Sacred Land News & Reports From the Field
Awakening one night in the middle of editing the Standing on Sacred Ground series, I tossed and turned and worried about the challenges of telling eight, long, complex stories in a society with an ever-shrinking attention span. I asked myself, “Who is going to watch four hours of documentary film?” The answer came within seconds: “Indigenous people, that’s who.” So, when my friend Cynthia Ong, Executive Director of LEAP—Land/Empowerment/Animals/People—offered to take a set of four DVDs to Malaysia to screen the films for leaders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Borneo, I was more than happy to deliver four DVDs.
I just got this email from Cynthia, along with some photos:
Hi Toby, Sharing pics of the first screening on May 27 @ the opening of Harvest Festival celebrations, at the heart of indigenous leadership in Sabah. About 50 leaders and community organizers, including elders and shamans. There was deep appreciation and emotion as we moved through all eight stories (in one sitting, with short pee breaks between episodes!). There will be more screenings tomorrow and the day after at another location – CREATE: Centre of Renewable and Appropriate Technology – hosted by the indigenous renewable energy movement with support from JOAS (Jaringan Orang Asal Se-Malaysia or the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia). This is also part of the Harvest Festival celebration. Thank you for your beautiful and powerful story-telling, already deeply appreciated and felt here, Cynthia
A few days later we received an e-mail from our friend, Rosa Koian, at Bismark Ramu Group in Papua New Guinea:
Hi Toby, Can’t wait to share the experience of screening Profit and Loss this afternoon. People were emotional, screaming and shouting—and a lot of tears. The Al Jazeera section was the highlight as people screamed angrily at our former prime minister. Talked with some people in the group about a film festival in PNG. Reps from France are interested as well. UNESCO people were so happy (Smile). Anyway I am so over the moon this evening. Best regards, Rosa
Hearing this news from PNG and seeing Danil Mamyev’s image up on a screen in Malaysia, a wintry Altaian pilgrimage shared with rainforest dwellers fighting dams and palm oil plantations, was literally a dream come true. As we await the judgement of PBS, and a decision about whether, when and how the series will be broadcast, it is deeply satisfying to know that, like my kids, the films now have a life of their own.
We’ve created a new web page offering short sample scenes from each of the eight amazing stories featured in our new Standing on Sacred Ground series. Now you can get a taste of each story and decide which film you want to watch first. Please check it out!
We are pleased to announce a new partnership with
The Cultural Conservancy and the joint creation of the Sacred Land Media Collaborative. Together we will produce and highlight short videos that further the protection of sacred lands and indigenous cultural traditions.
Big thanks to the Tamalpais Trust for both the inspiration and the funding to launch this new initiative!
It was a cold afternoon in DC, gray skies but no rain, perfect weather to drive a crowd into an auditorium to watch four hours of films. The Capitol dome sat quiet and irrelevant off to the northeast, spitting distance from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. For me, NMAI is the crucible we needed to enter. When Melissa Bisagni, the film curator, agreed to host the entire Standing on Sacred Ground series as part of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, it was a very sweet moment for the Sacred Land Film Project. I think the fortress door swung open because my old friend Winona LaDuke offered to appear with the films, and boy did she show up.
When the films started at noon there was quite a buzz in the air. By the time the fourth film began at 4:30 the room was packed, with people standing in the doorways. Quite a few brave souls watched the entire series. It was very exciting to screen at the Smithsonian, with PBS considering our series for broadcast this very week, and the slow-building momentum of independent film distribution starting to build—slowly, slowly…
After watching the tar sands story in Profit and Loss, Winona and I shared the ironic reflection that 35 years ago we started working to stop national sacrifice areas and now we are fighting international sacrifice areas. Winona commented, “We want to move gracefully out of the fossil fuel economy. We don’t want to crash our way out of this. And remember, only 3% of the tar sands have been mined. We can stop it now—and we have to.” Winona poignantly joked that she would rather be growing wild rice and corn at home in Minnesota but this phase of her life has been taken over fighting tar sands pipelines proposed in the Midwest.
After watching the melting glaciers of Peru in Fire and Ice, a young native Yup’ik woman from Alaska described the imminent flooding of her home village of Newtok, from rising sea levels. Her village is being evacuated as climate change continues unabated.
The high point of the afternoon came for me at the start of the fourth and final film, Islands of Sanctuary. A big cheer went up after Hawaii’s Derek Mar said, “If we can take on the most powerful military force in the world, and win, there is hope for indigenous people all over the world.” The room just erupted. It was one of those moments filmmakers dream about.
