How might young indigenous people help to reverse the climate crisis?
In each short-form documentary of the One Word series, a young native person is invited to co-direct the film, while sharing a story of personal transformation related to a single untranslatable word from their ancestral language — a word offered to humanity as medicine to heal our relationship with the Earth.
Michael "Pom" Preston is the son of Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu tribe of Mount Shasta, California. As a student of environmental studies at UC Berkeley, he was one of the only indigenous people in many of his classes. When he attempted to share his worldview, he realized that it was almost taboo in academia. Meanwhile, Michael returned regularly to the mountain to participate in tribal ceremony as a warrior dancer and to reinforce his connection with the land and all that is sacred. Combining his tribal heritage with his Western education, he engages in Run4Salmon, an annual 300-mile prayerful journey by foot, boat, horse and canoe to take on the US Federal Government, opposing the destructive Shasta Dam, seeking the return of the salmon to their ancestral home waters, and requesting restoration of the largest river in California, the Sacramento.
Sawalmem is his word. Sacred water.
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The path for a non-native filmmaker wanting to share indigenous stories 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.
My friendship with Michael, the co-director of the first film, and his tribe has evolved naturally and it has been their openness, their trust and their invitation to bring the camera into their most intimate circles which ultimately has enabled us to move forward on this project.
As a child growing up in Caracas, my parents often 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 for the joy and privilege of doing so. That water quenched me deeply and started to heal the wound of living in a city which treated its river as a sewer.
Today I am the mother of a Californian girl, who at the age of 12, is participating in the climate strikes, has woken up at 4am to join the crew as production assistant for our first One Word film and has lived in community with the Winnemem Wintu tribe on their Run4Salmon journey. She has grown up at the mouth of the Golden Gate, right on the path of the salmon from Michael's ancestral land.
In short, that I would come to make these films is natural, and in some ways inevitable.
natasha deganello giraudie | @rosa.guayaba on instagram
Lourdes Inga, Executive Director of Indigenous Funders for Indigenous People
Sonja Swenson Rogers, Communications Director, Polynesian Voyaging Society
Daniel Bögre Udell, Executive Director of Wikitongues