Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (HBO)

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    Hi Family,

    I did not watch the movie, but I just read the following article and was disturbed:

    The following was written by Carter Camp, Ponca Nation:

    Ah-ho My Relations,

    > It has been a long buildup to the showing of HBO’s “Bury My Heart at

    > Wounded Knee”. We read about the good native cast that was being

    > assembled and as the date drew near Indian people were emailing the

    > starting dates and previews to each other. I remember telling my

    > brothers that “I know this will be hard to watch”. I knew that because

    > the book had touched my heart and I knew a movie would be even more

    > emotional. I think everyone was prepared to see a modern, well

    > researched movie that would be as truthful and hard hitting as the

    > book. It seemed all right that they had narrowed the book down to the

    > story of the 1890 massacre of the Lakota at Wounded Knee rather than

    > try to tell the whole book’s many stories of the genocide of Indian

    > people. It promised to be an Indian movie we could be proud of or at

    > least a truthful one to counter some recent stinkers like Pocahontas

    > and Apocalypto.

    > Of course that may have been wishful thinking seeing as how the

    > book galvanized a generation of Indian people to fight for the redress

    > of the historical wrongs done to our people. The book touched a nerve

    > with tribes across Indian Country and showed us graphically the

    > commonality of our many struggles. The book proved that what was done

    > to our people was a decades long, government inspired, well planned,

    > process of genocide and a movie showing the same was eagerly looked

    > forward to by Indians across the nation. The book was deeply

    > researched and exceptionally careful in its scholarship, Dee Brown was

    > one of the first historians to attempt to examine the native side of

    > the conquest of America.

    > The movie began with scenes of a screaming bunch of be-feathered

    > warriors charging down a hill and riding in a circle around and around

    > a tightly gathered group of soldiers bravely making a “last stand”

    > against the swarming horde. As anyone knows who has been to the actual

    > battlefield the soldiers death sites are scattered over many acres in

    > a big fan shaped area from where it began. It shows that with few

    > exceptions the soldiers were flushed like a covey of quail and died

    > running to escape. As the camera slowly faded from the scene I said

    > “uh-oh, I hope that wasn’t supposed to be Custer getting his arrow

    > shirt”.

    > It was, damn it all to hell, the movie began with one of the oldest

    > and tiredest of the old, tired Hollywood western stereotypes…

    > suicidal Indian warriors, too dumb to plan battle tactics, letting

    > themselves get picked off one by one by smart white soldiers who take

    > cover while the Indians ride around and around. A sinking sensation

    > began to come over me but I hoped against hope that this was perhaps a

    > counterpoint that would be explained later. That hope was futile, the

    > movie turned out to be full of those types of ignorant stereotypes and

    > to make it worse it was also full of historical mistakes so egregious

    > I doubt the perpetrators even read Dee Browns book! They had the

    > Paiute preacher Wovoka in South Dakota teaching the Lakota how to

    > Ghostdance and the protagonist Eastman devising the Dawes Act! They

    > berated the Lakota for fighting other tribes as if their early

    > displacement by the Ojibway was their fault. Every battle scene shows

    > the Lakota doing their B-western thing and charging straight into

    > superior whitemen shooting superior weapons. We see Lakotas getting

    > blown every which way until they run off and then sue for peace from

    > the superior white officer. I felt like I was back in my 1950’s youth,

    > watching a cowboys and redskins flick!

    > Worse than some of their historical mistakes was the lack of

    > important historical events like Chief Bigfoots desperate, 200

    > mile flight through the bitter, subzero cold under harassment by the

    > 7th cavalry. How could they not portray such a major part of the

    > story? Without Bigfoots attempt to save his people from the revenge

    > minded 7th cavalry by leading them to Red Clouds agency seeking

    > refuge, there would not have been a Wounded Knee massacre. They didn’t

    > even make it clear it was Custer’s old outfit that committed the

    > murders.

