Shadowtrain: Under a Crooked Sky explores a hybrid way of life merging modern society with the ancient practices of people who have lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years; native American Indians. The film reveals its message through the journey of a group of renowned musical artists as they share their rock music on a road trip through Indian reservations of the southwest.
The sun is setting on a mesa top overlooking the centuries old Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. A makeshift rock band calledShadowtrain performs along with colorful ceremonial “ghost dancers” and powerful native drummers. Throughout an odyssey that has concluded here, the musicians have embarked into the dark heart of American history and of human nature itself, but emerged with a vision for a better way of life.
The journey begins as influential guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob), drummer and artist Vinnie Nicastro, and a small group of politically engaged musicians climb into an old station wagon in the southwest desert. They pull a vintage horse trailer carrying band equipment, solar panels, generators and camping gear.
Traveling the back roads, they search for a truth that can speak to power. They visit Pueblo, Zuni, Navajo, Hopi and Ute reservations in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. During their sometimes emotional, occasionally hysterical and always moving odyssey, they discover qualities inherent in indigenous people’s world-views that should be recognized and adopted by everyone in order to live happier, more meaningful lives. The members of Shadowtrain engage a variety of opinions from notable activists, authors, elders and shaman, government officials, clergy, teachers, tribe and council members, Bureau of Indian Affairs and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM).
They figure out ways to bring much-needed computers and books to reservation schools. They explore traditional and alternative building methods and how to incorporate solar and other sustainable energy sources into the reservations. The musicians ofShadowtrain donate guitars and instruments to people on the reservations who are pursuing music and are in need of a means to expand their capabilities. The band invites local natives into their musical performances, setting up amongst majestic canyons and mesa tops as they visit the reservations.
As manifest destiny unfolded a couple of centuries ago, a critical opportunity of merging two cultures was lost. Shadowtrain: Under a Crooked Sky illuminates the cost of the destruction of the Native American community, to both the indigenous population as well as to their European conquerors. It reveals the vacuous nature of our modern worldview, a philosophy of unrestrained materialism, disconnected from the natural world. A powerful message when juxtaposed against the historical world-view of indigenous people. Their connection to the earth, their sense of humility and compassion, and their belief that all actions have long lasting consequences are inspiring.
The film reveals that it’s not too late for us to adapt to some of the ways that are inherent to Native Americans. It explores a synergy of the best of old and new ideas that have proven successful. The film offers concepts that can improve the way we are living on this planet by understanding the lessons and ways of indigenous peoples.
It provides examples, from simple black plastic roof-mounted reservoirs for naturally heated water, to native wind and solar equipment manufacturing, to infrastructures made up of many smaller community based micro-grids running off of a mix of wind turbines and passive solar power.
People they meet on the reservations include Dale Sanchez, great grandmother, family matriarch, and full-blooded Acoma. She leads them to the top of Sky City, Acoma Pueblo’s 400-foot-high sacred heart and spiritual epicenter. Nearly a thousand years ago, native people lived on these 70-acres of high rock. Niches in the back of the ancient church are for offerings. “Cornmeal, tobacco, water,” says Dale. “We leave simple offerings because our lives are simple.” Mother Nature stays close to the people, even at home. Acoma never sweep all the dirt from their houses, but leave some just inside the door. “The dirt inside the door is Mother Nature, a magnet to pull your children, friends, family home safely.” Dale has lived her life there, and she continues to plant seeds of knowledge that her grandfather taught her throughout his life into future generations.
Dale’s daughter, Sharlyn Chino is an educator and artist. Her passion is to bring awareness to future generations of the qualities of her people’s past ways of life, to help them with the challenges of modern life. She was taught how to create pottery in the traditional Acoma style by previous generations of family potters and she and her husband create beautiful handcrafted pieces.
Buck Conchos’ family has been at New Laguna in New Mexico for 2,000 years (yes 2-thousand)! Buck and his wife, Ella, invite native bands to play each year on the Laguna reservation in a festival he created called “Buckfest.” The Conchos create opportunity for young and aspiring musicians. He connects Shadowtrain with excited young musicians to receive instruments and jam with the band.
Greg Lewis is a jeweler and activist who was part of the Alcatraz Island occupation by a group of Indians comprised of all tribes during 1969 through 1971. He and his son, Dyaami Lewis are artists and farmers, continuing to practice the traditions of their forefathers, cultivating the native farm land and building in the traditional adobe style.
As filmmakers and musicians, we are pursuing this projectbecause we’ve realized that we have something important to reveal. We’re willing to put ourselves on the line and do something about what we believe are real problems with good solutions. We feel fortunate enough to be passionate about this, and as we pursue that passion, we feel it is our destiny to raise awareness through this documentary. We’d like to leave the world a better place than we found it.
Focusing on North America, the film reinforces the idea to act locally to infuse global action. The documentary lays out specific solutions and global ideas, illustrating a blueprint for a better way forward. It presents solutions to the planet’s currently dire situation by enacting proven methods of independent and sustainable living through community involvement, art and music. Ultimately it reveals how a new culture that utilizes the best of both native and non-native’s views of governing, managing economy and spiritual balance is possible.
Topics of discussion include:
- The missed opportunity of merging European and Indigenous cultures and practices.
- Sustainable ways to live; Indian culture and the earth vs. modern society. Introducing alternative ways to produce and deliver food, energy and the necessities of life. Review sustainable indigenous practices and how to apply them to current times.
- Kick starting economic opportunities without the need for outside investment by developing ideas that would allow native communities to prosper without abandoning their core principals. Including alternative and traditional building materials and construction skills, bison ranching, slaughtering, sales and distribution, passive and active solar production, installation and sales, etc.
- Decentralizing food production with easy to manage home and community farms.
- Finding ways to expand native radio.
- Assisting natives in their efforts to repatriate some of their former land base.
- What we can do to improve our current situation and identify potential solutions. Show efforts currently underway to inspire change.
In the final analysis, the film reveals to the audience that there is the possibility of a better, compassionate and less corrosive way to exist… that instant gratification comes with a very high price tag… and that indigenous people have known this both instinctively, and by trial and error, for thousands of years.
Running time will be around 80 minutes long.