9.10.18 – Documentary director and producer Melinda Janko screened her film “100 Years” at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort, Monday, September 10, 2018. The film, “100 Years” depicts Elouise Cobell’s 30-year fight for the rights of Native Americans following 100 plus years of abuse by the United States Government. Screenings took place at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. with time allotted after each screening for a question and answer session with Janko.
Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, filed a lawsuit against the Departments of Interior and Treasury in order to get the U.S. government to account for funds owed to Native Americans through oil, mineral and land use rights. The case spent 15 years in the court system and was resisted by the Clinton and Bush administrations. In 2009, the case was settled with $3.4 billion awarded to 300,000 beneficiaries of the Indian Trust Fund. It is the largest settlement award in U.S. history.
Janko happened upon the story in its infancy while reading an article in Mother Jones magazine. Appalled by the injustice of the United States Government, Janko reached out to Cobell. Initially, Elouise was not interested in having her plight documented, though she did come around and gave Janko her blessing. Cobell trusted Janko in telling her story to the world, in order to give a voice to all indigenous people.
“She never, ever quit, despite the massive obstacles created by the U.S. Government,” said Janko of Cobell. Janko was moved by Elouise Cobell’s hard-fought battle to right a historic wrong. Janko is the head of independent production company Fire in the Belly Productions, Inc. based in southern California. Fire in the Belly Productions, Inc. specializes in creating documentary films “that make a difference.”
The film, “100 Years” is available on Netflix for the next two years. In the state of Montana, Elouise’s home state, the school system purchased 300 copies of the film and implemented a 76-page curriculum around her work.
Elouise Cobell passed away in October 2011. In November of 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Cobell is also slated to be one of the first inductees into the National Native American Hall of Fame in October 2018.