EYES WIDE OPEN: A review of AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock
~ Dawn Karima

Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock 

Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Kyle Cadotte, Josh Fox, Doug Good Feather, Teena Pugliese, Deia Schlosberg
Directed by Myron Dewey, Josh Fox, James Spione
DVD, color, 89 min.

Streaming online on several outlets including Netflix

Native American History. Native American Heritage Month. Native American Day.  Celebrations of Native American history tend to tout long-ago events and long-gone individuals. Yet, recent history reflects the collision of Indigenous people and the environment against corporate avarice and expense accounts.  AWAKE: A DREAM FROM STANDING ROCK demonstrates the might of modernity as this film is currently streaming on sources such as Netflix.  

A chronicle of the chaotic resistance of  a toxic pipeline across the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, AWAKE features documentary footage, poignant interviews and powerful images. Now that the film is streaming online, more people worldwide are able to access this account of new Native history.  As preparations for construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline began, Natives from numerous nations and other groups of Indigenous people, Veterans, and Activists converged at Standing Rock. Their goal? To protect the Missouri River, the primary source of drinking water for the beleaguered reservation.

"Water Protectors" established camps and began peaceful, prayerful protests. Videos of paramilitary corporate security, law enforcement and locals attacking and harming Indigenous people quickly went viral.  All over the world, the events featured in AWAKE raised awareness of the need to preserve water and evoked sympathy for those trying to safeguard it.

AWAKE offers insights into the events that unfolded in North Dakota.  Shailene Woodard serves as executive producer for the film, which is directed by Digital Smoke Signals executive Myron Dewey, along with Josh Fox and James Spione.  Each director provides a unique perspective on the subdivided film.  An added benefit is narrator, Floris White Bull, who  co wrote the film, which proffers a prophecy of a black snake wreaking havoc on the land and water.  

Indigenous images and ideas provide the power of this film.  Rather than the bias of many media outlets, AWAKE excels at allowing Indigenous people to speak their truth.  Disturbing images of police brutality, injury to tribal people and cruelty to Water Protectors may jar viewers, yet demonstrate how important water must be to elicit such sacrifice from tribal members.

AWAKE is an excellent addition to the canon of Native history. Whlle the film received press during its initial release, now that this film is available online through streaming platforms, it is well-worth viewing and reviewing as part of the historical record. As the environment becomes more  and more threatened, the lessons from the Water Protector loom large...and increasingly relevant.

~ Dr Dawn Karima

100 Years
Fire in the Belly Productions, Inc.

Elouise Cobell. Throughout Native America, this strong Blackfeet icon inspires awe and appreciation.  100 YEARS, a documentary currently streaming online on platforms such as Netflix, shares the story of Cobell's persistence and the payoff for tribes across the USA.  

Mismanagement of Native American families' land and the funds that they should have received marked the governmental handling of dividing land into reservations.  For 100 years, the government failed to account for large amounts of payments owed to Native families.  As poverty, addiction and lack increased, many tribal members went without adequate funds, even though they had the right to revenue from their lands.

Enter Elouise Cobell.  As tribal Treasurer, she began to inquire about financial discrepancies in the Indian Trust Fund Management directed by the Federal Government. Fifteen years and a class action suit later, Cobell won heroic victories that impacted many households throughout Native America.

While many historical events are relegated to Native American history, 100 YEARS provides insight into contemporary Native life and issues.  As a result, this film represents an invaluable perspective on modern-day social justice and activism.  Yet, this film represents an important resource for an additional reason.  100 YEARS is a portrait of powerful Native people, who exhibit the warrior spirit in courtrooms and meeting rooms.  100 YEARS represents a role model to be respected and admired.

Since 100 YEARS is available online streaming, Cobell's fortitude is accessible to a wider audience. Director Melinda Janko has crafted a creative and respectful documentary that is worth watching for its historical lessons and lessons in life as well. 100 YEARS is currently streaming on Netflix.