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Crying Earth Rise Up


November 12, 2019

Crying Earth Rise Up (Suree Towfighnia, 2015)


CERU with fistsCrying Earth Rise Up, narrated by Tantoo Cardinal, tells the story of Debra White Plume and Elisha Yellow Thunder’s efforts to stop the uranium mining contaminating their community’s drinking water. Informed by Native perspectives and belief systems, the film addresses the sacred relationship between water and life itself, as well as the conflicts between nuclear power companies, activists, and locals. With a nuanced look at what is becoming an increasingly common environmental battle, the film offers a case study of contemporary conservation efforts in the face of corporate and capitalistic interests.   (Crying Earth Rise Up)

Crying Earth Rise Up acknowledges the centrality of Native involvement in opposing the particular practice of uranium mining and suggests Native communities’ wider spread contribution to a variety of other conversations related to environmental protection (although not always noted by mainstream media, e.g. the recent blocking of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline) (Documentary Educational Resources site)

Join us for the film and a conversation with director/producer/cinematographer Suree Towfighnia and Debra White Plume.

About the People Involved

As Suree Towfighnia puts it, many people made this project possible, including but not limited to:  “Owe Aku and Lakota Media Project (directed by Rosebud White Plume) worked at most stages of the project, helping with production, outreach, and screenings. Reuben Cruz (…artist Che Christ) was writer, helped with the story, did much of the branding and graphics, wrote poetry and hiphop music, and helped with outreach and events (in particular designing the Waters Connect Us outreach and education-which featured Crying Earth Rise Up as a way to engage SW native communities around water protection). Of course, Debra, Elisha and their families were at the heart of the story and anchored our work. Autumn Two Bulls did some singing and the Crazy Horse Singers did drumming, along with other drum groups who sang water songs for the story.” (email with Director of Augsburg Native American Film Series)

Photo of Suree Towfighnia


Suree Towfighnia is a documentary filmmaker and educator originally from Chicago, IL.  Her work centers around creative explorations of environmental justice and human rights issues. Suree directed Crying Earth Rise Up and Standing Silent Nation  in collaboration with Owe Aku on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The films have been broadcast nationally on PBS and in screenings around the world.  She produced Haskell Wexler’s documentary Four Days in Chicago, about the largescale 2012 protests against NATO. Suree’s current project documents specialty coffee growers in southern Mexico and incorporates child-centered narratives and animation. Suree mentors next generation filmmakers, including women in the Lakota Media Project, which she co-founded in 2003 to support a Lakota perspective in media.  She is currently a Visiting Artist and Adjunct Faculty at Evergreen State College, where she teaches approaches in nonfiction and community media in the Mediaworks program. In addition, she has taught film writing, producing, documentary, editing, and cinematography at Columbia College Chicago, Arizona State University (online), for non-profits and organizations, and at the EICTV film school in Cuba. She received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago, and her BA in History and Latin American Studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Debra White Plume, Consulting Producer
Debra was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Debra has been involved in Lakota cultural preservation and revitalization work her entire adult life, including work to protect Treaty Rights and Human Rights. She has been an active community organizer around such issues for 40 years, from the grassroots level to the United Nations, where she participated in the drafting of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples and Issues. She lives along the banks of Wounded Knee Creek with Alex, her husband of 30 years, where they raise horses and provide stewardship to the small buffalo herd kept for spiritual and cultural purposes. Debra earned undergraduate degrees from the Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She is Director of Owe Aku/ Bring Back the Way.

Rosebud White Plume, Lakota Media Project
Rosebud is Oglala Lakota, and has been involved in film making since her teenage years, creating video shorts on Lakota Way of Life, as well as videos which reflect current social issues on her homeland. She utilizes social media to educate and inform her peers and many relatives. After elementary school, Rosebud was home schooled by her parents and older siblings. She has performed the pow-wow Fancy Dance in dance troupes across America, sharing her Lakota music and dance. Rosebud toured Europe with her father, Alex, promoting Industrial Hemp as a solution to the fossil fuel industry and a land friendly agricultural option. Rosebud is a stay at home wife and mother, raising her children in the Lakota Way of Life.

Reuben Cruz, Writer / Outreach / Graphics
Reuben is a Pee Posh, Maricopa, Quechan father/musician/poet/organizer/humanist from the Gila River Nation near Phoenix, AZ. He documents stories of love and circumstance gathered from places he’s seen or lived.  As an emcee (Che Christ), he uses his storytelling skills to bring messages of social justice and respect for all peoples through positive hip-hop music. Reuben teaches writing workshops with youth in urban centers and in Native communities. He collaborates on events that use film, art and music to celebrate contemporary activist movements. As a member of Prairie Dust Films, Reuben works as story consultant, writer, sound recordist, artist and post-production assistant on feature documentaries, including, Crying Earth Rise Up. He is also involved in outreach with Standing Silent Nation

Location and Time

Augsburg University
Sateren Auditorium, Music Hall, 715 22nd Ave South
Reception 6:15-6:45
Screening begins at 7:00
Discussion with participants follows
This event is free to the public

For parking directions visit: You will be parking in Lot D. You will need a parking permit. For parking permits contact M. Elise Marubbio at Permits are limited in number.

Thank you to our sponsors: Augsburg University, American Indian, First Nations, and Indigenous Studies Department, American Indian Student Services, Augsburg Indigenous Student Association, Center for Global Education at the University of Minnesota, Vision Maker Media, Documentary Educational Resources.