Frozen Homeland from NAFSA on Vimeo.
WATERSMEET, MICHIGAN — Facing the harshest winter on record, skyrocketing propane prices and some of its members choosing between food and heat, the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians is the subject of a new documentary short which takes viewers on a journey to one of the most geographically-isolated areas of the United States in a compelling story of survival.
“Frozen Homeland,” (available at MYNAFSA.org) created by award-winning filmmakers of Earthstream Media at Legend Group Studios, is the story of a band of Native Americans doing everything they can to survive under brutal, life-threatening conditions. The filmmakers were provided unprecedented access to the tribe’s leaders, members and the Reservation itself.
“Ours is a story of survival,” said Lac Vieux Desert Tribal Chairman Jim Williams, who is featured in the documentary. “We are very proud people with a roaring entrepreneurial spirit and driven to take care of one another.”
The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Reservation is located on their traditional homeland, 10 miles north of the Wisconsin border on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Many American Indian tribes are geographically isolated, but the Lac Vieux Desert’s location in the Upper Peninsula is uniquely remote.
Determined to overcome the challenges of geographic isolation, the tribe has relentlessly sought to maintain its self-sufficiency, staying focused on sustainability through economic development. Tribal leaders are doing all they can to help their people through revenues generated through its various business ventures. It’s these ventures that have helped the tribe survive, achieve and grow stronger.
One of the businesses featured in the documentary is the tribe’s online lending enterprise, a key revenue generator for the tribe, providing 42 percent of its general fund budget. The revenue from the business is used to fund core programs and services offered by the tribe including housing, education, health services, scholarships and propane assistance to help tribal members survive the harsh winters.
“We have an online lending business that we started about three years ago that has been very profitable for the tribe when it comes to providing dollars for the services that we need to provide for our people,” Chairman Williams said.
The documentary explores how federal cutbacks as well as new regulatory challenges are impacting the tribe’s licensed online businesses. Now tribal leaders are not only fighting to survive the harsh winter but to preserve their basic right of sovereignty.
“We find ourselves asking for Congress to help us preserve those rights and our sovereignty to make sure that they’re not jeopardized,” said Chairman Williams.
“Frozen Homeland” is available for instant viewing at http://vimeo.com/91351636. To learn more about the documentary or to schedule a screening, contact the Native American Financial Services Association at http://MYNAFSA.org.