The woven story is of three young Swinomish Native American's who are growing up on their reservation. The young men's names are Travis, Nick and Cody.
The beginning of this documentary shocked me because it started with a back story about how the kids at the center of this film are sitting down and being candid to the camera about drinking and doing drugs. They say that they started this documentary because they made a deal with their drug counselors to get out of their therapy sessions for a couple of times so making the film was an alternative like Anchorage offer's Youth Court.
They said that they were approached by a film maker – they wanted to be in a movie about rapping or in action films but the movie they were to work on was about the environment and their tribe.
The first interview is with an elder talking about the old times and the clams.
The next shot shows a shell oil refinery – then the kids are with Todd Mitchell at Marchpoint. It is hard to film or clam there the people say because shell security does not like to let people onto the refinery's property. Todd Mitchell has to analyze the clams. Every year the refinery does a big clean up at the refinery sites and would dump the toxic earth on the reservation. This story is about two oil refinery's.
The Chief says that his dream is one day his people can reclaim Marchpoint. He says that Marchpoint used to be Swinomish land. Allan Olsen the a formal tribal attorney explains the treaty with the United States history and that the land that the shell oil refinery is located on is actually tribal land.
This story is about how making this film changed these kid's lives.
The kids interview family members about their traditions and interview fishermen whose lives are drastically different from their elders (they showed old pictures with racks filled with fish) saying that there is hardly any fish any more. They also interview people who say that they will not stop eating and gathering the fish despite the poisons now being found in the fish.
Dr. Barbara Clure talks about having to talk to her patients about not eating too much of the fish. She says it is hard to give her patients advice to eat like their elders did because their environment has changed so much. A representative of Shell says that all the water discharged from the refinery is cleaned and that the land was purchased in 1958 from local landowners so it is not the tribes land.
I liked how candid the filmmakers were throughout this film. It seemed like these three are so close – even to the point of getting in trouble together and even planning long term of where they would go to treatment for their alcohol.
Billy Frank Jr. a fishing activist who speaks out about the refinery and the ownership of that land in dispute at Marchpoint. He says that in order to prevail – the future the young people will have to carry own the fight to maintain fishing rights. What a daunting thought.
John Trudell even granted them an interview. It was amazing to me because I know how big he is from the Alcatraz 1969 events and the movie “Thunderheart”, he is also a musician and a writer who fights for all Indigenous rights. I was surprised to see him be interviewed. He said that he was a young man when he was involved in Alcatraz Island so it made him proud to see kids like the filmmakers getting involved.
Larry Campbell talked about the people who started to work at the refinery because the pay and benefits were good. He worked there too. He says that his people are very social like marriages, weddings, death, smoking fish he decided to quit because it was ruining his lifestyle (native).
It was hard to listen to one of the boys talk about how the filmaking has changed him – he said “I don't know where I would be if I wasn't doing this....maybe I would be living out on the street or something....I don't know” I also was watching Cody's body language when he was showing his dad the film he made....it was totally different from how he acts around his friends. Cody actually acted embarrassed and shy around his dad. I could see how he loves his dad.
The kids traveled to Olympia the capital to interview the Governor. The director of Indian Affairs for the Governor Gregwire instead the talked to Craig Bill who is Choctaw and Snowmish tribe. So they were talking to one of their own tribal members. He advocated writing letters to Congress. Part of Mr. Bills advice was to travel to D.C. to interview Senator Murray. The day they were to interview Senator Murray they woke up at 7 a.m. The interview was not part of this film. They also spoke to Representative Rick Clark. They did not get any answers about Marchpoint but they thought it was very important to tell the people they talked to about what they were doing. They said it was fun being in D.C.
They said that after they got back from D.C a lot of things seemed the same but they felt different. The elders supported what the kids were doing.
The story then comes full circle where the boys express how they like working with the camera to tell a story. They end the film dancing on a wall back waving their arms back and forth. The film then goes through some still photographs and where the boys are NOW.
What a message and story.....watching the teens grow....learning about their people.....learning about their struggle with environmental and tribal issues and finally the teens fresh eyes to the issue of their tribe.