When I first met activist Winona LaDuke on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation, we were both 25 years old, and I could never have predicted the ways she would eventually impact my life and path as a photographer and filmmaker. Because of my curiosity about Winona’s life, I have experienced the indigenous view of environmental justice on this planet, which the Ojibway call “Turtle Island.” Documenting Winona’s quest for environmental justice and personal pursuits, from protecting wild rice to riding horses started with filming one ride and it has grown to cover the birth of a movement.
In 2013, when I read that an oil pipeline carrying fracked oil was coming though her reservation, I knew that I had to be there to document the response. Following her has been a crash course in governmental regulatory processes, historical trauma and treaties, and adverse impact of extreme energy extraction on Native Americans. Her support for building tribal sovereignty and honoring treaty rights have been an inspiration to my artist’s goals to create socially relevant, meaningful work. I value people who change the world by their presence, therefore I’m interested in Winona’s multi layered opposition to Big Oil, her political participation and direct actions, as well as her traditional spiritual practices.
Because of our long history, Winona grants me close access. I feel destined to share her unique story. For the most part, I work solo producing, directing, and operating the camera and audio. Juggling many roles is a challenge. Winona moves fast and I don’t know which story threads are the most important or how they will play out, so I film in a cinema verite style—testing my skills and stamina as a filmmaker. I value authenticity, and I want the viewer to feel as though they are present in the scene. I choose to not insert a huge crew into the dynamics of the story and keep myself out of the script. This is what happened in the life of an activist and a community and here is how they responded. I hope to impact, engage, and entertain.