," said producer and director, Christopher "Toby" McLeod. "We are proud to partner with The WORLD Channel, NETA, Vision Maker Media and Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), who are constantly striving to provide public television stations with diverse, enlightening programming for their audiences."

The films are now available for public television stations to schedule in time for broadcasts timed around Earth Day on April 22, 2015. The WORLD Channel premiere of episode one of Standing on Sacred Ground on May 17 coincides with Asian-Pacific American Month (May).

"We know having these films available to public television stations in May, timed with Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, will allow local stations to provide their viewers with important content that focuses on the issues facing many Native cultures in their areas," notes Leanne K. Ferrer, Executive Director of Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC). "We also understand some stations may choose to hold some or all of the films to air in November during Native American Heritage Month."

The film series has screened to great acclaim around the world since its release at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2013. It received the Best Documentary Feature Award at the Native American Film Festival 2013 and director Toby McLeod received the John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival 2014. The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian screened the series last year as part of the U.S. Environmental Film Festival, and the films were featured at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, last November. The films have also been screening in the Altai Republic, Moscow, Peru and Papua New Guinea.


"Beautifully illuminates Indigenous peoples' resistance to environmental devastation and their determination to protect our common future." --Robert Redford

"Some of the finest minds on the planet are featured in this documentary--and they're talking about the biggest problems our planet has ever faced!" --Bill McKibben

In addition to the WORLD Channel premiere in May, NETA has distributed STANDING ON SACRED GROUND to the full public broadcasting system for April 2015. To find out more about the series, visit [1].

About the Partners:
STANDING ON SACRED GROUND is a co-production of Sacred Land Film Project and Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) in association with Vision Maker Media (VMM), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).


The mission of Pacific Islanders in Communications is to support, advance, and develop Pacific Island media content and talent that results in a deeper understanding and appreciation of Pacific Island history, culture and contemporary challenges. Established in Honolulu in 1991 as a national nonprofit media arts corporation, PIC is a member of the National Minority Consortia, which collectively addresses the need for programming that reflects America's growing ethnic and cultural diversity. Primary funding for PIC and the Consortia is provided through an annual grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Visit for additional information.


Vision Maker Media shares Native stories with the world that represent the cultures, experiences, and values of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Founded in 1977, Vision Maker Media, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) which receives major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, nurtures creativity for development of new projects, partnerships and funding. Vision Maker Media is the premier source for quality Native American and Pacific Islander educational and home videos. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media--to be the next generation of storytellers. Located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we offer student employment and internships. For more information, visit


NETA is a professional association that serves Public Television licensees and educational entities in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Since 1967, our reason for existing is to connect Public Television people and ideas, by providing quality programming, educational resources, professional development, management support, and national representation. For more information, visit


For 30 years, the Sacred Land Film Project has produced documentaries, journalism and educational materials--films, DVDs, articles, photographs, school curricula and website content--to deepen public understanding of Indigenous cultures and environmental issues. Our 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor is the nonprofit Earth Island Institute.


Toby McLeod circled the globe for five years filming the Standing on Sacred Ground series. McLeod founded the Sacred Land Film Project in
1984 to make high-impact documentary films relevant to indigenous communities and modern audiences. He produced and directed In the Light of Reverence_ (P.O.V., 2001) and other award-winning documentary films: The Four Corners: A National Sacrifice Area?, Downwind/Downstream, and NOVA:Poison in the Rockies. Awards include the Council on Foundation's Henry Hampton Award, the John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship for filmmaking and a Student Academy Award in 1983. His first film was The Cracking of Glen Canyon Damn - with Edward Abbey and Earth First! McLeod holds a master's degree from U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in American History from Yale.

The WORLD Channel delivers the best of public television's nonfiction, news and documentary programming to US audiences through local public television stations and streaming online at WORLD reached 35 million unique viewers 18+ last year (55% adults 18-49) and over-indexes in key diversity demographics. Online, the WORLD Channel expands on broadcast topics and fuels dialogue across social media, providing opportunities for broad and diverse audience interaction.
(Source: Nielsen Local Buyer Reach Scorecard 01/13-12/13) 

WORLD is programmed by WGBH/Boston, in partnership with American Public Television and WNET/New York, and in association with the American Public Television and National Educational Telecommunications Association. Funding for the WORLD Channel is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding for "America ReFramed" is provided by the MacArthur Foundation.


