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From Standing Rock to the Red Power Movement: New Series "RISE" Focuses on Indigenous Resistance

Web ExclusiveFebruary 24, 2017
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We speak with the filmmakers behind "RISE," a new Viceland series that examines indigenous resistance past and present, from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline to "Red Power," which looks at past indigenous resistance and the evolution of the Red Power Movement. Michelle Latimer is a Toronto-based filmmaker, programmer, actor and activist of Métis and Algonquin descent. Sarain Carson-Fox is an Anishinaabe artist, activist and the host of the series. The RISE series airs on Fridays at 10 p.m. EST.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re at Sundance headquarters at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where a series of documentaries about Native America has premiered and is about to premiere on Vice. We’re joined by the two filmmakers who are responsible for the series. Sarain Fox is with us. She is an Anishinaabe artist, activist and host of this film series called RISE on Viceland. And we’re joined by Michelle Latimer, who is Métis-Algonquin descent, Toronto filmmaker and an actress herself. In fact, she was a star on Paradise Falls, which was a soap opera years ago.

And, Michelle, I was really interested in this. I mean, this is—this series is remarkable, the depth, the history you bring to this. But I want to go back in time to you being a soap star. You weren’t identified as Native American in that series, were you, in the soap?

MICHELLE LATIMER: No, I was actually playing a bisexual goth.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you not want to identify yourself?

MICHELLE LATIMER: It’s interesting. Early on, it was—you know, it was a choice, actually. I wanted to be seen as an actress and not be pigeonholed as only being invited to play Native roles. And it was hard, because I wanted to identify, but I was also advised maybe not to. And so I didn’t. But then, as soon as I did identify, it’s exactly what happened. I got pigeonholed to play Native roles. So, I think that’s a stereotype that a lot of Native actresses come up against.

AMY GOODMAN: And what were those roles?

MICHELLE LATIMER: The Native roles? I played the love interest of Adam Beach in a TV series in Canada called Moose TV. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Did you consider them positive, whole?

MICHELLE LATIMER: You know, on—

AMY GOODMAN: Caricature, stereotyping?

MICHELLE LATIMER: No, actually, I did. I was on another show called Blackstone, and I also considered that show very positive and whole, absolutely. But the problem I had with television and being an actress is I didn’t find that we were often telling our own stories as Native people, and I wanted to have more voice. So that’s when I started to go behind the camera.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about that shift and what this means, how the two of you, with Viceland, conceived of this series.

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah, well, basically, the first film I ever made was in relationship to some suicides that were happening in my community, from Native kids that were coming from northern reserves, where they couldn’t access high school education, and they had to fly in to a larger community and build it with families they didn’t know. And there was high rates of suicide because of that, and depression and substance abuse. And so, there’s fracturing of community. And it made me want to tell the stories from my own community. Vice actually called me. They said, "We have this idea for this series. We’ve seen your other work as a filmmaker, and we’d like to ask you to come on board and produce and direct these films." And it was like a dream come true.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about this. I don’t know if this has happened before, this kind of extensive historical and current look at crises, at battles, like the standoff at Standing Rock. But you go so deeply into it, back centuries, looking forward and talking to the people involved.

