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Red Lake Project Preserve: Students slated to premier two new film documentaries

RED LAKE -- Students in Project Preserve, a special program at Red Lake High School, have traditionally scripted, acted and filmed a movie each year.

Often, the films relate to the growing pains of youth. But the Class of 2007 and Class of 2008 were commissioned to film documentaries.

The 2007 film, titled "Red Lake - The Sacred Heart of Our people," and the 2008 film, titled "Maamakaadenbaagwad - Miracle of the Walleye," will be premiered from 5-7 p.m. today at the Red Lake High School Mini Theater. A feast at the Red Lake Middle School cafeteria will follow the screenings.

Emilio Mendoza, a member of the Class of 2007 and a student at DePaul University in Chicago, described "Red Lake - Sacred Heart of Our People," which was sponsored as a water management documentary by RiverWatch.

"It was pretty much about the stories of Red Lake and the importance of the lake to community members," Mendoza said.

The film traces the history of Red Lake from the receding of the glaciers, the formation of Lake Agassiz, the arrival of the Anishinaabe from the east and their defeat of the Dakota Sioux, treaties with the U.S. government to modern day issues of fishing and lake protection. The film offers a general overview of Red Lake history.

"We showed a map of what the lake should have been," Mendoza said. "We should have the whole lake."

A dramatic scene is the depiction of a battle with the Dakota in the early 1700s which concludes with a warrior, played by Tom Barrett, looking at the bloody water and shouting to the sky, "Miskwaagamiiwizaaga'iganiing," Red Lake in Ojibwe.

Mendoza also plays the part of a warrior in the scene, as well as May-Dway-On-Ind, one of the hereditary chiefs who negotiated with the U.S. government in 1889 to keep Red Lake's land base intact.

"I'm opposed to having allotments made to us," he says in the scene.

As a result of the actions of the chiefs, Red Lake's land is held in common.

Mendoza said the students who worked on the film tried to include as much acting as possible to make a water management documentary exciting. In addition to Mendoza and Barrett, the writers, actors and cinematographers are Brittany Kingbird, Jordan Neadeau, Kayla Neadeau, Sally May and Lylah Beaulieu.

The Class of 2008's film about the successful restocking of the Red Lake walleye and reopening of the commercial fishery was commissioned by the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources through a grant from the Harvard Project on American Indian Development.

The film starts with images from the days of netting in the 1920s. Justin Jourdain, who graduated in May, said the students used old still photos in the style of a Ken Burns production to show the early commercial fishery. They also talked with elders, such as Leo Desjarlait, Charles Barrett and Jocko Thunder, who took part in the fishing decades ago.

Jourdain said one of the stories Desjarlait told was how he used a horse to pull the boxes of fish up the bluff from the lake.

The film then moves into the collapse of the walleye population, the restocking and the current state-of-the-art processing plant. The film is so up-to-date, Jourdain said students were still editing, tweaking and adding new footage days before the premiere.

Kris Sorensen, Project Preserve technician, said the film is also an educational tool to help tribal members understand the fishing regulations and the management necessary to keep the walleye stock at healthy population numbers. The final scene features Jourdain ice fishing and catching, measuring and releasing back into the lake a walleye too big to keep.

In addition to Jourdain, the Project Preserve students who produced "Maamakaadenbaagwad" are Tessy Johnson, Sherene Iceman, LD Harris, Ryan Brown, Ryan Stillday, Starr Jourdain, Clayton Jourdain, Sara Rushman and Brandy Barrett.

Jourdain plans to enter Northland Community and Technical College in the fall and study criminal justice. Mendoza said he plans to spend a semester at Bemidji State University this fall and enter Duke University for spring semester for its top-rated political science program. Both graduates said Project Preserve was an important experience for them.