Hidden History: Mineral Wealth curses Indigenous Peoples

My journey into human rights issues began with the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when I walked and worked with the Congress of Racial Equality, agitating to desegregate Los Angeles.   The terms “development” and “progressive” carried positive connotations for me at that time, but over the years I have seen those same terms cover horror stories in the Third World, where deposits of oil or mineral wealth have become a curse on the indigenous people.  The issues of human rights and ecology merge.

Our Committee for Traditional Indian Land and Life (T.I.L.L.) was formed to give legal and media support to Native American groups defending their rights, and in particular, the Hopi Traditionals.  I had heard of the Hopi and read that the name meant “peaceful people”.  For a thousand years, they lived in peace and harmony on their high desert mesas in what is now northern Arizona.  For myself, the Hopi approach to life came as a relief from the Cold War conflicts grabbing the headlines all through the 1960’s.  The Hopi followed their ancient prophecy to protect Mother Earth by living in harmony with nature.

The Hopi elders were passionately committed to making their prophecy heard.   My wife and our children and myself were extended a rare and special invitation to come to the traditional Hopi village of Hotevilla to start work on a film.  For many years, we spent all school breaks and vacations, winter and summer, living among the Hopi, whom we found to be a gentle, generous, kind people.

On that high desert with freezing winters and blazing summers, the Hopi agricultural way of life had to be in harmony with nature.  Their ceremonies marked the correct times for Spring planting and Fall harvest on the silt soil brought down by winter rains.

When corporations sought to drill for oil and dig for uranium and bring in electric power poles, Hopi elders saw that the dangers warned about in their prophecy were about to come true.  So many elders risked their lives, throwing their bodies in front of the advancing bulldozers to protect Mother Earth. One Hopi did die in the struggle.

At that time, science did not yet foresee that humanity’s increasing use of fossil fuels for an expanding population would soon reach the limit of the Earth’s capacity.  But that was exactly what the Hopi prophecy said.  I agreed with the elders that harmony with nature is life-or-death for humanity.  The Hopi elders requested the presentation on film of their ancient prophecy of the disasters that would come from penetrating Mother Earth.  I could not imagine any film project more important.

The government-sanctioned Tribal Council did not support the Traditional point of view and prevented photography on the reservation. The Hopi elders’ request for a film expressing their prophecy captured me totally, and I could not refuse a request to do my part in alerting humanity. With credit cards and help over the years from friends, family, crew people, and actors, to show the prophecy, we made the docudrama feature EARTH SPIRIT  (83 minutes) and won the Neptune Award at the 2007 MoonDance International Film Festival: Earthspiritmovie.wordpress.com

The internet developed over those years, and video footage began appearing from all over the world showing what has been done to indigenous people by oil and mining.  I felt such footage  needed to be collected and shown as the very fulfillment of the Hopi prophecy. The intensity of the suffering caused by oil and mining shocked me.  Third World poverty has become worse wherever mineral wealth has been discovered.

So we completed our documentary/docudrama feature  PROPHECY & POLLUTION  (80 minutes), which concludes with images from the devastated countries and peoples in the Americas, Africa, and Asia: Prophecyandpollution.wordpress.com.

In the conclusion of the film, prophecy is fulfilled as corporate capitalism does in fact develop oil and mining on lands of indigenous peoples all around the world, and the results are more protests, but also widespread war, disease, and devastation:

This video is education, not entertainment, providing college instructors with strong images to bring the real Third World to underexposed middle-class American students. 

PROPHECY & POLLUTION is an Official Selection by the GreenScreen Environmental Film Festival, the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival. the SURGE International Film Festival, and the Third World International Film Festival.

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