Photo by Suree Towfighnia
Debra White Plume watches an approaching storm. Photo by Suree Towfighnia

Debra White Plume Fights for Sacred Water—With a Film. Want to See It?

Natalie Hand

For many people on this planet, water is taken for granted.  They turn on their faucet and expect clean drinking water every time.  But what if you turned on your tap and nothing came out?  Or what did come out was discolored or flammable?

Until you’re faced with this reality, you may feel that it’s not your problem.  Guess what? It is your problem!  And mine, and every Tom, Juan, and Sven’s on this planet.

Debra White Plume (Wioweya Najin Win), Executive Director of Owe Aku, is an Oglala Lakota grandmother and water rights activist who is taking on Cameco, the world’s largest producer of uranium, near her homeland on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota.

White Plume’s call to action has prompted a series of non-violent direct action trainings around North America to prepare people to rise up and stand strong to protect our most precious commodity—sacred water.

The 'Crying Earth Rise Up' team wants to bring their film to the masses—visit for the latest news of possible screenings and broadcast campaigns.

White Plume’s courage and commitment to protecting water and the land are showcased in the highly anticipated new documentary entitled Crying Earth Rise Up, produced by renowned filmmaker Suree Towfighnia.

RELATED: It's Mother Earth vs. Father Greed in New Pine Ridge Uranium Documentary

The film was featured at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival in Sedona, AZ.  White Plume and Towfighnia, along with co-star Elisha Yellow Thunder, were on hand for the film’s premiere in Sedona.  The documentary, filmed over several years, follows the lives of two Oglala Lakota women, whose lives intersect over a common cause: water.  White Plume is a seasoned activist who has spent her entire life fighting for native and environmental rights.  Yellow Thunder is a young mother of a daughter born with extraordinary birth defects.   The film focuses on their mutual interest of the effects that uranium mining has on their water sources.

Attention NYC readers: Crying Earth Rise Up is screening later this month. Visit for updates.

Sedona was the first stop in this leg of the "Tour of Resistance to Protect Sacred Water."

“The Tour of Resistance 2015 is about celebrating and encouraging Red Nations’ resistance to the desecration of sacred water and ancestral lands," says White Plume. "It is about establishing new and strengthening existing alliances among the many camps of Earth’s Army.  From traveling through the lands, providing training camps, speaking engagements, strategic planning meetings, prayer circles with the Cheyenne Nation, Lakota Nation, Diné Nation, Apache Nation, Annishanabe Nation (Canada), Gila River Nation and Palestinian allies, the message is out there to continue to resist, to engage, to empower, to act collectively, to never give up.  The Tour of Resistance will travel throughout the coming months to do a lot of work through the Lakota Homelands with the Bands of the Lakota Nation.  Then it is getting on the road again to travel many miles, organizing and praying together, for Human Rights, Treaty Rights, respect for and defense of ancestral lands and sacred water."

The Tour of Resistance spent time with frontline activists at the Apache’s sacred, ancestral land known as “Oak Flat” in Arizona. Apache and Diné activists are maintaining a protest encampment at the entrance to their holy land to demand the repeal of a land exchange deal that Arizona Senator John McCain orchestrated in December, 2014.  The land swap gave prime land to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, which intends to mine copper there using the cheapest, most destructive method of mining known as “block cave” mining.  It is estimated that this operation will generate a cubic mile of mine waste that will impact the land and water for the native and non-native residents in the region.

Debra White Plume, center, flanked by supporters at the Sedona Film Festival.

Protecting clean drinking water shouldn’t label you an “activist”.  Clean drinking water is your human right.  But the humans are part of this problem too. 

Part of the message on the Tour of Resistance is to educate communities about corporations like multinational conglomerate Nestlé Corporation, who are bullying communities and aggressively sucking aquifers dry around the planet to satisfy humans’ incessant need for bottled water, among other things.   While Nestlé is the world’s largest producer of some of our favorite foods, many folks don’t realize Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck has become social media’s new favorite Dark Lord with his statements that  access to water is not a "public right."

Enter Pope Francis, complete with cape, to lend his voice to the cause.  On March 22, 2015, the Pope addressed his 1.2 billion strong congregation, declaring that water is “the most essential element for life” and “humanity’s future depends on our ability to care for it and share it”.

With 40% of Roman Catholics residing in Latin America, where shameless multinational mining companies have recklessly raped the land for their own greed, the Pope’s words are a call to action!  This ain’t your Dad’s high priest!  Times have changed and so must the mindset of all human beings!

If a Lakota grandmother and the Pope can stand together to protect our lifeblood—sacred water—will you?

For more information on the film and news of screenings or broadcasts, visit and

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