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah, I mean, when we—when we started, we really wanted to go to the front lines of indigenous resistance. And resistance meaning that it can take many forms, you know, but, obviously, the most obvious one being occupation and literally putting our bodies on the line to stop these infrastructure, fossil fuel industries, mining, that kind of thing. And I think, as indigenous people, when you’re telling your own stories, the kind of access you have is very different, because you’re in the community, and people recognize you as also an indigenous person, and you have an access that maybe a non-indigenous person might not have. And so it gave us that ability to go deeper. I think it’s a really good time to be telling these stories, and I don’t think it’s happened before. I don’t think these things have been addressed. And that’s why I wanted to do it in a platform like Vice, because millions of people are going to be able to learn about indigenous resistance.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t we start off, Sarain Fox, with the first piece that you did, the first of the documentaries?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: The first piece being Oak Flat. Yeah, so that was our very first episode that we went out on, and it was very interesting because the Oak Flat movement actually became a lead-in for many other issues. But what we saw there was a land grab. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain. Give us the context of what happened with Oak Flat in Arizona.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Yeah, so, basically, Oak Flat is actually just outside of the San Carlos Apache Reservation, so it’s actually considered federal land or park land. But for the Apache people, that’s where they believe—it’s one of their most sacred places. It’s where they do their coming-of-age ceremony. So, at the very last minute, there was a rider put into the NDAA, the National Defense [Authorization] Act, and they put it in with only an hour before it went to go to be passed. So there was only an hour for everyone to read the entire bill, and it was slipped in. And that rider essentially gave away the land to Rio Tinto, a mining company.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, let’s talk about this, because the National Defense Authorization Act, what would that have to do with a private company, Rio Tinto, mining in Arizona?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: So, basically, it has to do with copper. So, as soon as you get into copper, you’re talking about resources to be used for defense: bullets. So, it’s very important for the United States to have these storeholds of copper so that they have the ability to make arms.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens to the Apaches who live there?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Well, the Apaches are basically left to deal with the aftermath. They were not told that this was happening. And when they were notified, it was far too late to have any ability to do anything. So, the Apache people were an afterthought for this decision.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator McCain’s role in this?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Well, Senator McCain has a very complicated history with the indigenous people, especially in Arizona, because he was appointed to represent indigenous people and to be a part of negotiating their voice within the state. So, you know, I think that it was very clear that he had a predetermined plan for everything—every decision he was making for indigenous people, and all of that was informed by his own political platform and his relationships with companies like Rio Tinto, who is a huge funder of his—of his political work.

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle?

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah, it was one of the top contributors to his campaign, Rio Tinto, so there’s obviously, you know, a problem here. You’ve got someone passing—who’s in a powerful position in government, passing a bill that is actually backdooring profit into a company that’s like basically supporting his campaign. So the corruption—the level of corruption is quite daunting when you actually get down to it.

AMY GOODMAN: So describe the resistance that you document in RISE.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Yeah, so, with the Apache Stronghold, we see a really grassroots movement of indigenous warriors who are coming together to occupy. So, that occupation is a really simple but powerful tool. So, simply by occupying land and putting their bodies on the line, they are reminding everyone that this is the land that is sacred to them. So I think with Apache Stronghold, it was very interesting, because I saw a very well-versed leader, like Wendsler Nosie, who was leading these young people, and then you see these warriors who are literally quitting their jobs and everything else that’s in their lives and coming to occupy space and standing for the land. So, the Apache Stronghold is also a special—a special group of people, because they also protect Naelyn and Wendsler so that they can do their work and continue to fight for Oak Flat.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip from RISE.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Roy Chavez, former mayor of the neighboring town of Superior, is one of the many non-indigenous supporters of Oak Flat. He opposes the mining methods Resolution is proposing, and has offered to show me what will happen to Oak Flat if the mine goes through.

Roy?

ROY CHAVEZ: Hi.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: How are you?

ROY CHAVEZ: Good. How are you doing?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Good, good.

ROY CHAVEZ: I’m born and raised here. My family worked in the mines and such. And we’ve all had—have been affiliated with the companies and the industry throughout the region. Serving as mayor, I actually got involved politically here when the mine first shut down, the Magma Copper mine, in 1982. Magma Copper laid off between 1,200 and 1,400 employees here at the Superior mine in one day. And that’s pretty significant in this small region, you know.

So, I have something to show you in reference to the project. And really, what it is, it’s an animation. This is the mining method they’re going to use, blockade mining. They’re going to take the ore out from underground and create these voids. And it’s like taking an hourglass and turning it over. And as it—as the material falls, you see the cone, right? This is the subsidence area.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: What is subsidence, Roy? What does that mean?

ROY CHAVEZ: Subsidence is the cave-in of the surface, two-and-a-half miles wide, a thousand feet deep. The Eiffel Tower would fit at the bottom of this, and you could see the tip of it from the outside areas here. If you were to think in context of this page, this paper, that’s what we extract. That’s the profit. The rest is waste. One percent is the profit. The rest of this has to be placed somewhere. We used to put this back underground. That’s what’s called cut and fill. Where do you put the rest of this paper, if you’re not putting it back underground? You’ve got to put it on the surface. One-point-six billion tons of toxic mine waste will be produced. That’s Hoover Dam, by comparison.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: It’s massive!

ROY CHAVEZ: Yes.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Where are they going to put that?

ROY CHAVEZ: It’s about three miles west of us.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Roy, can I ask you something?

ROY CHAVEZ: Sure.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: It’s pretty obvious there’s no way that there would be massive support for this.

