Vancouver’s North Shore-based Tsleil-Waututh nation has been bolstered in its protests against pipelines by connecting with a continent-wide network of Indigenous activists resisting pipeline-expansion projects, reveals the director of the new documentary feature “The Condor and the Eagle.”
Husband-and-wife directing team Clément and Sophie Guerra were inspired by witnessing several Indigenous nations in Oklahoma and Texas come together to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. By following their connections, they discovered that this network stretches up to B.C. and northern Alberta, and its members are involved in many ongoing battles against climate change.
“Our film shows how Indigenous women are the leaders of the environmental justice movement – how they started individually from impacted communities, reaching out to international alliances,” Clément said.
Close to home
The Guerras’ cinematography emphasizes the widespread land destruction caused by the tar sands and Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan pipelines. The film states that Indigenous peoples are at a higher risk of cancer and respiratory illnesses caused by living in close proximity to refinery emissions.
The Trans Mountain pipeline runs through Burnaby, part of the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh nation. Several representatives of the nation appear in the film, including Rueben George, who spoke at the film’s screening event at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.
“It’s a tragedy. It’s a brutal thing,” said George, speaking about the devastation of what the film refers to as “Mother Earth.” “But in all genres, we have to show it. These things gotta change, and I love the way this film explains it.”
Re-imagining the revolution
Both Guerra and George view the film as a teaching tool, aiming to raise awareness for these allied nations’ activist efforts. Guerra stressed the importance of amplifying Indigenous voices in these conversations, highlighting the responsibility of privileged people to listen and support local leadership.
The film’s protagonists – connected by the routes of the pipelines – include activists such as northern Alberta’s Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Texas’s Bryan Parras. The film shows them engaged in protests and traditional ceremonies as part of their resistance, later making a pilgrimage down to the Amazon rainforest to reconnect with ‘Mother Earth.’
“That was a great opportunity as filmmakers to step away from the traditional way to understand resistance, but to really make this film about an emotional journey,” says Clément. “I think that’s why Indigenous communities are so amazing when it comes to resisting industries – it’s not all in the streets, but it’s on a very spiritual level.”