1,500 miles apart, two rivers flow. One alongside rolling hills and blue skies of the North Dakota high plains, the other tumbles past volcanoes, down narrow gorges, and through rugged mountain terrain. Beyond the distance and difference that separates these rivers is a similar story that begins over 500 hundred years ago, with their shared outcomes projecting us into our collective fate in the next century.
“Two Rivers” tells the epic, front line story of how indigenous tribes have defended two of America’s most important rivers from outside industries.
On the Missouri River in North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux and other bands of Lakota launched the movement to protect the drinking water of 18 million people from the eventual leaks of a massive oil pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). On the Klamath River in Northern California, the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa tribes continue to battle the agri-business giants from the West side of the San Joaquin Valley, fighting for the water needed to support the third biggest run of Chinook salmon on the Pacific Coast from irrigation diversions to grow export crops 500 miles south.
Starting in 2015, California’s fifth year of extreme drought, I traveled north to the Klamath River to witness how people and nature react when drought meets global warming. Diversions for distant agricultural projects had pushed the native Chinook to the brink of extinction, and along with them, the communities that were culturally, economically and environmentally dependent on these declining salmon runs. With the assistance of Yurok Tribe’s Executive Director, Troy Fletcher, I floated up and down the Klamath with Yurok fishermen, tribal officials, scientists and artists, researching the complex discussion surrounding the preservation of this vital resource, water. Further south, on the West side of the San Joaquin Valley, I met with Westlands Water District officials and farmers in an area surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of almonds, pistachios, tomatoes and garlic heavily dependent on imported water.
However, before the project could finish on the Klamath, the movement at Standing Rock began to heat up. When I realized that the shared histories of the two rivers - of invasion and resistance, dams and diversions - were so similar, I packed up my gear, found a friend to help record audio and make camp, and we headed for North Dakota.
Across the world people were inspired by the stand taken against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by the community gathered at Standing Rock. Young men on horseback, old women praying with burning sage, teenagers on long distant runs and veterans by the thousands in the freezing cold - stood up to a heavily militarized police and paramilitary mercenaries to protect clean drinking water from an oil pipeline. Their appeal was universal; “Water is life” leaves no one out. Every living thing requires water. And, as Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network says, “There are alternatives for oil, there are absolutely no alternatives for water.”
So, in late 2016, after weeks of camping out on the North Dakota Plains at the biggest gathering of indigenous tribes in US history, the parallel stories embedded in the conflicts over water at Standing Rock and along the Klamath River began to emerge. The issues raised by these events place us atop a powder keg of economic, political and environmental justice issues without much of a sense of how to defuse them. The lessons of Standing Rock, led by indigenous people, put these conflicts into an entirely new, national perspective.
Perhaps the most critical front-line in the geopolitical battle over global warming is the battle to protect rivers and clean water. “Two Rivers” tells the story of how real people wage that fight. “Two Rivers” observes the epic sweep of history that brings us to this place and follows the indigenous voices who are willing to speak out in the face of our impending global dilemma.
Risks and challenges
Need to raise $15,000.
- Fund completion of principal photography
- Additional research needed
- Two months of editing for a “rough assembly
Securing these funds help assure success of this important, entertaining, timely film.
Who is part of “Two Rivers”?
- First and foremost the people on screen from the Yurok and Karuk tribes on the Klamath River to the Lakota people from Standing Rock, Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River and Rosebud bands, and the scientists and farmers of the San Joaquin Valley.
- Next, our fellow producers and researchers, including Paula Antoine, member of the Oceti Sakowin Camp Media and lands manager of the Rosebud Tribe.
- Amie Williams, documentary film producer and director, Ryan Anderson, sound mixer and co-producer, Steve Brown, astrophysicist and tech innovator, the Biology Department of the Yurok Tribe, and talented crew members, Johnny Kloberdanz, Alan Chang and Brendan Byrne.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)