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Seattle International Film Festival May 20 2023

May 15, 2023

New Film “Tuhaymani'chi Pal Waniqa” (The Water Flows Always) to Make World Premiere at 2023 Seattle International Film Festival

Wayfinders Circle

In the first of a series of global films highlighting Indigenous Peoples from the Wayfinders Circle, water and culture bring together a father and daughter as they fight to protect their Indigenous homelands in Southern California.

SEATTLE, WA (May 15, 2023) – We are thrilled to announce that Tuhaymani'chi Pal Waniqa (The Water Flows Always) is an official selection for the Academy Award-qualifying 2023 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). It is the first release in an upcoming series of films created as part of the Wayfinders Circle – a global network of Indigenous guardians who protect their lands, waters, and territories, and who are dedicated to sharing the transformative potential of Indigenous lifeways.

As a collaboration between Indigenous communities and creative storytellers, Tuhaymani'chi Pal Waniqa (The Water Flows Always) represents the power of collective filmmaking influenced by Indigenous guardianship of the region now known as Southern California since time immemorial. The film follows the story of a father seeking to reconnect his daughter with her Indigenous roots and with the ancient springs of the Mojave Desert, just as a water mining project threatens their very existence.

“When we first learned of the illegal efforts to mine the water underneath the Mojave Desert, we were more dismayed than surprised. But those feelings soon turned to creative energy as we witnessed the galvanizing force this threat was having among Indigenous Peoples of the area,” said film co-director Gina Milanovich (Cahuilla, Cupeño). “With both of us deeply motivated to tell stories about underrepresented viewpoints that can have a real impact on environmental issues,” continued co-director Nils Cowan, “we quickly bonded over an approach that would weave together two storylines: An investigative look at the Cadiz water mining project; and the experiences of a father and daughter reconnecting with their traditional homelands and practices.”

The film was created in partnership between the Wayfinders Circle convenors (Nia Tero, Pawanka Fund, and the World Union of Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners) and the Native American Land Conservancy (NALC) – a member of the Wayfinders Circle that protects and restores sacred sites and areas in their ancestral lands, provides educational programming for Native American youth and the general public, and conducts scientific studies on cultural, biological, and historical resources on sacred lands.

“This is the first time we've ever done something like this,” shared Sean Milanovich, Ph.D. (Cahuilla), Vice President of NALC. “Having this documentary film involving Tribal members, community members from right here at Agua Caliente all the way to the Colorado River at Chemehuevi and involving community members from in between coming together, celebrating all these beautiful things and reminding us that we are the caretakers of this land is so good. And that the water can teach us, the water can help us, the water heals us.”

“We have been blessed many times over by the relationships and memories made while co-creating this story and can only hope that by bringing it to the Indigenous communities of the Mojave and to international audiences, we can make a difference in protecting sacred lands and waters everywhere,” continued directors Milanovich and Cowan.

You can view the world premiere of Tuhaymani'chi Pal Waniqa (The Water Flows Always) in person on May 20, 2023 as part of CONNECTED by WATER at the Seattle International Film Festival, and stream virtually from May 22 - 28. Tickets can be purchased online here.

About the Directors:

  • Gina Milanovich (Cahuilla, Cupeño) is a filmmaker who explores stories about the Mojave Desert ecosystem and the efforts of Tribal Nations in Southern California and Arizona to protect their land and water rights.
  • Nils Cowan is a documentary producer/writer with twenty years of experience working on award-winning original features and shorts. His work has focused on uplifting and amplifying underrepresented stories and perspectives.

About Native American Land Conservancy:

The Native American Land Conservancy (NALC) is a US-based nonprofit organization that purchases and owns land collectively, as a land trust, governed by local Native American leaders who have a historical, cultural, and spiritual connection to their ancestral lands and are seen as the legal/practical “owners” and stewards of their lands. The NALC works with tribes and advocates for tribes at all levels to protect the gifts of the Creator to the people. The NALC combines Traditional Environmental Knowledge of the local Tribes with the Western scientific paradigm to protect and restore fragile desert ecosystems, Native communities, Native plants, endangered animals, and critical water resources. The NALC strongly advocates for the protection of water in the Mojave Desert and has successfully protected many endangered and sacred springs. Visit Website / Visit Wayfinders Circle Website NALC Page

About Wayfinders Circle:

Wayfinders Circle - logo

The Wayfinders Circle is a new collaborative initiative and platform convened by the Pawanka Fund and Nia Tero, with the guidance of the Council of Elders of the World Union of Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners (WUISP). The Wayfinders Circle supports and gathers Indigenous guardians from around the world who protect their lands, waters, and territories. It is also a learning network dedicated to investing in Indigenous Wayfinders and sharing possible pathways for human societies to achieve ecological, social, cultural and spiritual harmony.

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About Pawanka Fund:

The Pawanka Fund—which is an Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning Initiative—is committed to the concept of intercultural philanthropy, based on ancestral practices of solidarity and reciprocity of Indigenous Peoples. Intercultural Philanthropy builds from the knowledge that Indigenous Peoples have our own learning processes, systems of knowledge and ways to integrate new information, values, and interpretations and to share them with younger generations.

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About the World Union of Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners (WUISP):

World Union of Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners (WUISP) is an open voluntary alliance of Indigenous spiritual practitioners, shamans, healers, sacred sites guardians, cultural activists, holders of traditional Indigenous knowledge and values, Indigenous organizations and clans committed to working together with the common goal of achieving the mission and vision for protection of Mother Earth and strengthening of pristine ties human-nature- culture for the survival and wellbeing of generations to come.


In this film from Wayfinders Circle, a father and daughter seek to reconnect with the sacred springs of the Mojave Desert, just as a multibillion-dollar water mining project threatens their very existence.