The Walking Mountains Science Center’s Sustainable Community Film Series wraps up this week with a final screening at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5.
The final title in the series is “Inhabitants: An Indigenous Perspective,” a feature-length documentary that looks at Indigenous solutions to climate change. The film follows five Native American tribes across deserts, coasts, forests and prairies as they restore their traditional land management practices.
“Inhabitants” was created in conjunction with a Tribal Advisory Council, a six-person council made up of representatives from each of the tribes featured in the film. Representatives of the Hopi Tribe, Blackfoot Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Menominee Tribe and Native Hawaii worked closely with the filmmakers to ensure the film is accurate, culturally appropriate and meets to the needs of their communities.
The objective of the film is to examine in depth how we can begin to heal our relationship with the environment through a return to traditional knowledge, with Indigenous peoples in mind. “Inhabitants” was only released to the public recently in January after completing an exclusive film tour through various indigenous communities in the United States.
Long before fire was considered a public enemy, the indigenous Karuk people of northern California used fire as a tool for fertilization, religious expression, and risk mitigation. Great steps are being taken across the United States to put out fires and applaud firefighting as heroic activity, but all of these efforts can actually fan the flames.
Melissa Kirr is Senior Director of Sustainability Programs and Founder of the Sustainability Community Film Series. Kirr said she was excited to share this film with the community, as its messages and guidance are key to understanding how to best mitigate the impacts of climate change being felt in our valley.
“Indigenous people are the ones who were here before us, so they’ve been doing these kinds of management on the land for many, many years,” Kirr said. “We should definitely include their knowledge and understand how they work with the land. Not just taking the western world and our ideas, but really understanding those past practices.
As climate change threatens conventional agriculture, the film shows how we can look to ancient Hopi farming methods for wisdom. In Arizona, Michael Kotutwa Johnson is a Hopi farmer who grows plants in the arid Arizona soil without using irrigation. Conventional seeds require a planting depth of about an inch, while Hopi seeds can be planted up to 24 inches below the surface to utilize the moisture present deep in the soil.
“We’ve been in this part of the country for thousands of years and we know how to manage natural resources,” Johnson says in the film.
Another segment of the film follows the Blackfoot tribe, comparing the native use of bison to the Western use of cows. In the late 1800s, bison were hunted almost to extinction for the benefit of cattle, but cows tend to overgraze on a single patch of land while bison preserve the environment by migrating from one place to place. Buffaloes are more resistant to temperature extremes as they can grow or shed hair depending on weather conditions and they need much less water than cattle.
As part of the series, Walking Mountains is sharing a “Next Steps” document that helps viewers convert the knowledge they learned in the film into tangible actions in our local community.
“We encourage people to support Indigenous land stewardship efforts in our region by advocating for Indigenous peoples to be consulted before land management decisions are made,” Kirr said. “We encourage people to visit the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose to learn more about older Colorado residents and the techniques they used.”
This is the final film in the six-month series, which screens films dealing with topics related to environmental sustainability on the first Tuesday of each month. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the series, which will return in November.
After the series’ conclusion, Kirr will begin planning for the next season and said any members of the community who would like to recommend a film should contact her by email at [email protected].
“We are always looking for movies that meet our criteria and are always looking for recommendations from community members,” Kirr said. “If anyone is interested in movies or sees a movie that they think is cool to see on the big screen or interesting to share with our community, then they can definitely reach out to me.”
For more information on “Inhabitants”, visit InhabitantsFilm.com. To make a reservation for the next screening, visit WalkingMountains.org.