Documentary Traces Conflicts Over Sacred Land and Business

August 14, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On August 14, 2001, The New York Times featured an article on "In the Light of Reverence," a documentary on PBS that reports on conflicts between American Indian tribes and companies "with mining and recreational interests over numerous sites in the West that the tribes say are sacred to them... The film focuses on three sites, Devils Tower in Wyoming (claimed as sacred by the Lakota), Mount Shasta in Northern California (Wintu) and the Four Corners area of the Southwest (Hopi). Each is different, both in its religious significance for the tribe and in how it has been used by non-Indians... The filmmakers Christopher McLeod and Malinda Maynor, have managed to get people to speak articulately but bluntly... yet makes clear that this is an issue where compromise will be difficult to come by... 'I don't want to sound cold or bitter, but they lost the war,' says a miner named Darryl Lindsey, and he doesn't sound cold or bitter; he is just stating matter-of-factly what many people no doubt believe. And when a Hopi named Thomas Banyacya says, 'White people don't understand this kind of thing; they only love money and jobs and a good time,' he not only shows the depth of his feelings. He also reveals that Indians are just as capable of reducing an entire people to a stereotype as were the makers of old westerns. Neither side is capable of seeing the world through the other's eyes... But clashing world views are what 'Light of Reverence' is all about. As several people point out, one reason this problem is so intractable is that relatively few Americans have definitions of religion that are rooted in the land."