ROY CHAVEZ: Remember, Sarain, what I’m showing you is coming out in a scale model for the first time. But I agree with you. Who in their right mind would see this and agree that this is an okey-dokey thing to do? The fight has just started. No one wants to lose Oak Flat.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from the Viceland series RISE. And, Michelle, it’s not only Senator McCain. Senator Flake also has an interesting history when it comes to mining in Arizona.

MICHELLE LATIMER: And water, yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting, because Raúl Grijalva, who we do talk to in the film, he was the only Arizona congressman who fought—voted against the rider. And it was interesting, because at that time when we were filming, Bernie Sanders stepped in to introduce a sister bill into the Senate. So we had bills in the Congress and bills in the Senate that were trying to stop what was happening to Oak Flat.

AMY GOODMAN: And Senator Flake was a lobbyist for Rio Tinto before he became a senator for Arizona?

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah. Sorry, I should have mentioned that. Yeah, he was a lobbyist for Rio Tinto before he became the senator. And so, him and McCain working together to get these bills passed, I mean...

AMY GOODMAN: And what is Rio Tinto’s history in Indian country?

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah, Rio Tinto is one of the greatest human rights abusers in the world for resource companies. And they’re very—they’re very pervasive. You know, I was in a small airport in Northern BC, and I saw an office for Rio Tinto. And I thought, "What are they doing with professional offices in an airport?" And this was—

AMY GOODMAN: In British Columbia.

MICHELLE LATIMER: In British Columbia, in the very area that we’re seeing the LNG terminals and that kind of thing. So—

AMY GOODMAN: Liquified natural gas.

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah, absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: And what were they doing there?

MICHELLE LATIMER: Well, I mean, they’re basically trying to set up infrastructures. There are so many men coming in to mine and to live in these man camps that, you know, I think it helps them to facilitate these people coming through the airport. There’s also been a lot of—we’ve talked to a lot of indigenous people—in Brazil was a great example—where their lives are being threatened by these companies, essentially.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, talk about the overall resistance, from this area of Arizona, from Oak Flat, to the standoff at Standing Rock, which you have two of your documentaries about.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: So, one of the most amazing things, as we traveled the world last year and met with these front-line communities, is that you often saw that every single front-line community was connected. So, Oak Flat resisters were also in Mauna Kea, so when we went to Mauna Kea, we had met with people who were connecting in that way. So, all of the—when they made a call for warriors from Standing Rock, it was other front-line communities, other communities that were also fighting, that responded. So, we really saw a collective response at Standing Rock. And so, you saw all of the front-line warriors come together, protectors come together at Standing Rock.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Standing Rock, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline that would go through North Dakota taking the fracked oil from the Bakken oil fields through South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, then link up with a pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico. The people of North Dakota in other places, like in Mandan, in the capital, Bismarck, have said no to it. The Native Americans are just saying, "Treat us like any North Dakotan. We also don’t want this." We’re having this interview in the midst of this struggle, because although the Obama administration ultimately did not grant the permit at this point for the Dakota Access pipeline to go under the longest river in North America, the Missouri River—they’re asking for an environmental assessment, environmental impact statement—Donald Trump says he’s going to solve this quickly, if it’s not resolved by the time he became president. And he has, Michelle.

MICHELLE LATIMER: I mean, we leave the last film, where we talk about Standing Rock, with sort of a dire call to let’s—yes, it’s a small victory now that the permit’s been denied to drill under the Oahe, but let’s be honest: The Trump administration is coming in, and they’re big supporters. I mean, at the time we were filming, Donald Trump was the keynote speaker at an oil and gas conference in the state capital of Bismarck, North Dakota.

AMY GOODMAN: When was that?

MICHELLE LATIMER: That was—oh, gosh, let me see—May 2016. Yeah, yeah. So, I mean, he’s got ties, obviously. This wasn’t that long ago. He was invested in the pipeline, up until a certain point. I think he’s recently taken those investments out to sort of look like he’s politically neutral. But let’s be honest. Like, I mean, he’s one of the biggest businessmen in the world, and some of the largest banks in America are involved in this project. So, there’s a lot of overlap here.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’ve got Kelcy Warren, who owns the pipeline through Energy Transfer Partners. Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, as soon as he stepped down, within two weeks, he was on the board of Energy Transfer Partners. And Kelcy Warren, who owns the pipeline, raised $6 million for Rick Perry’s two failed presidential campaigns.

