34 minutes, 1999, DVCAM

“Wind River”
Library Journal, March 1, 2001
by Nancy Paul

This video looks at the complex struggle between Wyoming’s Wind River Indian tribes and the ranchers or farmers who have used the water from the river for irrigation since the1900s. Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have gone to court in past decades to press their water rights and demonstrate a growing concern that the river will dry up along with their heritage. To its credit, this low-key video presents a balanced look at the issue, even though it clearly warns of the ecological risks if irrigation, diversion, and dam building continue at their current rate. The farmer sin the area are the ancestors of white homesteaders who came to the area following the U.S. government policy to turn the plains, formerly held by the tribes, into agricultural lands. For their part, the tribes claimed and won first water rights, hoping to develop fisheries, a sustainable venture that would preserve the waterway. The film consists of historic footage, along with interviews with tribal authorities, water district officials, ranchers, a beleaguered state engineer, and others. The beautiful views of the river and surrounding area alone make a plea to preserve this fragile land. The film does not present any conclusions that will make all parties happy; viewers will leave feeling that we may all lose this battle if water is not conserved and care is not taken. Water rights are a big issue in the Western United States; circulation in a general, smaller collection is apt to be sluggish. A good purchase for environmental, Native American, and contemporary issues collections in larger public and academic libraries.