Gifts for the River Film Festival panel highlights importance of water


Ty Defoe moderates during the Gifts For the River Film Festival on March 26 in Anspach 161. 

The first annual Gifts for the River Film Festival included a Water Protectors panel on Mar. 26 online and in Anspach 161. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe (SCIT) partnered with Central Michigan University (CMU) to bring the two-day festival to campus.

Panelist included Sharon Day, Dr. Carolyn Dunn, Siobhan Growing Elm Brown, Judy Webkamigad and her husband, Howard Webkamigad. Three of five panelists appeared virtually; Dr. Dunn from Tovangnaar, or Los Angeles, Calif., and Brown from Cape Cod, Mass.

The panelists discussed different culture's relationships with water and a need to preserve it.

Brown talked about the importance of language regarding the relationship between oneself and water. She said Native American origin stories about water must be passed down to children.

“I want to echo the importance of language and language being such a big connector for us in understanding how our ancestors lived in relationship with their environment and the natural world," she said. "The reclamation of language being key to ending the attacks and outright erasure of us and in all spaces.”

Dr. Dunn discussed her relationship with the ocean as well as her growing connection to tidalectics which she said is "looking at language as water and how it connects us as land based people's but also as water based people's."

Sharon Day read a poem about humans interconnectedness with water and gratitude for it.

"That tiny drop of dew is your ancestor and ones yet to come," she said.

Judy talked about the need to revitalize and protect water.

"We are humbled to be here and we continue to spread our language, we continue to revitalize,” Judy said. “And it's for everybody, not just our Anishinaabe...we want to share with everyone. We are all from here. We are all from water. We’re from Mother Earth.”

Moderators Kate Freer and Ty Defoe discussed the effects of colonization and the need to amplify indigenous voices.

“We take things for granted,” Defoe said. “As artists, our goal and responsibility is to... galvanize, to care about the water, (to) utilize art as a tool. And the art as a tool has been this internet platform, Gifts for the River as well as the film festival.”

The weekend-long festival showed 28 films highlighting artists who use their medium to create awareness about issues threatening earth and Turtle Island, or North America.