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: There are a lot of close ties right now.

MICHELLE LATIMER: I think, for me, that was the biggest sort of eye-opening thing about making this series, was the absolute pervasive levels of corruption that we witnessed everywhere, from Brazil to Canada to America, and then also seeing how the state is enforcing this kind of behavior by having militarized police, by having the National Guard there. They’re basically enforcing and supporting a pipeline for profit rather than protecting the very unarmed people that are just trying to say like, "Treat us like everyone else. We don’t—we are stewards of this land, and we need to go through proper processes."

AMY GOODMAN: So, right now, in this new era of Donald Trump, his advisers have been quoted as saying they’re interested in privatizing Native reservations. Michelle Latimer, your thoughts? For years, it was considered the least valuable land, but as more and more resources were found under it, it may well be the most valuable land.

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah, we’re seeing that all across Indian country. Let’s be honest. Colonization is based on privatization. It’s based on capitalism. It’s inherently against our Native American beliefs. We don’t—we don’t look at an—our communities don’t work as individualized communities. They work as collectives. As soon as you privatize, you can fracture community. I think it’s a great way to fracture community, because you’re going to have some tribes—some of the poorest people in America live on reservations, and you’re going to have people who want that money, want that infrastructure. And then that causes a fracturing in community. And it’s already happening. We’re already seeing that with some of our leadership in tribal reservation land. And so, when you offer that and you fracture the people, then people can’t stand together unified. And I’m really worried about what can happen. I don’t think privatization is the way to go, and it’s inherently against what we believe as Native people.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarain Fox, where is your family from?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: My family is from Batchewana First Nation, so we’re right on the banks of Lake Superior in Northern Ontario.

AMY GOODMAN: So how did these investigations affect you personally, as you went back in time and looked at what’s—where Native America stands today?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Yeah. Well, my community is right on the border, so half of my—or half of my reserve is in the American side, so it’s in Michigan, and half of it’s on the Canadian side. So, in terms of this current administration, there are some very real concerns about our access to treaty rights in crossing those borders, but also that’s water. It’s water that separates us. It’s a Great Lake. And so, for me, the fight for water has been very, very close to home. I think that the fight for water is going to be—it’s going to be the source of, quite possibly, the next wars, I think. It’s more important than anything else. And for indigenous people, water is our most sacred being. It’s a life giver. When we give birth, when we carry life, we carry life in water. So, for me, traveling all over the world, that came up in every single community. Water is at the center of all of these fights. And indigenous people have never had the thought to own land or to own water. It is our job to protect those things. So, for me, it has just reminded me of how important it is to continue to do this work and to continue to make choices that are uncomfortable and inconvenient, to make way for water and for our land to be protected.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip from the series RISE.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: The Navajo have always been renowned for their fighting spirit. As Navajo men, both Chris and Bronson have connected to their ancestry through modern ways of combat. I’m traveling with Bronson and Reggie to Canyon De Chelly, a strategic place of battle and protection for the Navajo people.

REGGIE MITCHELL: I love driving through Navajo land.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: What sets Navajo fighters apart is their connection to ceremony and their connection to Nayee’eji, "the warrior way." Reggie is bringing Bronson to the canyon, not only to train, but to perform a cleansing ceremony that will rid him of any negative thoughts. These kinds of rituals are ones that warriors have been undertaking for centuries to prepare for battle.

REGGIE MITCHELL: It is important for us to be able to do these things so that we maintain and hold on to our traditions. We have to make efforts, because these things don’t just preserve themselves. We have to have the discipline.

BRONSON MITCHELL: Wow! Spectacular! Some webs shining around.

REGGIE MITCHELL: Oh, yeah. What do they do with those spider webs?

BRONSON MITCHELL: For a female baby, they would rub a spider web on the arm and hands to ensure that she’d be an excellent weaver.

REGGIE MITCHELL: That’s right. Whoa! Look at that!

There is the medicine inside the arrowhead that’s wrapped, the eagle plume. Any negativity, right, in your head, tip of mouth, pffff!, away from you. Only left with goodness, beauty and power. Ready to train a little bit?

BRONSON MITCHELL: Let’s do it.

