how, after their land, the American Indians are having their water stolen

As the western United States experiences its worst drought in 1,200 years, Patagonia releases a remarkable 49-minute documentary about the battle for water raging in Wyoming, where the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes continue to struggle to recover water. access to the Wind River, a sacred river from which they were dispossessed in the 19th century and on which intensive agriculture got their hands.

It is the battle between the iron pot and the earthen pot. And the games seem made, and remade, for centuries, but the Shoshone and Arapaho Indians have been fighting on for over 37 years. Not really for their lands, of which they were dispossessed at the end of the 19th century following an unfair agreement. But for what remains, 800,000 hectares of the 18 million hectares initially granted to their reserve, and above all for their water, or more precisely their river, the Wind River. Superb basin dotted with lakes and fish-filled tributaries whose shores turn green in the spring as soon as the warm winds arrive, melting the snow, hence its name, the “river of the wind”.

Under the camera of Jon Klaczkiewicz, director very committed to the environmental level to which we already owe The Fourth Phase (2016), Jeremy Jones’ Further (2012) or Winterland (2019), we go back the centuries and discover how the American colonists have little the ancestral territory of the Indians was gradually reduced to a trickle, to the point of depriving them of access to the Wind River. Much more than a water supplier, this wild site is one of the pillars of their culture and their practices, especially fishing. A significant source of income for them, on which is now grafted the hope of developing another lucrative and environmentally friendly activity, rafting, which is in full expansion.

In a community of extreme poverty, stricken with a thousand ills – obesity, drugs, crimes, domestic violence – these “native Americans or “first inhabitants” as they are also called now, have little hope of getting out of unemployment. affecting 80% of their population. Also the example of Darren Calhoun, a Native American of Northen Arapaho mother and Eastern Shoshone father – two enemy tribes forcibly brought together by settlers on Shoshone territory in the 19th century – is instructive. This fly fishing enthusiast set out to showcase the Wind River in a respectful manner. Rather than giving in to the mirages of intensive tourist exploitation, at the risk of plundering the halieutic bottoms, it has favored a reasoned, very selective tourism, strongly limiting access to sites full of fish. After a difficult and unprofitable start, his business took off, opening up new prospects for those like him in his community who understood that water might no longer be used to supply the coal industry, in the midst of decline, but nurture tourism based on the discovery of the outdoors. A much more sustainable development approach that could also benefit the younger Shoshone and Arapaho generations, cut off from their roots and confined to their mobile phone screens.

Respectful fishing, outdoor activities in white water, there is no shortage of projects but for the time being come up against a judgment rendered in 1977, granting ownership of the waters of the Wind River to the State of Wyoming. Main beneficiaries to date: farmers (non-Indians) using without qualms the water captured via a dam financed… by funds intended for the Indian populations. For 37 years now, the litigation has been going on. The battle is not over, far from it. It seems difficult, but not without hope, suggests Patagonia, on the strength of a recent success on another river zone threatened by dams and industrial exploitation, the Vjosa River, which recently became a national park.

Production : Patagonia & Teton gravity research
Duration : 49 minutes

Header photo: Patagonia

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