After Islands of Sanctuary, Native Hawaiian Leimomi Apoliona-Brown told some great stories about the original occupation of Kaho`olawe and how the strategic Protect Kaho`olawe `Ohana activist movement sparked a renaissance of Hawaiian language and culture. Leimomi focused on the deep and complex meaning of Hawaiian words, `aina, kuleana, `ohana, malama — the love, responsibility for, familial relationship with and caretaking of the land that gives us life. Kaho`olawe is truly an inspiring, modern-day success story, and we are honored to be able to help tell it to the world.
Big thanks to Katsi Cook, Akwesasne Mohawk midwife and community health and environmental justice activist, and José Barriero, Director of the Office of Latin American Research at NMAI for excellent commentary after the films, and to Brad Forster of the Environmental Film Festival, for filling my memory card with great photos.
We are honored to have been invited to show all four Standing on Sacred Ground films at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on Sunday, March 23, as part of the U.S Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. Anishinaabe author and activist Winona LaDuke will join director Toby McLeod for Q&A and discussion after each film.
The screening schedule for NMAI’s Rasmuson Theater is:
12 noon – Pilgrims and Tourists
1:30 – Profit and Loss
3:00 – Fire and Ice
4:30 – Islands of Sanctuary
We’re in the process of inviting other speakers to comment and participate in discussion after the films. Please join us if you are Washington, D.C. on March 23, and please tell your friends!
On March 27, we will show Pilgrims and Tourists at the David Brower Center in Berkeley with a VIP reception for special guests Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk and Danil Mamyev, Founder of Uch Enmek Nature Park, Altai Republic, Russia. Last summer, Caleen visited Danil in Altai to gather water to bring home to her sacred spring on Mt. Shasta in California. Our March meeting will strengthen the global alliance of sacred land guardians that we are nurturing with our Standing on Sacred Ground distribution campaign.
This upcoming event is a benefit being organized with our longtime partners, The Altai Project and Snow Leopard Conservancy to support Danil and Caleen’s work protecting sacred sites in Altai and Winnemem country. Our thanks to Don Weeden and the Weeden Foundation for supporting this work for many years.
Please join us for the special reception prior to the film screening.
March 7 is the last day the State Department will accept comments on the final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. This is the last step before President Obama makes his decision in the next few months.
The pipeline would be a body blow to the U.S. effort to curb global climate change, is destroying First Nations’ sacred sites in Canada and endangering human health.
Tar sands mining in Alberta to feed the proposed Keystone Pipeline clears boreal forest and then produces lakes of toxic sludge, deformed fish and health problems, including unusual cancers.
All four films of the Standing on Sacred Ground series will screen at the 12th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival from January 10-12, 2014 in Nevada City, California. Ticket sales open to the public today.
The screening schedule details:
Friday, January 10 — Standing on Sacred Ground: Fire and Ice and Islands of Sanctuary, at 7 p.m. at the Stonehouse in Nevada City, followed by discussion with filmmaker Christopher (Toby) McLeod, and Native Hawaiian activists Craig Neff and Luana Busby Neff of the Protect Kaho`olawe Ohana.
Saturday, January 11 — Standing on Sacred Ground: Profit and Loss and Pilgrims and Tourists, at 1:30 p.m. at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City, followed by discussion with Toby McLeod and Winnemem Chief Caleen Sisk.
Sunday, January 12 — Standing on Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Tourists and Islands of Sanctuary, at 2 p.m. at the Vets Hall in San Rafael, plus Q&A with Toby McLeod and co-producer Jessica Abbe along with special guests Winnemem Chief Caleen Sisk and Native Hawaiian activists Craig Neff and Luana Busby Neff of the Protect Kano`olawe Ohana.
The prestigious Wild & Scenic Film Festival, with its unique mix of home-grown and international offerings on environmental subjects, is a terrific venue to continue the roll-out of our new series. Please join us!
Tickets for the festival or for three screenings can be purchased by clicking here.
As indigenous leaders from around the world head to the Bay Area this week to celebrate the premiere screenings of Standing on Sacred Ground, the excitement heightens my awareness of both the honor and humbling responsibility of directing this project. Bill McKibben has said, “Some of the finest minds on the planet are featured in this documentary,” and I hope you can join me for discussions with Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons, Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk, author Barry Lopez, Altaian leader Danil Mamyev, Native Hawaiian activists Emmett Aluli and Davianna McGregor, tar sands activist Mike Mercredi, actresses Tantoo Cardinal and Q’orianka Kilcher and other remarkable activists and indigenous leaders.
