Emma Hoarty / Sun Staff Photographer

Director Fidel Moreno, after a screening of his recent Standing Rock documentary, said the sovereignty of native populations “has been disrespected through this pipeline.”

April 27, 2017

Director of Standing Rock Documentary Speaks on Environmental Justice at Cornell

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In response to the protests at Standing Rock as well his own personal experience of having his son arrested while protesting, Fidel Moreno, an Oscar-nominated director, created a documentary and gave a premiere screening to the Cornell Community.

The screening of Moreno’s documentary — “Gathering Our Hearts at Standing Rock” — was followed by a panel discussion Tuesday night.

The film is an ongoing documentary project that Moreno started about five months ago with just one other coworker to paint the stories of the “protectors” at Standing Rock and their connection to the history of the American Indian Movement on their treaty-given lands.

“I first decided to start this project after seeing my son get arrested during the pipeline protest because he trespassed,” Moreno said.

Following the movie screening, six panelists, who share an indigenous background or are members of an association related to the issues brought up by the film, spoke to their experiences and relationship with the protests.

In addition to the director, the panel featured Chief Sam George of the Cayuga Nation; Cole Norgaarden ’17, director of Environmental Justice for Cornell Environmental Collaborative; Abraham Francis, Mohawk and member of the Indigenous Graduate Student Association; Grace Bulltail, Crow and member of the Indigenous Graduate Student Association; and Eva Bighorse, Cayuga who currently resides in Cayuga Nation territory. The panel was facilitated by Laura Lagunez ’16, a member of the Nahua and Dine tribe.

Responding to the potential overlap between environmental justice and indigenous sovereignty, Moreno emphasized the importance of this relationship between mankind and nature.

“The question is complex,” Moreno said. “I’ll simplify it — everything living needs water to live. … Whatever we do to the land, water, air, we do to ourselves. … We need to start rethinking about how we think about ourselves and our relationship to these elements.”

Through environmental injustice that the establishment of the pipeline presents, Francis added that indigenous peoples’ sovereignty was being robbed.

“Our sovereignty has been disrespected through this pipeline and a lot of other situations,” Francis said.

Bighorse also shared her personal experience becoming more conscious about “mother Earth” as she spent more time learning her tribal language.

“Mother Earth sustains us everyday with life, and we give thanks for that everyday,” Bighorse said.

The documentary will be released online within the next three to four weeks, Moreno said.

“I hope [the documentary] can make people become more aware of their daily surroundings on how they deal with water and other resources,” Moreno concluded.