Photo Credit: Gerd Altmann


Klamath Basin residents and those invested in the cultural and environmental happenings of the Basin have several films to watch that focus on the cultural resilience of Basin Tribes and efforts to undam the Klamath River. Guardians of the River is a short film created by documentary filmmaker Shane Anderson that focuses on the experiences of Indigenous folks fighting for dam removal and ecological renewal on the Klamath River. Gather, available to stream on Netflix, tells a similar story via a wider lens – it relies on interviews with Indigenous people throughout the United States to illustrate the far-reaching efforts of Native communities in recentering traditional lifeways and ensuring future generations’ access to, and knowledge of, cultural foods. Inhabitants is a feature-length documentary film to keep an eye out for in film festivals and local screenings. It tells the story of Native peoples in North America who have survived colonial invasion, and their efforts to restore “their traditional land management practices.”

Shane Anderson’s Sweetwater Films is a film production company that focuses on restoration projects in Western watersheds. Their short film, Guardians of the River, shot in the fall of 2020, and produced in conjunction with the non-profit American Rivers, is an excellent introduction to the experiences of Lower Basin tribal communities and their fight to remove dams from the Basin. Via interviews with numerous individuals intimately invested in river renewal, the short gives viewers a window into the existential threat that dam-related ecosystem destruction represents for Indigenous peoples and the ways that they fight to ensure the continuity of their cultures for future generations.

Gather is a feature-length documentary that, as mentioned-above, overlaps thematically with Guardians but investigates a wider range of experiences to tell its story. Showcasing the work of a chef from the White Mountain Apache Nation in Arizona, a young scientist of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation in South Dakota, and the Ancestral Guard, a youth-centered environmental group from the Yurok Nation of the Klamath River Basin, the film shows food sovereignty work being done by Indigenous peoples in diverse and geographically distant populations. Gathercommunicates the value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) as a tool in ensuring the productivity and accessibility of food sovereignty projects created by Indigenous people to provide their communities with healthy, culturally valuable foods. The film shows the importance and power of food as a tool to ensure Indigenous survival, for the treatment of trauma, and the evolution of cultural resilience.

Inhabitants is an award-winning documentary that focuses on TEK as an essential set of tools in combating regional and global phenomena linked to ecological disruption and climate change. It examines the ways that various communities of Indigenous people, including those whose ancestral territories are in the Klamath Basin, are confronting climate change via culturally informed land management regimes. Those interested in viewing Inhabitants will have to track down a film festival or local screening of the film for the time being – hopefully it will be more widely available for those wanting to stream the film in the coming months.

These films are valuable windows into the experiences and perspectives of Klamath Basin communities who have been fighting for the undamming and ecological renewal of the Klamath River for generations. They are worth a watch by everyone who cares about the health of the Klamath Basin and the diverse peoples whose lives are intertwined with the ecological health of the watershed.