Discussions will take place after screenings on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and in Berkeley and San Francisco next week. Please check out our new website—StandingOnSacredGround.org—for a complete schedule and ticket details.
Over the past seven years, I have been privileged to visit and film eight astonishing cultures. Whether I came back awed by a Winnemem Wintu ceremony on the McCloud River in California or shocked by the open pit wounds of the tar sands in Alberta, our fantastic writer/editor teams of Jessica Abbe/Quinn Costello and Jennifer Huang/Marta Wohl tackled the sifting and sorting, the weighing and discarding, the crafting and polishing of four unique but interconnected films with skill and patience.
From the Altai Republic of Russia to the Northern Territory of Australia, my dear friend and cameraman extraordinaire Will Parrinello endured frostbite and flat tires, mid-summer blizzards and crocodile-infested waters to go the extra mile and get the story. Master cinematographer Andy Black and sound recordist Dave Wendlinger had my back when we were detained by gun-toting policemen in Papua New Guinea for filming in a mine site, and also when we were challenged by Native Hawaiians on Kaho`olawe to learn Hawaiian, make offerings to Lono, and experience the four-day Makahiki ceremony with our cameras and microphones stashed away in our tents. Vicente Franco delighted our Q’eros hosts in Peru every time he proclaimed from his horse, “Let’s get organized!” It has been a beautiful ride and a great blessing.
As we made pilgrimage to Uch Enmek Mountain in Altai, returned over and over to Panther Meadows on Mt. Shasta, and struggled to capture the feeling and power of sacred places, I worried: would the controversial stories we were taking years to film be timely when the films came out? Amazingly, the answer is yes. From the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. government’s crazy plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam, from the disappearing glaciers in the Andes of Peru and Gazprom’s pipeline across the sacred Ukok Plateau in Russia to the Chinese-government-owned mining company dumping tailings into the sea in Papua New Guinea, the hot stories are boiling over.
The toughest shoot by far was the tar sands. Plumes of toxic carbon clouds going up, oily waste ponds seeping poisons down into the Athabasca River, moose and eagle and bear grieving for their shrinking, shattered boreal forest. I’d never been to a petro-state before, and the deformed fish and heart-breaking cancer cases in the native community of Fort Chipewyan took a toll on every member of our crew. Each of our spouses saw the sadness we carried home, and it lingered for months after we returned from Alberta.
And as much as we may have intended to help the indigenous communities that put their faith and trust in us, there have been unintended consequences. One memorable shoot involved a long trek to a sacred forest on Milo Mountain in Ethiopia. When a still camera was stolen from our baggage during the shoot, our host Makko Wareo, “the father of Milo Mountain,” insisted that he had to confront the local village leader whose wife had started bragging about her husband’s new camera. Everyone in the small village knew (but we didn’t) as we said our good-byes and left. It turned out that the government leader was a Christian fundamentalist with a grudge against the traditional spiritual leader we were filming. Shortly after we left, Makko Wareo’s son was badly beaten by a band of thugs and ended up in the hospital. We learned about it weeks later. Though Wareo’s son has healed, the incident reminds me of the delicacy of the situations in every community we enter briefly and then leave.
All of this strengthens my resolve to honor the commitments we have made to each of the eight communities in our new film series. We are well on our way to forming an international Sacred Land Alliance to support local struggles and encourage action on national and international levels.
We have begun to build and support a Council of Guardians of sacred sites from around the world, and have worked together to pass international resolutions calling for protection of sacred natural sites. Our friends and colleagues are publishing books on sacred places, fighting dams, mines and pipelines, challenging insensitive eco-tourism, telling stories of indigenous communities affected by climate change. We hope Standing on Sacred Ground will make a powerul contribution to these important struggles. We still have teacher’s guides to publish, DVDs and foreign language versions of the films to produce, screenings to plan and promote. Hopefully, we will get a broadcast slot on PBS in the coming months. There is still so much to do!
Please join us in the coming days to celebrate the completion of Standing on Sacred Ground after seven years of work by a dedicated team of talented filmmakers who have persevered only because of the invaluable friendship and partnership of eight inspiring and enduring cultures.
We encourage your activism to help protect sacred places from Mt. Shasta to Lake Athabasca, and we challenge you to take a deep breath, reconnect with the mystery of your own homeland and embrace the loved ones who surround you.
