Documentary studio XTR is in production on “Lakota Nation vs. the United States,” the first film to chronicle the Lakota Indians’ fight to reclaim control of the Black Hills. Oglala Sioux Jesse Short Bull and “MLK/FBI” editor Laura Tomaselli direct the feature documentary, with Benjamin Hedin producing.
“Lakota Nation vs. the United States” will investigate how the sacred land was stolen in violation of treaty agreements and feature interviews with Indigenous citizens.
The film is executive produced by Mark Ruffalo, author and activist Sarah Eagle Heart, Kathryn Everett and Bryn Mooser from XTR. Sales will be handled by Cinetic Media, who are also working on the film’s financing.
Short Bull is a 2016 Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program Development Grant recipient and a board member of the Black Hills Film Festival. Interview subjects include Nick Tilsen and Krystal Two Bulls, activists who founded South Dakota’s #landback movement.
“It is my life’s work to use powerful storytelling to share deep perspectives to implore social, environmental and Indigenous justice,” said Eagle Heart, who is also developing a docuseries with Ruffalo. “Knowledge and understanding are essential elements needed for advocacy and impactful change. The multilayered approach of this project helps accurately represent the Lakota people as we are now to allow healing and redressing.”
The documentary will feature a vibrant photographic aesthetic showing the sweeping terrain of South Dakota as accompaniment to the interviewees’ testimonies.
“There is much work to be done in order to begin to reckon with the attempted erasure of our culture and stealing of rightful and sacred land,” said Short Bull. “Lakota Nation vs. the United States isn’t an isolated event in history books — we’re all still paying for it. Our work through this film confronts episodes of our history that have conveniently been chosen to be forgotten, in order to lead to solutions and cease such deplorable atrocities from happening against generations to come.”
Kathryn Everret, head of film at XTR, said, “Our hope is that this stirring meditation on the nature of justice highlights the much needed atonement for the misdeeds of history and what can be done in the present day to begin repairing the wrongs of the past.”
“This is a timely story with powerful voices on screen and behind the scenes, driving essential change,” said Ruffalo. “The fight for Black Hills is far from over and our intention is to support the Lakota people by raising awareness for the injustices they face in present-day America. The perception in many Americans’ minds is this is only historical, this ‘happened.’ What they don’t understand is that it is happening now. It is today, it is immediate and mostly hidden from your eye. This is a current issue.”