LAKOTA NATION vs UNITED STATES begins and ends with it’s focus on “the most sacred place on earth,” the birthplace of the Lakota that has shaped thought, identity and philosophy for the Očéti Šakówiŋ since time immemorial-the life-giving land known as the Black Hills. Yet with the arrival of the first Europeans in 1492, the sacred land has been the site of conflict between the people it has nurtured, and the settler state seeking to exploit and redefine it in its own image. Lakota Nation vs. United States is a searing testament to the strength of the Oyate nation and the people. It is also a visually stunning rejoinder to the distorted imagery of a people and culture long shaped by racist mainstream films, art, books and history taught to our children. In spite of the string of broken treaties or the action of war criminal General Custer at Little Big Horn or the slaughter of millions of buffalo or forced removal of native children into government run “boarding” schools the Oglala Tetonowan Oyate have survived. Lakota Nation vs. United States is a lyrical and provocative testament to a land and a people who have survived removal, exploitation and genocide–and whose best days are yet to come. Co-directors Jesse Short Bull (Istinma) and Laura Tomaselli (MLK/FBI) join us for a conversation on the powerful familial connection that Jesse has the battle of Little Big Horn, how and why the American government ignored or violated recognized treaties before the ink was dry, and how the political, economic and cultural violence against the Oyate remain firmly embedded in the policies of the state and federal government to this day.
About the filmmaker – Jesse Short Bull, Director, wrote and produced the 2013 short Istinma, set in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota. A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Short Bull received a 2016 Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program Development Grant and also attended the Creative Producing Summit at Sundance. In 2014 he was part of the effort to change the name of Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota. Currently employed by the Oglala Lakota tribal government, Short Bull is a member of the board of the Black Hills Film Festival. With the First Peoples Fund he leads youth filmmaking workshops in the Oglala Lakota Nation.
About the filmmaker – Laura Tomaselli, Director and Editor is a filmmaker with credits spanning narrative, documentary, and commercial projects. Most recently, she edited the documentary features MLK/FBI and Surge as well as the nonfiction shorts Feathers and Lowland Kids. For her work on MLK/FBI Tomaselli received a Cinema Eye Award Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Her films have screened at Sundance, SXSW, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Toronto International Film Festival.
“Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli’s vital Lakota Nation vs. United States doesn’t waste any of its 121 minutes, but it also boasts a number of moments that effectively squeeze the film’s entire perspective into a single unforgettable image.” – David Ehrlich, indieWire