In addition to the colleagues mentioned above, my heartfelt thanks go to Ken Wilson, Bob Friede, Barbara and Tom Sargent, Jaune Evans, Patty Quillin, Reed Hastings, Polly and Bill McLeod, Cordy Fergus, Erin Lee, Vicki Engel, Marlo McKenzie, Todd Miro, Audrey Jardin, Anna Heath, Jennifer Castner, Gleb Raygorodetsky, Peter Coyote, Winona LaDuke, Susan Alexander, Pat Koren, Dianne Brennan, Allison Torres, Indra Mungal, Callie Shanafelt, Leroy Clark, John Knox, Kevin Connelley, Dave Phillips, John Antonelli, Chagat Almashev, Maria Amanchina, Luana Busby-Neff, Matt Yamashita, Donne Dawson, Kaliko Baker, Mike Preston, Kayla Carpenter, Rick Wilson, R.T., Nathaniel Wolde, Rosa Koian, Fredy Flores Machacca, Charles Roche, Cara Mertes, Don Weeden, Hadley Grousbeck, Susan O’Connor, Jim Crown, Susan Newman, George Appell, Jenny Abbe, and to friends and family too numerous to name, but in particular Miles and Fiona McLeod, and my ever-patient and profoundly creative partner Jessica Abbe.
All four films of the Standing on Sacred Ground series will premiere at the 36th annual Mill Valley Film Festival next month. Ticket sales open to the public today.
Thursday, October 10: Standing on Sacred Ground 1: Pilgrims and Tourists (Episode 1), 8PM at the Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley, followed by discussion with filmmaker Christopher (Toby) McLeod, actress Tantoo Cardinal, Winnemem Chief Caleen Sisk, and park visionary Danil Mamyev from the Altai Republic of Russia.
Saturday, October 12: Standing on Sacred Ground 2: Profit and Loss (Episode 2), 3 PM at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, followed by discussion with Toby McLeod, Tantoo Cardinal and First Nations tar sands activist Mike Mercredi.
Sunday, October 13: Standing on Sacred Ground 3: Fire and Ice and Islands of Sanctuary (Episodes 3 and 4), 2:15 PM at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, plus Q&A with Toby McLeod and co-producers Jessica Abbe and Jennifer Huang.
The prestigious Mill Valley Film Festival, with its reputation as a filmmakers’ festival and unique mix of home-grown and international offerings, is a great base to introduce our series. Mill Valley was our first choice for a premiere festival and we’re honored to be a part of it. Please join us for an Active Cinema hike on Saturday, October 5 at 10:30 AM!
Tickets for the three screenings: www.mvff.com
Be the first to visit our new Standing on Sacred Ground website! There’s a new trailer for the series, and ticket information for our upcoming screenings, including our World Premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Heartfelt thanks to Anna Heath at Giant Rabbit and our communication consultant Susan Alexander for designing a beautiful new website and loading it with great content.
Please join us for the U.S. premiere of Pilgrims and Tourists, on Saturday, September 14 at Redding’s beautiful Cascade Theatre, 1733 Market Street in downtown Redding, California.
Russian shamans and a northern California tribe both confront massive government projects—and find common ground. This film is Episode One of the new four-part documentary series Standing on Sacred Ground, which chronicles the struggles of eight native communities around the world facing threats to lands of spiritual, cultural, and environmental significance. The first hour-long episode tells the stories of indigenous people of the Altai Republic of Russia and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe of northern California. Altaians are fighting a proposed natural gas pipeline that threatens their sacred Ukok Plateau while the Winnemem oppose the raising of Shasta Dam, which would flood traditional dance grounds, ancient villages and burials, and numerous sacred sites.
In the film, authors Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) and Barry Lopez, Chief Oren Lyons (Onondaga) and philosopher Satish Kumar provide insights on the rapidly growing global indigenous movement for human rights and environmental protection. The film is narrated by Graham Greene (Oneida) with storyteller Tantoo Cardinal (Métis).
Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk will attend the Redding screening. Producer/Director Christopher (Toby) McLeod, who circled the globe for five years filming the eight stories that comprise the four-part series, will be on hand to answer questions, along with Co-Producer Jessica Abbe, McLeod’s wife of 20 years, who grew up in Redding. There will be a reception to celebrate this long-awaited premiere at 6pm in the Cascade Theatre lobby. The film starts at 7:30pm. Please join us!
Tickets are $35 for the reception and screening and $12 for the film. Tickets for this event are available at the Cascade Theatre web page.
