Standing on Sacred Ground Series
Islands of Sanctuary
Aboriginal Australians and Native Hawaiians reclaim land from the government and the military, and resist the erosion of culture and environment.
Directed by Christopher McLeod
Co-Producers: Jessica Abbe, Jennifer Huang
Writer: Jessica Abbe
Editors: Quinn Costello
Storytellers: Rhoda Roberts, Luana Busby-Neff
Associate Producers: Erin Lee, Marlo McKenzie, Ashley Tindall
Videographers: Will Parrinello, Andrew Black
Sound: David Wendlinger
Composer: Stefan Smith, Charles Johnson, Kawika Kahiapo
Narrator: Graham Greene
A Presentation of Pacific Islanders in Communications and Vision Maker Media
A Production of the Sacred Land Film Project of Earth Island Institute
Native Hawaiians and Aboriginal Australians resist threats to their sacred places in a growing international movement to defend human rights and protect the environment. In Australia's Northern Territory, Aboriginal clans maintain Indigenous Protected Areas and resist the destructive effects of a mining boom. In Hawai`i, indigenous ecological and spiritual practices are used to restore the sacred island of Kaho`olawe after 50 years of military use as a bombing range.
"A tour de force!...An awakening call indeed that should be heard around the world."
Mary Evelyn Tucker, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
Featuring Patrick Dodson (Yawuru), Emmett Aluli and Davianna McGregor (Hawai`i), Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Satish Kumar and Barry Lopez.
The other titles in the series are:
Pilgrims and Tourists In the Altai Republic of Russia and in Northern California, indigenous shamans resist massive government projects that threaten nature and culture.
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.
Fire and Ice From the Gamo Highlands of Ethiopia to the Andes of Peru, indigenous highland communities battle threats to their forests, farms, and faith.
Grade Level: 9-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014
Copyright Date: 2014
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-297-7
"This monumental film series is superb. For many indigenous cultures throughout the world, sacred places are arenas of peace, power, and reverence. Standing On Sacred Ground sheds light on cases where religion and identity are under attack, where sacred places are being recklessly transformed into a focus of conflict, power struggles, desecration, and the violation of human rights. The films will prove to be of special interest to a wide range of scientific and academic disciplines, government and NGO personnel, and the general public. They will be most relevant for university, college, and high school classrooms covering subjects in anthropology, ecology, economic development, environmental studies, globalization, government, history, human rights, indigenous studies, law, social justice, sociology, political science, and religion."
Dr. Leslie E.
Sponsel, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Author, Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution
"The restoration of Indigenous environments and Indigenous cultures go hand in hand. The struggles are real. I recommend the Standing on Sacred Ground for tribal colleges and universities."
David Yarlott Jr., Little Big Horn College, Tribal College Journal
"Standing on Sacred Ground is a tour de force! This is one of the most powerful documentary series ever made on indigenous peoples and their resistance to environmental exploitation. Toby McLeod has woven stories of first nations peoples' resilience amidst images of searing beauty and unimagined destruction. An awakening call indeed that should be heard around the world."
Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, Co-author, Ecology and Religion
"Beautiful, heartbreaking, soul-sustaining films."
Terry Tempest Willams, author, Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities, University of Utah
"This is a crucial theme, extremely timely. The visually exquisite films are made politically and culturally relevant through impressive cooperation with articulate indigenous leaders who understand the importance of getting their voices heard about the environmental destruction of their sacred lands. The films are educational, accessible, and occasionally profound."
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Research Professor, Center for Eurasian, Russian and Eastern European Studies, Department of Anthropology, Georgetown University, Author of Shamanic Worlds, Editor of Anthropology and Archeology of Eurasia
"Nothing like this riveting series of four desperately-urgent films about the fate of our planet has ever been seen...Patiently, lucidly and devastatingly, director Toby McLeod and his team have traveled the globe and painstakingly tracked eight stories of struggles by indigenous peoples to save the ancestral landscapes that have given them sustenance and spiritual anchoring for thousands of years. Standing on Sacred Ground is a magnificent, one-of-a-kind achievement...Containing face-offs at strategic sites, incontrovertible visual documentation of environmental wastelands, poignant voices of clarity and appeal that speak with the grave, quiet wisdom of cultures that have survived centuries of crusades to convert, exterminate, or assimilate them - these four dramatic films keep us on the edge of our seat and at the edge of tears. They absolutely must be seen by every citizen on earth."
Peter Nabokov, Anthropologist, Professor of World Arts and Cultures,
University of California - Los Angeles
"An extraordinary film series highlighting the struggles, losses, and strengths of indigenous peoples working today to protect their sacred places in an industrialized world. Through beautifully filmed case studies where indigenous leaders speak for themselves, this series illustrates how history, law, science, and religion converge in the indigenous world and how critical these struggles are for the well-being of the planet as a whole."
Dr. Melissa K. Nelson, (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University, President of The Cultural Conservancy, Author of Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future
"From the local to the global, from the ancient world to the modern world, from developers to ecological preservationists, from indigenous peoples to outsiders, Standing on Sacred Ground explores the many sides of resource development on indigenous lands...The series provides considerable insight into the issues Indigenous Peoples face, and shows how and why they are fighting to preserve their sacred lands, their traditions, their life-ways, and their cultures. No study of contemporary ecological issues would be complete without hearing and seeing this aspect of ecology and development controversies."
