Indigenous Filmmaker Reflects On Being A 'Water Protector'

Dec 10, 2016

For Tracy Rector, the water was always a scary place. She never learned to swim as a kid. At summer camp she would sit on the dock and enviously watch the other kids pass their swim tests. 

However, as Rector grew up and became a filmmaker, her relationship to water changed. Rector is a mixed race Indigenous woman, a descendant of the Seminole and Choctaw Nations, and she decided to use her films to explore the connection between native peoples in the Northwest and the environment. Here in the Northwest an essential part of that is water.

Rector’s upcoming feature film, "Clearwater," is a documentary about that important connection. Making the film involved researching tribal stories and legends about water. It also meant spending hours by the water with native fishers, divers, and boat builders. In that process, she fell in love with the water. Although, she is still learning how to swim.

We spoke with Rector back in November, just days before she drove the 18 hours with her teenage son to North Dakota. She went to stand in solidarity with thousands of other indigenous people from across the country to prevent the construction of an oil pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands. Many are also concerned that the pipeline’s location, and the possibility of an oil leak, could threaten hundreds of miles of the Missouri River.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would look for an alternative route for the pipeline. Although that decision could be reversed under President-elect Donald Trump. Rector is still in North Dakota, helping with activist efforts to stop the pipeline. 

She spoke with Sound Effect's Jennifer Wing about why she feels called to stand with the "water protectors," the name the activists use instead of "protesters," and how it relates to her work here in the Northwest.