Guardians of the Sacred follows 20 sacred site guardians from around the world as they journey to the Hawaiian island of Kaho‘olawe for shared ceremony and strategic dialogue before attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu in September 2016. Along the way they share heartfelt stories of success and failure as they commit to work together in a worldwide effort to protect sacred places and indigenous land rights.

Instead of traditional protesters, these guardians are “protectors” — they protect their lands and waters for future generations, by addressing both the ecological and the spiritual dimensions of land and water. This new framing of activism emerged into public consciousness at Standing Rock in North Dakota, at the same time we were filming these remarkable leaders articulating this powerful alternative way of seeking social and environmental justice.

Through our footage at the IUCN World Conservation Congress we see that the conservation movement is awakening to the value and importance of indigenous leadership as we all seek a way out of global crisis. Balancing politics and spirituality is an essential element of this new way forward and indigenous guardians of sacred sites are grappling with these issues in a deep and fundamental way that offers new hope.

Produced by the Sacred Land Film Project