In the Light of Reverence

In the Light of Reverence

Infobox Film
name = In the Light of Reverence

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distributor = Bullfrog Films, Netflix, Native American Public Telecommunications
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country = flag|USA
language = English
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"In the Light of Reverence" is a documentary that was ten years in the making. Produced by Christopher McLeod and Malinda Maynor (Lumbee), the documentary was released in 2001, and features three tribal nations, the Hopi, the Winnemem Wintu, and the Lakota Sioux, and their struggle to protect three sacred sites that are central to their understanding of the world and their spiritual responsibilities to care for their homelands.

With more than 500 different Native American cultures in the United States, the majority of whom are seeking to protect sites sacred to them, the three stories that "In the Light of Reverence" features are meant to open the door to understanding and dialogue. They were developed with an advisory board composed of Native Americans and were based on personal relationships nurtured for decades.

The three sacred sites, Devils Tower, situated in the Lakota Black Hills, the Four Corners of the Hopi in Arizona, and the Winnemem Wintu's Mount Shasta, are places of extraordinary beauty as well as impassioned controversy as American Indians and non-Indians struggle to co-exist with very different ideas about how the land should be used. For the Lakota, Hopi, and Winnemem Wintu, the land is sacred, and no different in its religious significance than Europe's greatest cathedrals are for western culture. But for mining companies, New Age practitioners, and rock climbers, the land is a material resource best used for industry and recreation.

The film's inception

In 1978, the United States Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA [] ) which legalized the public performance of Native ceremonies that had been banned for over a century. While Native Americans tried to use the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) to protect those sacred places where they pray, in every instance they lost. In 1988, the Supreme Court delivered the final blow when it overturned two lower court rulings that sided with northern California Indians who were trying to prevent a logging road from going through their sacred "high country." The Siskiyou Mountains, east of Eureka, is a place of vision questing and medicine gathering. The Forest Service sought to build a road, or "G-O Road" to gain access to old growth timber. The loss of the GO Road case sparked a crisis in Indian country: sacred sites could not be protected by law, and the claim of religious freedom could not protect sacred land. In the early 1990s, Native Americans looked back on the AIRFA court battles and concluded that the non-Native public had virtually no understanding of what sacred places meant to Indian communities, why they were important, and how their protection was fundamental to the free exercise of their religions. Clearly, public education was badly needed in the face of such an overt culture clash.

The conflict over climbing at Devils Tower, Wyoming, escalated into a legal battle in 1997 when Mountain States Legal Foundation and several commercial climbers sued the National Park Service for asking climbers and tourists to respect Native American beliefs about the tower. Christopher McLeod, who had already been filming with the Hopi and Winnemem for five years, decided to add the Devils Tower story "to round out the film geographically, and to include the legal conflict over climbing a sacred site - because ultimately America is a nation of laws, and many value conflicts ultimately are worked out through legal arguments." Moreover, for the producers of the film, "the fundamental irony of the denial of religious freedom to the first Americans is mirrored in the fact that it is a federal crime to climb the faces of Mt. Rushmore."

"In the Light of Reverence" is narrated by the Bay Area actor, Peter Coyote, and Tantoo Cardinal (Metis), and was first premiered in San Francisco on Saturday, February 17, 2001 at the Palace of Fine Arts. The film received the Best Documentary Feature Award at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, was nationally broadcast on PBS, as part of the POV series, on Tuesday, August 14, 2001, and was seen by three million people. In 2005, the Council on Foundations awarded the film the prestigious Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media, in recognition of the film's impact, its positive reception in Indian Country and its strong distribution history.

"In the Light of Reverence" features interviews with Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux), Charles Wilkinson, and Florence Jones (Wintu).

External links

* [ PBS POV Website on movie]
* [ Sacred Land Film Project Website on movie and related issues]

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