    > In this movie it made the massacre seem like a fair fight

    > with Lakota shooting as much as the whites not showing that our men

    > had been disarmed and only a very few had been able to hide a

    > weapon. It obscured the start and never mentioned, much less

    > portrayed, how so many unarmed women and children were murdered one by

    > one, execution style. It made it look like they were killed in the

    > heat of battle instead of being hunted down like rabbits and shot

    > point blank by crazed and drunken American heroes. It wasn’t hard to

    > watch, like the murder of innocent children should be, even though a

    > lot blood was splattered. Oh it got graphic with today’s special

    > effects how could it not, but the people didn’t seem real because in

    > this movie Indians have no personalities. Except for Adam Beach in a

    > couple of scenes, Indians were one dimensional and stoic (as

    > always) even Sitting Bull (the main personality of the Indian side)

    was never given any but the barest of motivations for his lifelong


    Which brings me to my biggest disappointment with the movie, no, I

    should say what pissed me off the most about this movie. They got

    everything Indian wrong! They sang Sundance songs at inappropriate

    times and danced the Ghost dance before a tree. The small things that

    make us Tribal people were distorted to make our societies the mirror

    of theirs. Things like our familial relationships were completely

    ignored and the fact that we had a governmental structure at all

    seemed unknown to the scriptwriter and director. That’s racist. It’s

    as if we were so primitive we lived dog eat dog lives while dictator

    chiefs ruled us with an iron fist. There were no clans, no societies,

    no woman’s voice, no respect in a society built on respect. Chiefs,

    the honored leaders of our societies who were chosen by the people

    because they openly lived their lives above reproach, were shown as

    venal, greed driven autocrats who held life and death powers over

    their people. Nothing could be more wrong. In one sickening scene they

    had Chief Sitting Bull tying up a boy and whipping him unmercifully

    for trying to leave camp! Worse again was the way, all of a sudden

    when the agent said there would be no Chiefs, all the Indians

    immediately obeyed him and shunned Chief Sitting Bull and gave him no

    more allegiance. Again no understanding of Indian society or a Chiefs

    role in our society. The historical record says the agent, who the

    movie shows as harshly dictating to an intimidated Chief Sitting

    Bull, was in reality deathly afraid of the Chief and generally kissed

    his ass while scheming behind his back. And the truth is the vast

    majority of Lakota people still revered and respected both Chief

    Sitting Bull and Chief Red Cloud.

    All of us have seen the beautiful way our Chiefs and Headsmen

    dressed when they had formal meetings with the whiteman or sat in

    Council for the people. In this movie in scene after scene our most

    respected leaders were dressed like 1930’s depression era bums! Why

    the hell was that done? The completely untrue and totally undignified

    portrayal of Chief Red Cloud must have been done with deliberate

    malice. He was shown as an overweight, sad and broken old man without

    dignity nor the respect of his people. The truth is a more proud,

    straight and tall example of Lakota pride and dignity cannot be found

    in all the pictures of that era. We can only ask why? Why the hell

    would you make a movie like this? Why would you ignore the very book

    the movie is named after and choose to make a movie from the ignorant

    1950’s? Why?

    I’m outraged that this movie was foisted upon us under the name of

    such a respected book. In a different more subtle way this movie is

    worse and more stereotypical than Mel Gibson’s stupidly violent

    Apocalypto. This movie disrespects those that died at Wounded Knee in

    the massacre of 1890, it disrespects those that survived, it

    disrespects the Lakota Nation and it disrespects Indian people, most

    of all it disrespects the book and its title. When will they ever


    Carter Camp, Ponca Nation

    😡 😡

    For those who read the book and/or watched the HBO movie, what are your thoughts?

