LA theatrical release (September 2016)
Athena, Big Sky Doc, Washington DC Environmental, Red Nation, One Earth, American Indian, LA Femme
An unlikely champion for the Blackfeet tribe stands up against the US government to demand justice after more than a century of exploitation.
In 1887, at the end of the Indian Wars, the US government broke up several Indian reservations into individual allotments parceled out to 300,000 Native Americans, but retained control over the land’s management, holding mineral and gas rights in trust, and promising regular accounting. In practice, the government allowed these rights to be exploited without providing proper compensation, resulting in generations of Native Americans remaining in poverty. After noticing discrepancies in these official accounting practices, Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet accountant, began to investigate. Despite being given the runaround, Cobell didn’t back down, eventually joining forces with other tribes to file the largest class action ever filed against the US government in 1996 – one that drags on for nearly fifteen years. Janko follows Cobell as she works tirelessly to keep the struggle alive, through three presidential administrations, stalling tactics, and broken promises, only to finally receive some small measure of justice. While Cobell is very worthwhile and appealing subject, the film unfortunately tends to feel dry and retrospective rather than dynamic and in the moment. Still, it offers a welcome portrait of persistence and serves to introduce viewers to a largely unheralded heroine.