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Coverage of energy that moves beyond polarized arguments and emotional debate to explore the points of tension, the tradeoffs and opportunities, and the very human consequences of energy policy, production, use and innovation.Inside Energy is a collaboration of seven public media outlets in the nation's energy epicenter: Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota.

New Documentary Explores Tribal Struggles Over Land And Energy Development

Inside Energy / Rocky Mountain PBS

Native American tribes continue to fight the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline -- even as the company that owns it says they expect oil to begin flowing within a few weeks.

Last year, thousands showed up to protest the pipeline, which would cross near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Many stayed in camps through the winter and hundreds were arrested.

A new documentary, Beyond Standing Rock, explores this story and other recent fights over land and energy development in the U.S.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline protests were a huge news story,” says Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson. “But as we started to dig in and research for this documentary, we found that these fights for control were happening all across the country.

The film visits the Southern Ute Indian tribe in Southern Colorado, near the New Mexico border. The tribe has been fighting the federal government for decades over oil and gas development, but Paterson says it’s very different from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s objections.

“The Southern Ute tribe wants to control oil and gas development on their reservation. They have benefited economically to an incredible extent,” she says of the tribe’s members who are collectively worth billions. “So the commonality [between the two tribes] is that they both want to have control of what happens on their reservation land, and on land they have historical attachments to.”

Director Brian Malone of Fast Forward Films says it was an interesting experience to film a documentary in the moment, as the story was unfolding.

“It’s interesting because you go into it – like a lot of things – thinking the story’s going to be one thing,” he says. “And then it evolves in front of you as you’re rolling the camera. And it teaches you a lot about both sides of the issue.”

Credit Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy / Rocky Mountain PBS
A timeline of the Dakota Access Pipeline development and the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to halt it.

While the main camp was mostly evacuated by Feb. 22, the legal battle isn’t over. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has requested a summary judgment against the Army Corps of Engineers as a last ditch effort to halt construction.Whatever happens, Paterson says the losing side is sure to appeal.

Beyond Standing Rock premieres on Rocky Mountain PBS, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. MT. For more listings, visit the documentary website.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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