Robert Friede, Kalliopeia Foundation, Grousbeck Family Fund, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Newman's Own Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Paula and William McLeod, Weeden Foundation, Paula and James Crown, Compton Foundation, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, The Tides Foundation, George Appell, Annenberg Foundation, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund--a complete list is available at 

Brown Administration celebrates "Endangered Species Day" as it hastens species extinction

by Dan Bacher

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the same agency that has presided over the collapse of winter run Chinook, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other endangered and threatened species in recent years, on May 14 issued a press release proclaiming that "May 15 is the 10th National Endangered Species Day."

"The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes the 10th National Endangered Species Day with a focused environmental concern," the Department stated. "The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to prevent extinction."(

Pointing out that  there are 133 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in California, the agency claimed, "CDFW is paying special attention to priority listed species and other sensitive native wildlife that are in areas most severely affected by the drought. Emergency drought funds support projects that transferred water to critical fish and wildlife populations that might not have survived the continuing severe dry conditions without it. Examples of actions taken last year include the flooding of wetland habitats for giant garter snakes in State Wildlife Areas and the relocation of stranded salmon and steelhead."

However, the CDFW failed to mention a number of "inconvenient truths" about its "management" of endangered species in California. 

First, it failed to point out that the Brown administration's anti-fish and pro-agribusiness policies have resulted in pushing Delta fish populations closer to extinction 

The Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reached a new record low population level in 2014, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's fall midwater trawl survey released this January. Department staff found a total of only eight smelt at a total of 100 sites sampled each month from September through December. (  

The surveys, initiated in 1967, show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, American shad and Sacramento splittail have declined 97.80%, 99.70%, 99.98%, 97.80%, 91.90%, and 98.50%, respectively, between 1967 and 2014, reported Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).

Then in April 2015, the Department found only one lonely fish in their Delta smelt survey. (

Second, the CDFW press release neglected to point out that poor water management by the state of federal governments has led to the lowest recorded return of Central Valley steelhead, a threatened species under the ESA, to the American River this year.

The fish hatchery staff trapped only 143 adult steelhead, including 93 females and 45 males, this season. That compares to a total of 546 adult steelhead, including 527 adults and 19 half pounders, last season. In a good year, 2,000 to 4,000 steelhead would return to the facility. (

Third, the Department didn't mention that under its current leadership, the  winter run Chinook return to the Sacramento River was only 3,015 fish, including 2,688 adults and 327 jacks, in 2014. By contrast, the winter Chinook return was 117,000 in 1969. (

Nor did the release noted that 95 percent of the eggs and fry from the 2014 winter Chinook spawn perished in low, warm conditions, the result of poor oversight by the state and federal fishery and water agencies.

Fourth, as the CDFW was celebrating "National Endangered Species Day," it failed to acknowleged the Department's failure to protect another listed species - the giant garter snake - in the Delta.

"The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) states that the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to prevent extinction," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD). "However, they are failing to successfully execute that mission with the present construction by the Department of Water Resources of the False River Barrier in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta."

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) constructed a 150 foot barrier about two weeks ago to "prevent" the giant garter snake from entering the construction staging area, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.

However, Bradford Island landowner Karen Cunningham documented that the snake would simply go around the entirely too-short snake barrier entering the constructing area as the perimeter of Bradford Island is seven miles, noted Barrigan-Parrilla. Cunningham now reports that she found what appears to be a giant garter snake on the road within twenty feet of the barrier worksite. 

She attempted to locate a project biologist on site, but one was not present. Restore the Delta has reported this incident to California Fish and Wildlife's Contra Costa County biologist.

"According to the Center for Biological Diversity website, more than 90 percent of the suitable habitat for giant garter snakes has been eliminated in California's Central Valley, and only 13 isolated populations remain," observed Barrigan-Parrilla. "The cavalier attitude by the Department of Water Resources during the present construction of the drought barrier project for the Delta indicates what would happen to threatened species like the giant garter snake and endangered terrestrial and aquatic species during construction of Governor Brown's massive twin tunnels project." 
Fifth, the Department of Fish and Wildlife's proposed "California Eco Restore" plan for the Delta will put 35 additional species in danger of extinction and will fail to restore Bay-Delta fisheries in the future.

Barrigan-Parrilla explained, "With the Brown Administration's newly minted "California Water Fix, the tunnels project would now only require a Section 7 Permit that do away with protections for 35 species including: fall-run Chinook salmon, sandhill cranes, longfin smelt, white sturgeon, swainsons hawk, tri-colored blackbird, western burrowing owls, Pacific and river lamprey, Sacramento splittail, and Western pond turtles. Yet, California Fish and Wildlife is celebrating National Endangered Species Day."