REGGIE MITCHELL: All right, son.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from the Viceland series RISE. This series you’ve done, do you feel that it is different because you’re both Native Americans looking at Native America? And what are the differences?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: I think it’s different because we’re both indigenous women also. And, you know, Michelle, this is Michelle. She’s the director. And all of—all of the work behind the scenes has really been Michelle. So, for me, as an indigenous person, having that support and being able to bounce these very, very important issues on the front lines has been—has been very different because I had the opportunity to see so many journalists come in, especially in places like Standing Rock, that didn’t—or, didn’t have any interest in following protocol and indigenous protocol. So we saw people arriving just to tell this story as a news story. And for us, as indigenous people, we can’t walk away from these stories. They are part of our lives, and we can’t remove ourselves. So I think that’s very different.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarain Fox, you did a documentary on youth suicide, indigenous youth suicide, called Cut-Off. For Vice?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: For Vice. So, I actually was just the—I was the host of a documentary that Viceland produced called Cut-Off. It was last spring that we went in. And it was—it actually was not only about suicide. It was also about water. And I thought it was very interesting that those two became connected. But we asked Justin Trudeau if he would join us in a First Nations community. That’s the Canadian prime minister. And so, we flew him in to a remote community, and he did join us for an entire day on Shoal Lake 40, and we allowed the opportunity for the community to talk directly to him. So we delivered water door to door. He got to see the way that the infrastructure is affected there.

So, in Shoal Lake 40, they have been physically removed from the rest of Canada. That’s how they describe it. And so, their land base was cut off from the mainland so that an aquifer could go in to deliver water to Winnipeg. And by doing so, they lost all the ability to connect to regular infrastructure, and the Canadian government did not take care of that. So they’ve been waiting for a bridge over to mainland for almost 30 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip from Cut-Off.

MERVYN MACLEOD: It’s called Project Stop. I’m a leader, an organizer and founder of Project Stop, actually. It’s to create awareness, to get people together, to be a family.

Everything was going good this morning. But then, before lunchtime, things started occurring on Facebook, social media. People were posting their problems about suicidal thoughts, of trying to attempt to kill themselves, I guess. And it was pretty hectic before you guys showed up. And I was pretty much involved looking for some of them. Started driving around and started to look places of where—where would they be? And everybody took action trying to look for these kids that were doing that on Facebook. But as of now, they’re OK. They’re all right. They’re getting treated. They’re going to get professional help. Everybody was overwhelmed by it, sad. And I was, too, and very worried. And I can’t believe that it’s still happening.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: The suicide epidemic on reserves might be something that people are talking about right now, but suicide has been an issue within First Nations communities for a long time. When you are a member of a community that doesn’t have any access to basic necessities, you feel like you are less than. In Manitoba, 62 percent of First Nations children live below the poverty line. It’s like being in a prison in general population. And then you have some communities that just keep getting put in the hole. They just keep getting put in isolation. And they’re just given exactly enough to survive. And it’s perfect. It’s a perfect scenario, because, eventually, if you stay in that scenario long enough, you start killing off yourselves. And then you’re not a problem for the government anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: That was a clip from the documentary Cut-Off. And why the youth in particular committing suicide?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: So, we looked at youth suicide in Cross Lake, which is also a remote community. And I think—I mean, we can look at all of these issues. We can talk about all the political backstories. But what we’re really seeing in indigenous communities is the direct link to what it means to be a survivor of cultural genocide. So the youth who are suiciding right now are the generation that we are seeing—the first generation who has not been affected by residential school, but yet they have, because they are the ones that feel as though they are not able to live as indigenous people. And so, they always say it takes three generations to commit genocide, and that’s that third generation.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you mean by residential school.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Residential schools were schools that the government used to forcibly remove children from their homes and to assimilate them into what they called society. But what it did was it removed all of their culture. Children were taken from their homes. They were put in boarding schools. Their hair was cut. They were forbidden to speak their language. And they were abused, and there was rampant sexual abuse. And many children also died at the hands of nuns and priests in these schools.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet you’re talking about a suicide rate in the generation of children that were not put in residential schools.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: So, my—I call myself a survivor of residential school. All my aunties, my grandmother went to residential school. My father’s grandmother and my father also suicided when I was 15. So, for us, there is no disconnect between the youth suicide and who we are. If you ask any indigenous person, they will probably be able to tell you a close link of someone they’ve lost to suicide. It is not something that we talk about that is separate from us. Suicide rates in indigenous communities are some of the highest in the country, if not the world. And we are all deeply affected by it. So, for me, suicide is so close to home that I can almost see it as the blanket of grief that has to be removed before we can rise up as indigenous people. And we’re just starting to peel that back.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Michelle Latimer, you did a separate film about youth suicide.