Special Note: For our many friends and supporters who have been asking when we will premiere the entire four-part series, the answer will be coming very soon! We have been invited to show all four films from the Standing on Sacred Ground series as part of the Mill Valley Film Festival from October 9-13 (locations and times tbd). The following week we are planning screenings and a reception for Tuesday, October 15 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, where we are making the films. This day will feature screenings of all four episodes during the afternoon and a celebratory reception for friends, donors, allies and SLFP crew, starting at 6pm, with two film screenings starting at 7pm. Finally, we have booked the Roxie Theater in San Francisco for two nights, Wednesday, October 16 and Thursday, October 17 for evening shows that will start at 7pm. We will also screen one of the four episodes at Bioneers on Saturday, October 19 at 9pm.
Winnemem Chief Caleen Sisk is fighting the proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam, and she will be present at the October screenings, along with Danil Mamyev, a nature park founder from the Altai Republic of Russia. Danil is a visionary leader who is working to preserve traditional cultural knowledge and land long held sacred by Altaians. In addition, we hope to have Mike Mercredi, a tar sands frontline activist from Fort Chepewyan, Alberta, Canada. We have also invited Onondoga Chief Oren Lyons to attend and speak at the October screenings.
Tickets will go on sale soon here and through our partners, Mill Valley Film Festival, San Francisco Green Film Festival, Earth Island Institute and Glogal Greengrants. You can purchase tickets for our September 14 premiere in Redding at the Cascade Theatre web page. Thanks to everyone for your support!
The fire was hungry. It consumed milk, vodka, bread, cheese, lamb’s heads, cow’s legs, barley, cedar, juniper, water and the prayers and songs of a dozen shamans from all over Asia. The fire roared, sparked, smoked, called out to ancestors and spirits, and seemed very happy to be fed by the people. On the summer solstice, beneath Uch Enmek Mountain in the Altai Republic of Russia, our friends Maria Amanchina and Danil Mamyev presided over a three-day ritual that honored and blended many fires into one fire. As Danil described it, the 6th annual ceremony linked sacred sites and their guardians, strengthened lands and waters, deepened traditional knowledge, and clarified the path forward.
When the Altaians made a pilgrimage to Mt. Shasta in northern California in November of 2007 (four months after our first film trip to Altai), a deep bond was formed. Beyond giving us a great film scene to link the stories of the Altaians and Winnemem Wintu, the discovery that the Winnemem sacred spring on Mt. Shasta had gone dry for the first time in tribal memory created a reciprocal relationship — a need for support, dialogue, prayer and mutual care. So when the Altaians invited Winnemem Chief Caleen Sisk to visit their Golden Mountains to gather water from a sacred spring there, to help heal her spring back home, the invitation needed to be met with another pilgrimage.
With a grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, I traveled to Altai for the fire ceremony with Caleen, along with my wife, co-producer and writer Jessica Abbe, and our two teen-aged children, Miles and Fiona. Caleen’s primary quest was a journey to Uch Enmek Mountain to collect the water to bring back to Mt. Shasta. For Jessica and me, our main purpose was premiering the first episode of our new Standing on Sacred Ground film series in the place the story starts: the mountains of Altai. With the Winnemem story following Altai’s in the first hour of the series, it was appropriate to have Caleen participate in the fire ceremony and then travel with Maria and Danil to sacred places around Altai during our two-week visit. For Miles and Fiona, it was a chance to see why their dad has been going away for such long trips over the past seven years.
On the second day of the ceremony, Caleen was asked to do a Winnemem ritual around the fire. Her suitcase was still lost in transit so her regalia was missing. With the other shamans fully decked out in hundred-year-old feathers and ribbons, Caleen was down to her bare essence, and she shone. She explained that protecting water is her mission in life, helping the earth find a natural balance between fire and water, so her ritual focused on the waters. As she prayed and sent pipe smoke skyward a gentle rain began to fall, a beautiful female rain, a lush enveloping mist. It was awesome — and everyone loved Caleen.
Next year the fire ceremony will move east to Mongolia. When the Mongolian shaman, Buyanbadrakh, whose day job is as a real estate analyst at Khan Bank in Ulaanbaatar, started his ritual on the final morning, there was electricity in the air.
Buyanbadrakh went into a trance that lasted more than an hour and had everyone on the edge of their seats. As his assistant gently offered him a pipe, fed him vodka from a bowl, and wrote down the flood of words that flowed like a waterfall, Buyanbadrakh pounded his drum, made the sounds of a horse at work, chanted throat songs, and laughed a storm of wild cackles. When he returned and settled down, with the help of a dozen carefully-selected helpers, Buyanbadrakh reported that he had overcome 33 obstacles, encountered every one of the 99 Tengri gods, and most importantly, met the Spirit of Altai.