Governor Brown and Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham continue to tell the public that the new pumps that would be part of the tunnels project would "fix" reverse river flows in the Delta, thereby "saving" Delta fisheries, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.

"Modeling results, however, found within their own planning documents show that there would be reverse flows in nearby sloughs and river branches just downstream from the tunnels, and that winter-run and spring-run juvenile Chinook salmon survival rates would be reduced sharply beyond their already dismal survival rate through the Delta," she said.

She said the California Water Fix is "no fix" for endangered and threatened species, as state agencies cannot properly protect species in the present during periods of construction in critical Delta habitats. (

"California water and fishery agencies have failed to enforce laws to protect fisheries at the pumps over the last 30 years. Yet, the Brown administration continues to deliver false assurances regarding species protections with his tunnels project. It is time for Governor Brown to stop selling a project to Californians that will sacrifice Delta species and communities for the big agribusiness growers he favors on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley," she concluded.

You just can't make this stuff up - a government agency like the California Department of Fish and Wildlife "celebrating" National Endangered Species Day when it appears to be doing everything it can to benefit agribusiness and other corporate interests at the expense of endangered species, along with a host of fish and wildlife species not formally listed under the federal and state Endangered Species Acts! 

California's Thirsty Almond Acreage Grows By 150,000 Acres During Record Drought

By Dan Bacher

click to enlarge
    California growers continue to expand their almond acreage in the state during the drought while the Brown administration has mandated that urban families slash their water usage by 25 percent.

    California's 2014 almond acreage was estimated at 1,020,000 acres, up 50,000 acres from the 2013 acreage of 970,000, according to a recent survey (PDF) conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). That is an increase of 5 percent in one year.

    At the beginning of our current drought, almond acreage was 870,000 acres, according to the respected blog, On the Public Record.

    When you subtract the 870,000 acres from 1,020,000 acres, you get an increase of 150,000 acres — again, all during a record drought.

    Of the total acreage for 2014, 870,000 acres were bearing and 150,000 acres were nonbearing, the NASS reported. The preliminary bearing acreage for 2015 is estimated at 890,000 acres, according to the service.

    The survey also revealed that Nonpareil continued to be the leading variety of almonds, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel, and Padre.

    Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced, and Madera were the leading counties for almond growing. Those counties are all in the San Joaquin Valley, south of the delta. The five counties had 73 percent of the total bearing acreage, the NASS reported.

    So how would the amount of increased almond acreage translate into increased water usage during the current drought?

    Using a number of 3.5 acre feet of water per acre of almonds at ultimate demand with mature trees, the new acreage of 150,000 acres works out to 525,000 acre feet of water used in ultimate demand. In other words, over 500,000 acre feet, or half of Folsom Lake when full, would be necessary to irrigate the new almond acreage — once the trees become mature!

    This new almond acreage, when mature, will also use more water than the average annual yield of all the proposed CALFED storage projects put together, according to Steve Evans, Wild Rivers Consultant. The PPIC estimates the CALFED projects will have a combined average annual yield of 410,000 acre feet.

    Representatives of fishing groups, environmental groups, and Indian tribes have criticized the expansion of water acreage for almonds, a water-intensive crop, at a time when salmon, Delta smelt, and other fish populations are imperiled by poor water management by the state and federal governments — and when urban users are now mandated to cut back on water use by 25 percent.

    click to enlarge
      "It's a good thing for urban users to conserve water, but since agriculture uses 80 percent of water, the governor's emergency drought declaration missed the mark by not including agriculture," said Tom Stokely, water policy analyst for the conservation group California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) "A lot of people feel their efforts to conserve water are so that a wealthy almond farmer can plant more trees and make greater profit. These statistics on increased almond plantings actually prove that we are conserving water in urban areas so that more almonds can be planted."

      In response to those who argue that if the acreage wasn't planted with almonds, it would be planted with cotton or other crops, Stokely noted, "Cotton is not a permanent crop and you can fallow it any year. You cannot fallow permanent crops like almonds and pistachios.

      "It's inexcusable to increase the demand for California water by 500,000 acre feet in the midst of a historic drought," Stokely emphasized.

      As urban users are mandated to slash their water use, Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick, owner of Paramount Farms and the largest tree fruit grower in the world, revealed his current efforts to expandpistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during a record drought at this year's annual pistachio conference hosted by Paramount Farms.

      During the event covered by the Western Farm Press, Resnick bragged about the increase in his nut acreage over the past ten years, including an 118 percent increase for pistachios, 47 percent increase for almonds, and 30 percent increase for walnuts.

      For more information about the California Water Impact Network, go tohere.

      No comments: