Written by Ali Zaid
It all began when a spiritual advisor from the Ojibwa Bald Eagle clan in Great Falls, Montana named Robert Gopher who was well known throughout the reservations in North America and Canada. It was on one summer day in 1986 during one of his many visits to the Fort Belknap Reservation to visit his friend Joe Azure and David Healy. A conversation came up about a Canadian company mining on the reservation using cyanide to extract gold. Robert asked the question, “Isn’t cyanide used to kill people?” David answered, yes, and that he had been offered a job to pick up dead animals around the mine, but refused. And began sharing stories about miscarriages, still birth, birth defects and many other health problems to the residents. And then Robert replied, “We have to stop them.”
Being the spiritual leader that he was, he advised them to get the Sweat Lodge ready. During the Sweat, they all prayed to Creator for help and guidance on how to fight the largest cyanide mining company in North America, Pegasus Gold. So began the organization, Red Thunder, to fight Pegasus Gold.
For several months they conducted Sweat Lodges and sacred Pipe ceremonies asking for guidance from Creator on how to fight the multi-national company. It was during an intense meditation and prayers that the Spirit revealed a dream to a young man in Boulder, Colorado. Here is his story.
My name is Ali Zaid from Boulder, Colorado.
After being injured for six months, I began reading a book called Medicine Woman. About halfway through the book, I had a dream of me and a Medicine Man sitting on my sofa talking. As my mind’s eye began to zoom in on his face, I remembered his eyes. It affected me so much that I began searching for those eyes.
Late one night while I was having dinner at the Swiss Chateau restaurant, and since it was a slow evening, one of the waitresses asked if she could join me. As she sat down, she asked if I had read any good books. I told her yes, I’ve been reading Medicine Woman, but that I was looking for a Medicine Man. Then she went to call one of her girlfriends, and came back with a piece a paper with a phone number and said, “you asked for it, and there it is. He is coming to Boulder next week.”
After I called the number on the paper, I received an address. After arriving at the address the following week, there he was sitting in a rocking chair speaking about the sacred Sweat Lodge. When he removed his glasses to wipe his eyes, we made eye contact and those eyes were the same ones from my dream. Then he asked if I was ready to go and sweat. I said yes. It was the most intense ceremony I had ever done. There was such intense heat and prayers. At the end of the ceremony he asked my name and asked, “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you.” I invited him to my home and we talked all night. Then he asked me to come and visit him in Great Falls.
The following year, I went to visit Robert and he said, “Today, we’ll go and meet your brother. He is soft spoken like you, Ali.” We then drove to Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana and I was introduced to Joe Azure. After spending several hours talking, we drove around the reservation to meet with people affected by gold mining owned by Pegasus Mining Company. I was totally shocked by the devastation and affect of the mining to their land and water system. Robert said, “Ali, you will be the connection between My World and Your World.” At the end of our visit we did a sacred Sweat Lodge. I returned to Boulder knowing that this was the reason for my transformation and that Spirit had chosen my destiny.
Upon returning to Boulder, I went to my favorite coffee shop to meet with a friend to share my experience at Fort Belknap. As fate would have it, a lady sitting across from us overheard our conversation and said, "Excuse me, but I couldn't help overhearing your story. You should contact the LAW Fund (Land and Water Fund) and Environmental Law for help with this problem." I immediately went to the LAW Fund office where I met with the director, Kelly Green. After telling her my story, she assigned a young lawyer to assist me pro bono. His name was Paul Zogg. After hearing my story, he became very concerned with the situation and said, "We have to expose Pegasus." Afterwards, Paul started legal procedures to file an injunction against Pegasus.
Soon after, I sold my sports car to purchase a video camera and began making several trips to Fort Belknap to film many stories from the residents. Even making an hour hike up the mountain with Virgil McConell to get shots of the mine at work. Several incidents had happened to make us very cautious. After each visit, we did a sweat lodge praying for guidance and protection.
Each time when I returned to Boulder, Karen Robertson, my friends and I would do fundraising to support the cause - money for video supplies, transportation, and etc. And on several occasions doing press conferences, newspaper ads to expose Pegasus for the damage the mine was causing. We started to receive help from many friends, volunteers, businesses, University of Colorado-Boulder, and even Green Peace organization.
Upon returning to Fort Belknap, not only did we do Sweat Lodges almost every day (my shorts never got dry), but we had press conferences, environmental conferences, and constant Memorial ceremonies and prayers asking for guidance. After several visits, I created about 50 t-shirts to pass out to everyone for their help, even people in Canada.
After collecting over 60 hours of footage, I remembered Robert saying, “Ali, we have enough to start. I had a dream that those above us will help us. “ I didn’t know where to begin until we went to visit Joe. When we walked in his house, several people were there talking. I got a cup of coffee and sat at the table with my camera. When the conversation changed to the mine I turned on my camera and suddenly Rose Main started crying and said, “My family really oppose this mining.” At that moment, I knew that would be the beginning of the movie. Later, Robert named it, Indian Tears of Love. Before leaving, we did another sweat to pray and give thanks for Robert’s dream and asked for guidance.
Over the years, I had made connections with the video production community as well as the University of Colorado. Everyone was anxious to help me. After doing Sweat Lodges, prayers, and Memorial feeds, my dreams began to come to show me what each segment should look like. I stated a storyboard and began writing the script. My dreams had become the director. After several weeks, it was finally done. Robert had made posters for the premier screening in Great Falls, Montana.
With one day until the showing, I caught a flight to Great Falls. Robert met me and said, “You made it. We have to go sweat and pray.” It felt so good to be with him in the lodge where it all began.
The next morning we arrived at a community center where a large crowd of people anxiously awaited the first showing of Indian Tears of Love.
A month later we had a screening of the film in Boulder, Colorado, where we had the Aztec dancers performing, several guest speakers, and finally Robert Gophers speech was delivered and the movie was shown.