A Different American Dream

"The oil industry is probably the most egregious of all industries. These are the same
people who brought us the Exxon Valdez, who polluted the Gulf of Mexico, so why wouldn’t they
snicker about something as trivial as some brush that maybe a few thousand Indians find sacred?"

Biron Baker, M.D., Tribal Doctor



On the edge of the magical Badlands in Western North Dakota, lies the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation,  home to 6500 members of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes. There the night sky burns with a thousand points of light from the flaring oil wells, but these are not the lights of hope but the flames from a new version of hell.  When the largest shale oil field in North America was discovered on the reservation, the explosion of industry brought sweeping changes to daily life. The landscape is now littered with oil wells, fracking towers, and toxic waste dumps and the average life expectancy on the reservation has dropped to an alarming 57, compared to 79 in the rest of the state. Some members of the tribe have profited from mineral rights, but this fleeting bubble of wealth, alongside widespread poverty, threatens to destroy the social fabric of the community. Sickness and disease, brought by the boom, are fracturing ancestral land and culture.

A Different American Dream follows the story of this upheaval and the remarkable attempts of some tribal leaders to save their land and the future of their society. Their journey becomes a broader story and asks the universal questions: What is the true meaning of wealth and what is the meaning of home?

From our first visit to Fort Berthold, the making of this film was informed by a sense of urgency. The speed and extent of cultural and environmental damage caused by the oil industry on the Fort Berthold Reservation is staggering and deserves immediate attention. With the utmost respect for our friends from the MHA Nation at Fort Berthold, we are rolling out an engagement campaign that responds to the seriousness of the social, environmental, and spiritual threat to their ancestral home at the hands of the oil industry.

The impact of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline on neighboring Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many on-going battles over fossil fuel extraction only underscore the importance of A Different American Dream and our engagement campaign.

 3 Generations is committed to supporting the rights, culture, land  and health of all Native American tribes in the United States.

  • Date: 2016
  • Running Time: 84' 21"
  • Produced by: Jane Wells
  • Directed by: Simon Brook
  • Distributed by: First Run Features
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