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Film documents the Native struggle with POPs

BEMIDJI, Minn. - An informative yet disturbing documentary film detailing the devastating effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on Native Americans won top honors at a prestigious film festival in February.

The film, Drumbeat for Mother Earth, produced by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace, won Best Environmental Documentary at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in mid-February.

This is a great honor for all those who worked on the film, said co-producer Joe Di Gangi, a spokesperson for Greenpeace. More important than the films accolades is the recognition by audiences of the tremendous threat persistent organic pollutants are having on Native Americans across the country.

POPs are chemicals such as dioxins and PCBs that are highly toxic in small quantities and remain in the environment for long periods of time. As illustrated in the film, POPs have become a silent plague in Native communities whose land and water have become polluted.

Di Gangi says that until the chemical industry and the U.S. government recognize and halt POPs, they will continue to affect the traditions, diets and livelihoods of Native people.

The film, made for less than $50,000, was funded jointly by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace in hope of creating awareness about the deadly toxins.

The award is not the focus for us. The film was developed as an educational and organizing tool, said Charlotte Caldwell, an organizer and spokeswoman with the Indigenous Environmental Network. The video features testimony from a variety of Indigenous Nations in the United States, Central America and the Arctic, as well as interviews with scientists, activists and representatives of the chemical industry.

The films recognition came weeks before a delegation of Native peoples from North America were to travel to Bonn, Germany, for the fourth round of United Nation-sponsored talks to eliminate the production and use of POPs. The delegation hopes for development of an international treaty that will outlaw 12 chemicals that include PCBs, DDT and dioxin.

Tom Goldtooth, national director of the Indigenous Environmental Network and co-producer of the film, said members of the Indigenous delegation come from Alaska Canada, the Arctic and other regions in the world. There also is a Yaqui ceremonial leader from Sonora, Mexico.