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Filmmakers Hope to Honor Lakota Veterans and Warrior Spirit in Film

(NPN) –  If fundraising is successful, Native American veterans living on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Lakota warrior culture may be featured in two independent films.

Photojournalists Svetlana Bachevanova (FotoEvidence) and Anthony Karen, writer K.J. Wetherholt and award-winning filmmaker Pamela Theodotou, Tuesday announced the production of the multimedia project Warriors from the Reservation.The project, if fully funded, would incorporate photo exhibitions, two documentary films to be produced for the international film festival circuit and a print/digital book with both text and photography. The works would explore the warrior tradition and experiences of Lakota veterans from Pine Ridge.

One of the films, We Bleed Too: The Story of Tony Bush, a documentary short currently in post-production, features Bush, a Lakota veteran who served in Vietnam and was a participant in the Wounded Knee incident in 1973.  The short film depicts his quest to be awarded amended discharge status and benefits that have been mired in red tape at the U.S. Veterans Affairs. A story with video footage and stills by project producers about Bush and his legal efforts will be appearing in The Huffington Post.

The Pine Ridge Reservation, was chosen as a location for its efforts for cultural survival deriving from the Lakota warrior philosophy, from the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890), to events surrounding the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s, including the Wounded Knee Incident in 1973.

The overall project, already in progress, has received letters of support from the Oglala Sioux Tribal President and the head of the Oglala Sioux Homeless Veterans Shelter.

A Kickstarter campaign for additional funds to complete the films and photographic production on location in Pine Ridge, SD will commence near Columbus Day (Native American Day in S.D.) in mid-October 2013, ending just after Veteran’s Day.

According to the filmmakers, participation in the United States military among all Native Americans is proportionally higher than any other ethnic group. They also say that the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan bring back to the reservation a large number of Native Americans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of their war experience.

The filmmakers also say there is an increasing amount of evidence showing that American Indian veterans have the highest rate of PTSD of any ethnic group and face significant barriers to care, which increases the levels of dysfunction, including in terms of already high levels of violence and crime.

Besides noting injustices against the Lakota people, the project producers also want to show viewers the reaction of Lakota veterans to the experience of war and coming home to the reservation. Further, the filmmakers say they also plan to feature the positive aspects of Lakota means of healing through traditional ceremony and the support of the larger Lakota community.

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