Before coronavirus disrupted the annual Oneida Nation Big Apple Festival, tribal wildlife officials released a rehabilitated bald eagle into the air. It was a symbol of healing derived from the tribe’s creation story, an oral history about the Holder of the Sky. A tale of two twins competing for two very different lifeways— one plotting a path for peace, the other, for poison— and when goodness prevailed, the right handed twin earned the Oneida’s fabled namesake.
Today, a similar story of two competing ideas is playing out on the Oneida Nation Apple Orchard, a 30-acre tree farm nestled against the wealthy Village of Hobart. It’s an unlikely setting for a battle over taxes and land entitlements. But here in central Wisconsin, the tensions between the Oneida tribe and the local community have grown to what one public radio journalist described as being as thorny as the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. “Do Native tribes really have the ability to buy land that non-Native people currently live on, including, eventually, an entire town?” she asked. The answer is yes.
Through cinematic verite and compelling character-driven narratives, HOLDER OF THE SKY will journey to the Oneida Nation as it attempts to reclaim swindled land and restore tribal identities erased by centuries-old agreements made with the United States. A story of strength and resiliency set on an apple farm in middle America, the film will unearth a buried truth about the colonization of this country— a lesson that wasn’t taught in schools.