Minnehaha Free State--11 Years Later
Between August of 1998 and December of 1999, activists occupied neighborhood homes scheduled for demolition and parkland that was to be destroyed by highway construction. They lived in tepees, makeshift huts, tents and trees over two very cold Minnesota winters. They gathered petitions, shot "witness videos", attended hundreds of public hearings, educated the community, sat in trees they were trying to save, and participated in numerous acts of civil disobedience.
Ten years in the making, "Stop the Re-Route: Taking A Stand On Sacred Land" is a story of resistance and reverence. It shows the power of a dedicated group of people as they guard one small but precious part of the earth from being paved.
In August of 1998, three decades of community resistance to the reroute of Highway 55 coalesced into an inspiring alliance of:
• environmental activists committed to living lightly on the Earth;
• neighborhood champions who wanted to keep their homes and park from being destroyed; and
• native people including some of the descendants of Little Crow whose ancestors lived here long before white settlers arrived.
They put their bodies on the line to preserve one of the last burr oak savannahs along the Mississippi and a 10,000-year-old sacred and pristine water source — Coldwater Spring. They stood up against the most powerful agency in Minnesota State Government — the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT).
Between August of 1998 and December of 1999, the activists occupied neighborhood homes scheduled for demolition and parkland that was to be destroyed by highway construction. They lived in tepees, makeshift huts, tents and trees over two very cold Minnesota winters. They gathered petitions, shot "witness videos", attended hundreds of public hearings, educated the community, sat in trees they were trying to save, and participated in numerous acts of civil disobedience. Activists held spiritual ceremonies and cultural activities. They sang and prayed and developed deeper relationships with this land and water. They kept a sacred fire burning at all times and people from many spiritual paths participated in protecting and honoring this land and spring. In the end, the highway was built, the savannah cut, hundreds arrested, and the encampment ended. Land and lives have been transformed forever.
"Stop the Re-Route" highlights two very different ways of seeing the world. In a market/resource-centered worldview, a person stands on a hill and says, "This lot has development potential." In an earth-centered view of the world, a person stands on the same hill and says, "Everything is here." Developers continue to pave over our world at an alarming rate. This tension between the exploitation of resources and the preservation of the Earth is a critical issue in our modern lives and it is at the center of this film.
Our documentary gives voice to the "undeveloped" earth. "During the tree sit, I felt as if I were doing hospice for this tree-elder in the last days of her life. This tree shared with me, through my heart, much of what she had seen in 200 years of being near this creek." –From an interview with Nettle
And it asks deeper questions about the human spirit:
• What is it about this place that inspires such a commitment?
• How does sacred land get defined in a secular and technologically driven society?
"When I visited the spring for the first time, I could feel how ancient and how beautiful it is. There are water spirits that protect the places where the water comes up so clear out of the ground. Perhaps part of this story has been for us Native people to understand about the water and our relationship with it." -From an interview with Sharon Day
Even though the energy of the Minnehaha encampment has dispersed, the legacy and spirit of resistance and reverence continues. Veterans of the encampment and new volunteers have been working for the past six years to protect this birthplace of Minnesota—and the last remaining pristine spring in Minneapolis—from further highway encroachment. And now they are projecting an even broader vision: Creating an environmental "Green Museum" that will stretch for miles along the Mississippi River. Their new creation, they say, will be a living model, and a legacy for future generations, of how we can truly respect the earth, honor sacred lands and show the world how democratic participation really works—by speaking truth to power.