A single word ripples out, vibrating with healing power.
Finalist of the Tribeca Film Institute short film program, One Word Sawalmem is a story of personal transformation related to a single untranslatable word from Pom's ancestral language — a word offered to humanity as medicine to heal our relationship with the Earth.
Online Screening & Conversation Events with the Directors
Directors Pom and Natasha are happy to be hosting a few online gatherings to share the film and answer your questions. If you would like to join us, you can register here:
If you would like to host a private (online) screening of your own for your students, organization or friends, please contact us here.
Trends and Timing
- Indigenous wisdom is the most intimate understanding that humanity has of some of the Earth’s more important ecosystems.
- Indigenous people take care of the Earth. Comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, they protect 80% of global biodiversity.
- For this reason, UN Climate scientists have declared that ensuring native rights as one of their top recommendations for addressing climate change.
- Moving from the mainstream worldview of domination and exploitation of nature to an indigenous worldview of co-existence and co-relation with the natural world, is imperative in reversing the climate crisis. Why? Because indigenous peoples have demonstrated that they are the best guardians of the wellbeing of the land, the water and the air.
- Young people don't know what indigeneous worldview is.
- Schools are not teaching it: indigenous biocultural wisdom remains undertaught in schools despite the worldview cited above to which scientists are urging us to shift.
- Stereotypes persist in the media: stereotypes of indigenous people being primitive, and even savage, continue to permeate mainstream media and Western society. Not only does this influence ;public perception but it also affects policy related to land appropriation for industrial agricultural use that are escalating the climate emergency. This persistent dehumanization weakens the indigenous relationship to the Earth that they have been so successful at caring for. It also damages the self esteem of young indigenous people, making it more difficult for them to pass on the worldview which top climate scientists are now urging us to move towards.
- How might we infuse the youth movement with an intimate understanding of indigenous wisdom?
Be part of the healing.
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One word ripples outward, vibrating with healing power.
Sawalmem, meaning Sacred Water.
Sawalmem could help us unravel the climate crisis we’ve created…
For Winnemem Wintu young man Michael "Pom" Preston Sawalmem represents an entire worldview, a vital vision for healing the world and for healing from the legacy of the Shasta Dam that, since the 1940s, has harmed salmon and the Sacramento River and the Winnemem Wintu people of Shasta Mountain, California.
As a student of environmental studies at UC Berkeley, Michael did not feel heard. He felt he was being told that his indigenous viewpoint was irrelevant.
The time has come to listen to Michael and to the Winnemem Wintu tribe.
And to observe Sawalmem.
In violation of state law, against all scientific reason and risking contamination of Northern California’s water supply as well as “ethnocide” against the Winnemem Wintu people, a Shasta Dam raise is being fast-tracked by the Trump administration, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and Westlands Water District.
Michael’s mother Chief Caleen Sisk speaks out at every opportunity and organizes Run4Salmon, an annual 300-mile prayerful journey by foot, boat, horse and canoe.
Michael dances in tribal ceremonies on Mount Shasta to stay strong in this latest battle as a warrior for Sawalmem.
A vision of the return of the salmon to their ancestral home waters and the restoration of the largest river in California, the Sacramento.
The spiritual is political.
MICHAEL "POM" PRESTON:
Sawalmem, "sacred water," is how the Winnemem Wintu tribe has always been in relationship with water. Coming from Northern California, where water is abundant, the tribe decided it was time to share the meaning of Sawalmem to help change the misconception of water as "resource" to water as sacred life giver. As a member of my tribe, I decided to do my part in sharing this with the world, and so I became part of making this documentary happen.
NATASHA DEGANELLO GIRAUDIE:
The path for a non-native filmmaker wanting to be an ally in indigenous storytelling is a delicate one. It requires extra layers of relationship building, trust, access, patience, humility, alignment and collaboration. But this story is deeply personal for me and is worth all that, and more.
As a child growing up in Caracas, my parents took me into the wilderness of Venezuela to meet native tribes who lived on their ancestral lands. For me, those trips were like visiting islands of sanity where people seemed to speak the language of my heart. They invited me to drink from their pristine rivers and to give thanks to the Earth. That water not only quenched me, but started to heal the wound of living in a city which treated its river as a dump.
Today, as the mother of a Californian teen girl who was born and raised downstream from Pom's tribe, I wanted to give her the same opportunities that my parents gave me - to learn directly from indigenous people.
I decided to offer any skills that I may have developed as a director in service of Pom, my co-director, so that his voice could emerge clearly and authentically - in a way that offered him full authorship and creative control, even though this is his first film.
In short, that I would come to make this piece is natural, and in some ways, inevitable.