After the huge closing fire under a rising full moon, Danil invited everyone to the world premiere of Pilgrims and Tourists in the Pastures of Heaven, the first episode of our new four-part series, complete with Russian subtitles. As the shamans ate dinner in the central yurt and the stubborn Siberian sun approached the horizon at 10pm, we set up an outdoor screen and projector with some trepidation: would anyone come? They all came. In the emotional discussion that followed the film, here’s a sample of the comments: “It is very, very clean.” “It touched my heart.” “I just stood there and cried.” “I’m so happy, and a little surprised, that non-indigenous people have made this film.” “Many people were crying.” “We talked about it all night.” “We have just the same problems.” “Caleen is so strong; she is an important leader.” “We are together, we are united, we cannot be defeated.”
Our amazing journey continued on the following day (after Caleen’s suitcase finally arrived) as we mounted horses and headed toward Uch Enmek Mountain. There were nine of us: Chichen the horse handler and guide, Danil, Caleen, Jessica, Miles, Fiona, Irina the translator, myself, and a dog we called Sam (who ran with us all three days and upon returning home we learned was really named Mukhtar). Last time I was up in the headwaters of the Karakol Valley with Will Parrinello and Andy Black we filmed Danil in a blizzard, this time the sunshine was glorious and the wildflowers were everywhere. Caleen’s obstacles continued as she tore a calf muscle mounting a moving horse, but she found a walking stick and carried on with great humor and determination all the way to two small lakes at the foot of the sacred mountain. Danil lit a fire and introduced Caleen to “the eyes of Uch Enmek.” He told us that one lake is a lake of sadness, “the crying lake,” and the other a lake of joy, “the laughing lake.” Caleen circumambulated each lake slowly and gathered the water to take back to Mt. Shasta, to connect the mountains spiritually. Hearing Caleen sing to the lakes brought tears to Danil’s eyes. He said, “Perhaps the lakes were suprised to hear songs they have not heard for a thousand years. I think they liked it very much.”
One week later we all stood in the MultiMedia Museum in Moscow and presented the film to a lively Moscow audience. With Danil, Caleen and Chagat Almashev from Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai on hand, the discussion lasted late into the night. Our pilgrimage was complete. The film is born — and the waters of Altai are heading to Mt. Shasta.
The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft Environmental Impact Statement and opened a 90-day public comment period on the U.S. government’s proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet. Heightening the dam would flood 5,000 more acres, add 14% more water (an additional 634,000 acre feet) to Shasta Lake during wet years, and require Congressional approval. The estimated cost, according to the EIS: $1.07 billion dollars. Most of the water is destined for agricultural users who can resell the subsidized water. New housing developments and Southern California cities are possible end users of increased water storage behind Shasta Dam. Another possible beneficiary is California’s oil industry, currently ramping up the use of water-intensive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the southern Central Valley, raising fears of chemical contamination of groundwater and increased earthquake activity.
Native salmon have been blocked from their historic spawning grounds in the upper McCloud, Sacramento and Pit Rivers since Shasta Dam was completed in the 1940s. No bypass for fish species was included in this proposed project. Still, proponents of the dam enlargement argue that making the barrier bigger will benefit the endangered fish, by creating a deeper cold-water pool behind the dam and lowering the temperature of released water. The project would create temporary construction jobs but not increase long-term employment in the region.
If the project goes forward the Winnemem Wintu Tribe would lose ceremonial dance grounds still in use today, sacred sites such as Puberty Rock, along with the flooding of many burials still located at traditional Winnemem village sites. For details please read our McCloud River sacred site report or visit the Winnemem Wintu Tribe website.
There will be three public workshops to discuss the draft EIS, including one in Redding on Tuesday, July 16 at 6pm at the Holiday Inn, Palomino Room, 1900 Hilltop Drive.
The deadline for public comments is September 30. Here’s how you can comment:
By mail: Send comments to Katrina Chow, Project Manager, US Bureau of Reclamation, Planning Division, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825-1893
By e-mail: BOR-MPR-SLWRI@usbr.gov
By phone: (916) 978-5067
We’ve prepared a fact sheet about the dam raise for you to download (Word Document): Bureau of Reclamation Talking Points
Here is a sample letter you can download and sign: BoR Letter sacredland.org
Visit www.usbr.gov/mp/slwri to review the full report or for more information.
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