KUNM

Documentary Looks At Energy Development And Tribal Sovereignty

Mar 30, 2017

After thousands protested for months on the North Dakota prairie, the Dakota Access Pipeline is moving forward under President Trump.  But the battle over this controversial project continues in court.

A new documentary looks at multiple instances of tribal resistance to energy development called Beyond Standing Rock.  It's produced by Inside Energy, a public media project focused on America's energy issues. 

Leigh Paterson, Inside Energy reporter and narrator of the film, spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros.

KUNM:  The first section of the film focuses on the Standing Rock Sioux and their fight over the Dakota Access pipeline.  Is this conflict more about just water resources and oil and gas development?

Paterson:  For some, of course, this is truly about fossil fuels and for many other folks this is about water concerns.  But really, [it’s about] history and historical trauma that folks on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation – those memories are still very sharp.  For example, hundreds of years ago, the Standing Rock Sioux and the Sioux Nation at large lived through a series of broken treaties that reduced their land base.    In the mid twentieth century, the Army Corps of Engineers created a series of dams up and down the Missouri river there.  But what ended up happening is that many Indian communities, including the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, they were flooded out.  

KUNM:  The second part of the film looks at Southern Ute reservation in southern Colorado – bordering northern New Mexico – now the energy issues that you into there are pretty different, right?

Paterson:  Yes.  The Southern Utes have developed fossil fuels and they’ve really taken control of that development process.  And they way one formal tribal councilman put it to me is that on the reservation, anyone who wants a job can have a job.  And that’s a pretty powerful contrast.  But these stories actually do have one thing in common and that’s the concept of control.  Tribes want to have a say in what happens on their reservation land and also land that they have historical attachments to.  In the case of the Standing Rock Sioux, they wanted to stop Dakota access.  And the Southern Utes – they want to develop and they want to have control over developing their own fossil fuel resources so there’s that commonality.