Thomas D. Hall, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology, DePauw University, Co-author, Indigenous Peoples and Globalization: Resistance and Revitalization
"Standing on Sacred Ground is one of the most powerful educational films, reminding us that Indigenous peoples are the true guardians of Mother Earth and their wisdom needs to be heeded - our future depends on it. Beautifully produced. Outstanding Indigenous commentary on the sacredness of Mother Earth and how we need to stop the plunder before we all vanish."
Dr. Julian Kunnie, Professor of Religious Studies/Classics, University of Arizona, Author, Indigenous Wisdom and Power: Affirming our Knowledge Through Narratives
"This important educational documentary demonstrates the unsustainable cost of rampant resource extraction and development and the devastating impacts on those who hold sacred the duty to protect the earth, Indigenous peoples. In documenting cases from the Pacific to the remote mountains of Altai and across the Americas, it demonstrates the vital importance of traditional Indigenous knowledge in the preservation of biodiversity and shows that, far from being a primitive relic from the past, Indigenous knowledge is vital to the recovery of the biosphere and to our collective future existence. This is a well-executed documentary, suitable for post-secondary educational programs."
Makere Stewart-Harawira, Associate Professor of Theoretical, Cultural and International Studies in Education, University of Alberta, Author, The New Imperial Order: Indigenous Responses to Globalization
"Beautifully illuminates indigenous peoples' resistance to environmental devastation and their determination to protect our common future."
"Words that seem most appropriate in characterizing this documentary include awesome, beautiful, ugly, dramatic, revealing, disturbing, heroic, moving, and inspiring...A unique and historic achievement...The film exposes contemporary cultural, ecological, religious, and political realities, transcending the usual 'just-so-stories' of the ethnographic present dominating many textbooks. The film both tests anthropological viewers' adherence to cultural relativism and challenges any scientism because for indigenes nature is alive and spiritual with its sacred foci of power, reverence, and healing...This educational film series is most relevant for instructors and students in universities, colleges, and high schools for a wide variety of disciplines, topics, and courses. The four DVDs will allow instructors to easily use any of the individual eight cases, each 25 minutes long, making the series ideal for classroom use, or for students to pursue their individual interests."
Anthropology News (April 2014)
"Moving...A beautiful and informative series, which should cause Westerners to rethink their (lack of) relationship to land and nature...Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of religion, anthropology of place, development anthropology, anthropology of endangered cultures, and Oceanian studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database
"Standing on Sacred Ground does well to not only allow the voices and experiences of actual Indigenous peoples, scholars, and activists shine throughout the films, but also calls out to viewers asking them what they can do for the land so 'the land can love them back.' This film series is thorough, critically engaging, inclusive, and very well produced. The eight case studies of Indigenous communities around the world offer the viewer a glimpse into the everyday lives of these people and can therefore be an excellent educational tool for students and activists of most ages. I highly recommend this film series for anyone who wants to learn about Indigenous cultures across the globe, as well as anyone who wants to fully understand how and why the earth is slowly being destroyed by the efforts of 'progress,' along with what they can do to help reverse the process of ecological destruction."
Jennifer Loft, University at Buffalo, Educational Media Reviews
include bonus features, SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection. For classroom use, Native Hawaiian and Aboriginal Australian stories can be shown separately.
Outstanding Teacher's Guide for "Islands of Sanctuary"
The series' beautiful website: StandingOnSacredGround.org
Awards and Festivals
John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Climate Change/Global Warming
John Pilger's epic portrayal of Earth's oldest continuous human culture, Aboriginal Australians, and his investigation into Australia's suppressed colonial past and rapacious present.
In the Light of Reverence
A stunning portrait of land-use conflicts over Native American sacred sites on public and private land around the West from the producers of STANDING ON SACRED GROUND.
Native peoples pay the consequences of uranium mining.
Multinational companies seldom take the needs of people or the environment into account.
Murrandoo Yanner in Australia
An aborigine leads the battle against multinationals for historic land rights and tradition.
The Western Pacific Rim
Examines the western Pacific Rim, home to 50% of the world's active volcanoes, and 90% of its earthquakes.
Heart Of Sky, Heart Of Earth
Six young Maya present a wholly indigenous perspective, in which all life is sacred and connected, as they resist the destruction of their culture and environment.
Voices of the Land
Our spiritual connection to the land, and how wilderness can heal the soul.
Two elderly Western Shoshone sisters, the Danns, put up a heroic fight for their land rights and human rights.
Tells the inspiring story of four battles in which Native American activists are fighting to preserve their land, sovereignty, and culture.
We Still Live Here
Tells the amazing story of the return of the Wampanoag language, a language that was silenced for more than a century.
The Mystery of Chaco Canyon
Unveiling the ancient astronomy of southwestern Pueblo Indians.
The Sun Dagger
The astonishing discovery of an ancient celestial calendar in Chaco Canyon, NM.
Coming to Light
An in-depth portrait of Edward S. Curtis, the preeminent photographer of North American Indians.
Drumbeat for Mother Earth
Toxic chemicals are the greatest threat to the survival of indigenous peoples.
The Buffalo War
The battle over the yearly slaughter of America's last wild bison outside Yellowstone National Park.
... more Reviews
"A good companion to classes that explore themes related to globalization and global development, as well as courses focused on the intersections between culture, power, place-based movements, and community. The films can enter a productive conversation with some 'classic' works on Indigenous peoples, colonialism, and 'development.' Furthermore, they could engage with a more recent body of literature on 'decoloniality' and Indigenous sovereignty, which analyzes how Indigenous communities organize to propel self-determination in a context of ongoing colonialism."
Lucas Savino, Films for the Feminist Classroom