MICHELLE LATIMER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: An animated film.

MICHELLE LATIMER: An animated film. And the reason it was animated—actually, that film premiered at the Sundance festival in 2011. And that film was animated because I was actually going to make a documentary about youth at an indigenous school in my community. And those youth are mostly flown in from northern reserves because they can’t access a high school education where they live. So they’re flown in. They live billeted often with white families, separated from their own community, their own family. And they go to this school. And I noticed that the art class there was doing really innovative, politically charged work, and I wanted to show those kids. And just when I got the financing to make that film, one of the kids suicided, and I couldn’t make that film. And so that’s why it became an animation, because I wanted to show the intergenerational effects of violence and this residential school, the history of residential schools. So I made it into an animated film that looked at that. There’s actually subsequently been an inquest into the deaths of some of the kids at the Dennis Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in Canada, because of the rates are so high, and it just keeps happening. And they want to know why.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Sarain, how did you survive your father’s suicide?

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: Well, I have an incredible mother, who has been working front-line communities, and she’s a therapist and a healer. So I had an amazing support team. But I think that what you have to realize when you’re dealing with suicide is that you have to remove it from yourself. So I had to learn that—I had to learn my dad’s story. And so, by learning all of the things that he had gone through—he was placed in foster care at a very young age. He turned to drugs and alcohol, like many indigenous people do, to deal with his pain. And so, I had to completely relearn who I was from that side. And as soon as you see someone like that, you remove all of the anger, and you remove all of the judgment. And so, now, I know that I have an opportunity to give other people the kind of hope and support that my dad didn’t have in his final days. And so, for me, doing this work is a direct way for me to recover, continuously recover, and change the narrative as an indigenous person.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, finally, about Leonard Peltier and what he represents. As we move into the Trump administration, in the last act of President Obama, he granted clemency to hundreds of people, among them people who were political in prison, Oscar López Rivera, the Puerto Rican independence activist, among them. But although Leonard Peltier saw this as his last chance, imprisoned for four decades, Native American leader, found guilty of—1975, of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a crime he says he did not commit. Though it was on President Obama’s desk and had been on President Clinton’s desk before that, he did not take action in Leonard Peltier’s case—a disappointment to so many. Your thoughts on Leonard Peltier and what he means for people as you travel the country talking to indigenous communities?

MICHELLE LATIMER: There was a lot of hope that he would be granted clemency. And I think to see that hope dashed was devastating to many of us, but also not super surprising either, because it speaks to a history of—and it’s no coincidence that Pine Ridge, that that was Wounded Knee. That was the same land we’re talking about that the Dakota Access pipeline is going through right now. It’s the same people. It’s the Great Sioux Nation, the Oceti Sakowin. And I think there’s like no coincidence that this is happening and on the same landscape. And so, to see—you know, our struggle seems to be one where we get these little grains of hope, and then they get taken away. But we are resilient, and we will continue moving forward. But Leonard Peltier represents basically hope and a will to move forward, because he continues to speak out. He continues to give messages of hope to the front-line protesters, protectors. He’s just a great—he’s an inspiration to me. But it was devastating to see that he wasn’t granted clemency.

SARAIN CARSON-FOX: I just want to add that I think indigenous people have always been given just enough from the federal government to feel that they had a place to stand. So, with the Obama administration, of course, there was a lot more hope than we’d seen in a very long time. But I think it’s very important not to forget that the Obama administration is still adhering to all of the same things that have caused all of the situations that we are dealing with right now. So, I think it’s very strategic to not grant him clemency, and I never thought that Obama would. And I think that because I think that they’re very aware that if Leonard Peltier was released, that there would be the kind of uprising that we’re seeing now at Standing Rock across the world. And the real truth is that the American people are terrified of an indigenous uprising.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Sarain Fox, Anishinaabe activist, artist, dancer, journalist, the host of this eight-part documentary series for Viceland called RISE. And I want to thank you, Michelle Latimer, the director of this series, for all of your work.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we broadcast from Sundance headquarters in Park City, Utah. Thanks for joining us.

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