What is wanorazi yumneze about?

There are several main issues discussed in this film. One of the main issues discussed is that the Earth has undergone drastic changes as a result of industrial developments. The lives of many people we interviewed are closely linked with the environment – rivers, lakes, prairies, forests and wildlife – and have seen these resources decline in their lifetimes, mostly as a result of industrialization. Much of this is related to clearing away the natural landscape to develop infrastructure (i.e. roads, oil wells, pipeline) or to produce agricultural cropland, which ultimately disrupts wildlife migrations, biodiversity and eliminates habitats. Even more impacts come from pollution and toxicity related to these industries, which further exacerbates these impacts, leading to sicknesses in the wildlife, people and the land, as discussed in the film.

Another main objective of the film was to highlight the importance of the traditional cultures and wisdom of First Nations people. The point is not to portray Indigenous people as ‘helpless victims’ but as people actively finding solutions to the challenges they face. Despite being confronted with many generations of many different adversities – colonization, displacement, residential schools, racism – the people and communities are strong and becoming stronger. Traditions, cultures, ceremonies, languages and wisdom rooted in the land are once again being embraced and shared. Western science-based culture is mainstream and dominant in society. This same culture has been behind all of the modern developments we see around us today – from roads, automobiles and trains to factories, pipelines and weapons of war.

Not to say these things are all bad. The point the film tries to get across is that there is no one right way and Indigenous people are demonstrating that it is possible to balance both Western and Indigenous cultures as a way of adapting and evolving. This is demonstrated by the collaboration with the scientific community to find answers to animal health related concerns as well as by inviting that same scientific community to partake in their culture, traditions and ceremonies at the ‘cultural camps’.

From Alberta to Saskatchewan… and beyond?

The issues discussed in this film have struck a chord with more people and communities than are portrayed in this film. Though the first interviews were shot in the community of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation during the fall of 2009, as word spread and we spoke with other people, the project grew, as did its scope. From the concerns related to oil and gas developments in the Alberta foothills, to those related to industrial agriculture and mining across the Prairies, it seems people all over are tired of their concerns not being heard or simply ignored, as we discovered among people in the now agriculture-dominated Cote and Keeseekoose First Nations, located in eastern Saskatchewan.

Most importantly, ideas and information sharing has happened within and among communities involved. The most exciting example was when some of the people in Cote and Keeseekoose who attended the summer traditional culture camp hosted by Alexis decided they too would put together and host a traditional culture camp in their territory! It is our hope that the people and communities involved in this project will continue to collaborate and share so that more and more can be a part of shaping a more positive, healthy future for us all.

The way forward: solutions

Many believe it is important for the rest of society to look to Indigenous traditions and wisdom as a way of better adapting to the modern crises beginning to arise as a result of Western culture. This is where the title of the film wanorazi yumneze comes from. It means awakening spirit in Lakota, suggesting that the spirit of the people is getting stronger but we all need to awaken, become more aware and act to find solutions to the many stresses humanity is putting on the Earth.

We have shared responsibilities as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We are all treaty signatories and need to become aware of what those treaty obligations are. Furthermore, we all need to become better listeners and truly hear what one another’s concerns and desires are and be willing to find a better balance between what we want individually, and what we need collectively as a society, species and planet. This will take more and better education about our histories, a broadened understanding of the diverse ways of knowing and a re-thinking of the ways we make decisions.

Discussion points:

  • How does Traditional Knowledge differ from Western science?
  • Why does it matter if the animals are getting sick?
  • What are some of the actions you can take in response to issues you learned about in the film?
  • Were there any important related issues not discussed in the film that you thought were important?

Putting it in context:
Facts and Figures

  • In 2005-2006, the Alberta government collected over $14 billion in non-renewable energy royalties. —Alberta Royalty Review
  • Alberta has about 120,000 active oil and gas wells (Alaska has 2500, Norway has 1000). —Alberta Royalty Review
  • 400,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled since 1969. —Government of Alberta Environment
  • Over 80% (five trillion cubic feet (Tcf) per year) of Canada’s natural gas production is from Alberta. This is enough natural gas to heat every home in Alberta for about 35 years. —Government of Alberta Energy
  • In 2007, there were 9,971 successful natural gas wells drilled in Alberta: 9,220 conventional gas wells and 751 coalbed methane wells. —Government of Alberta Energy
  • Alberta has one of the most extensive natural gas systems in the world as part of its energy infrastructure, with 392,000 kilometers of energy related pipelines. —Government of Alberta Energy
  • As of December 2007, there were 9339 Coalbed methane (CBM) wells in production in Alberta.  —Government of Alberta Energy
  • 99% of the sulphur from sour gas in Western Canadian sour gas is used to manufacture fertilizers, paper, pharmaceuticals, steel and other products. Sour gas makes up about 1/3 of the gas produced in Alberta, 85% of Canada’s total production. There are over 6,000 sour gas wells and 18,000 kms of operating pipelines in Alberta. H2S is toxic to humans and animals at very low concentrations.  —Government of Alberta Energy
  • Agriculture accounts for over one-third of the Saskatchewan’s total exports, and 40 per cent of Canada’s farmland totalling more than 60 million acres. Approximately 33 million acres of agricultural land is used for crop production each year. —Government of Saskatchewan
  • Saskatchewan’s agricultural output is mostly exported, amounting to over $8 billion in sales to over 19 countries worldwide. —Government of Saskatchewan

Additional resources

Larger Project:
In Land and Life

The film, wanorazi yumneze, is a component of a larger research project underway among First Nations and the wider community in Canada. The project is called In Land and Life (ILAL) and it is focused on cross-cultural education and information sharing between Western scientific and Indigenous circles.

For more information on this important research,
please visit