Knowledge is deepened when learning experiences foster connection, mutual respect and a shared vision.

Indigenous Leaders from tribes in Arizona and the Whanganui River in Aotearoa/New Zealand participated in an Indigenous knowledge exchange about the health and healing of our rivers.

Short Documentary Film (12:06 minutes)

Synopsis: In 2020, concerns for the threatened Colorado River Basin drove Indigenous Leaders from Arizona on a remarkable journey to meet the Māori peoples of the Whanganui River. After winning a 175-year battle, the Whanganui River Tribes inspired the world when New Zealand law recognized their river as a living entity.

Selection: American Indian Film Festival 2021 Best Documentary Hepwesa Award Winner: Indie Film Fest 2023

Director: Anna Marbrook

Film Resources

A guide for deeper engagement with the concepts discussed in the film. It is intended for diverse audiences, including 7-12 grade classrooms, universities and communities.

Six months after the exchange, Tribal Leaders from Arizona share what they learned and their vison for their communities.

After a three year hiatus due to the pandemic, Tribal leaders are reunited at Avi Kwa Ame (Spirit Mountain), the Mojave’s place of origin.

Photo credits: Jess Charlton and Amanda Cheromiah

Anna Marbrook

Anna has a 30 year international career spanning film, television, live event, theatre and grass-roots community based projects. Anna co-founded Theatre at Large, devising and directing both new work and classics including King Lear starring Ian Mune, Rachel House and Miranda Harcourt; Manawa Taua/Savage Hearts with Cliff Curtis and Rachel House; Cyrano de Bergerac with Cameron Rhodes and Jacob Rajan. These works toured New Zealand and International festivals.

Aleena M. Kawe (Yoeme)

CEO, Red Star International, Inc.

Aleena has served as a leader and advocate in Indigenous health working in partnership with communities to transform ideas into action for nearly 30 years. Having grown up in the desert and around the Colorado River, Aleena witnessed first-hand the changes in the river over more than four decades. As Red Star’s CEO, Aleena saw an opportunity to uplift Indigenous wisdom and prompt systems change through an international leader exchange.

Executive Producer
Turama Hawira Te Pou Tupua (Face and Voice of the River)
Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River)

Turama is one of two leaders who jointly perform in a singular role as Te Pou Tupua to act and speak on behalf of Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River), and to promote and protect its health and wellbeing. Te Pou Tupua was established under the Whanganui River Treaty settlement to act as the human face of Te Awa Tupua.

Support for this film was provided by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Agnes Nelms Haury in Environment and Social Justice and the NZ Film Commission.

Learn more about Red Star’s efforts to advance Indigenous-led systems transformation.