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for people who care about the West

A water tale to set you on fire

  Documentary filmmaker Drury Gunn Carr doesn't seem to mind a little violence. Past projects with fellow producer Doug Hawes-Davis record coyote extermination (HCN, 7/31/00: Killing Coyote), wild horse harassment (HCN, 8/13/01: On the trail of an "exotic" native) and prairie dog shooting (HCN, 1/18/99: Another dog done gone) with a grim, unflinching eye.


Thankfully, Gunn Carr's first foray into Native American issues, called Wind River, has no body count. But it's equally affecting: You walk away incensed.


Despite holding the oldest - and best - water rights in Riverton Valley, Wyo., the Shoshone tribe isn't allowed to send water downstream to restore fish runs, although farmers upstream legally inundate fields. The 34-minute documentary chronicles the tribe's legal battle to change Wyoming water law, a bid that in 1991 went all the way to the state Supreme Court and failed.


As in earlier films, memorable characters tell the story: the Shoshone elder, the sugar beet farmer, and the chief justice who speaks with a smile of the tribe's predicament: "That's what happens when (your ancestors) lose" a war with the U.S. Afterward, it's hard not to side with the Shoshones.


When asked about his goal for Wind River, Gunn Carr is modest. "I think it's sort of a primer to show this is a common issue throughout the West."


To get involved, e-mail Dick Baldes of Wind River Alliance Group, rbaldes@wyoming.com. To purchase the $20 video, call High Plains Films at 406/543-6726, or e-mail dru@wildrockies.org.

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Rachel Jackson