Armed with a backpack full of cameras, film and a tape recorder, McKiernan documented much of the 71-day occupation from the inside.

 He filmed what he would later call “a whole cycle of life”—babies being born, couples getting married, protesters being shot at and killed. McKiernan had to bury that film before he was arrested and charged for his involvement in the standoff, but he returned later to retrieve it.

Now, 42 years after the occupation, McKiernan, a veteran foreign correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-nominated documentary filmmaker, wants the world to see the inside stories. Since 2012, he and Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler have shot 100 hours of footage on three reservations and conducted interviews in five states.

The film, “Wounded Knee: A Line in the Sand,” will include current commentary and perspectives along with footage that has never before been broadcast. It also will reveal McKiernan’s story as a white man—an outsider, a “privileged guest”—inside the compound.

“From Wounded Knee I learned where the truth is,” he said. “If you want to take the temperature in America, it’s on the low road, not the high road. I learned to be interested in the stories of people who are at the very bottom.”

Assistant Producer: Jack Norton

Jack Norton is is an enrolled member of the Yurok tribe and an Emeritus Professor of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University.

Professor Norton was the first California Indian to be appointed to the Rupert Costo chair in American Indian History at the University of California, Riverside.

He is the author of several seminal works on Native American history and culture, including Genocide in Northwestern California: When Our Worlds Cried (1979, 1997), A Teacher’s Source Book on Genocide (1998), Natasha Goes to the Brush Dance (2000), Brave from Thunders (2003), and Centering in Two Worlds: Essays on Native Northwestern California History, Culture and Spirituality (2007).


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