    Ed Yancey

    Optimistic, I am disappointed that I did not know about the movie and get the opportunity to see it. The fact is I probably would have had to get up and go into another room of our home or just turn it off. Every now and then we see a real documentary or a true and realistic story of how things were but the fact is we have a generation on our hands (and that includes for the most part all our population) who just don’t care to hear the real truth. A wise man in the Bible by the name of Solomon said it,”there is nothing new under the sun.” Even today in the present war and danger our nation faces I listen to the accounts from the men who have just returned to know the true situation there and how they believe in what they are trying to accomplish. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who wanted to be known as an “Indian” after the eastern newspapers got through with their propaganda? Nothing has changed because the fact is, “The love of Money is the root of all Evil.” They know what the public wants to hear and so they make merchandise of it and sell it all the while dulling the ears to the truth. I am not surprised at the failure of and evidently the deliberate ignoring of truth in this production. As I say I did not see it but we must certainly approach these procuctions with care and reserve. I can only wish it would be different but history has proven otherwise and the hearts and minds of men have only confirmed it.

    Does this mean we must live in defeat? Never, we are commended to never grow weary in well doing, holding up the truth, doing good, fighting for the right and against Evil in any form it takes. In this neverending battle in every generation we must remind ourselves Evil can take many forms and use any person, race, or unit in society so many times we may even have to stand before and against those who have at one time been close to us. What remains is that we be found faithful before our God and Creator ! ED


    A wise man in the Bible by the name of Solomon said it,”there is nothing new under the sun.” Even today in the present war and danger our nation faces I listen to the accounts from the men who have just returned to know the true situation there and how they believe in what they are trying to accomplish. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who wanted to be known as an “Indian” after the eastern newspapers got through with their propaganda? Nothing has changed because the fact is, “The love of Money is the root of all Evil.”

    That’s true, nothing is new under the sun and the love of money is the root of all evil. I am in my mid-twenties and I’ve never “directly” experienced anything drastic before on U.S. soil. Sometimes I sit and wonder if another “Rosewood” or “Wounded Knee” could happen in this country during my lifetime? Very scary to think about.:(

    That’s why I look to the hills and put ALL my faith in God. We never know when it’s our “time to crossover”, so I make it my business to put God’s agendas before mine and honour HIM EVERYDAY.:D



    We did watch the movie. The main thing that bothered me was the modernizing of everything from language to clothing. I didn’t feel it an accurate portrayal of people from that time frame…but, as Ken told me…the movie was marketed to the HBO crowd and that age group (20s and 30s).

    I knew there must have been a lot left out of the movie…it moved so quickly through the time frame. Would probably been better as a mini series and had more time to be accurate. Since I am not an expert in NA history, I can’t address the accuracies of the actual happenings. I do feel it fell short of what it could have been. JMHO



    I think something of that nature could easily happen in this day and age. People become terrified of the unknown…look at the people persecuted after 9/11…store owners drug out and beat up or killed because they looked mideastern.

    People do strange things when desperate….watching Jericho (and it’s not as good as it could be, either) I see what could happen if there were a nuclear attack on the US. That just makes me more glad that I live in a rural area…and I learned a long time ago…make every minute count….you never know what’s around the bend.


    Hey Folks, wel B.M.H.at W. knee was filmed about 2 hrs. from here and I did a small bit of work for that movie.

    My first reaction to what I was shown was that even the costumes (ofcourse) were not made for the movie, but many of the costumes were made for eastern themes and really if you look at the costuming you can faintly see a very watered down version of the “real Mc Coys”.

    Custer Battle field is within a days drive of here and if people want I could probably post images from there here on the forum, but I have never been there although some of my family lived “down wind” from it for generations.

    I personally have no reason to go to such a place, but rather would go to more sacred grounds, the battle field is supposed to be as cold as back then and some say that there are ghosts that still reside there.

    AS for the film I have not seen it but since I do know what some of thier budgeting was like (atleast for my part) I can tell you that HBO doesn’t have much of a budget for this type of movie, it was made on the cheap!

    I know several people that were in the movie and I don’t believe that many of them are of Lakota heritage, so I have to ask if any of the folks in the movie are really familiar with the story and the history of the Lakota peole and the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

    I always try and take the best form these movies, like the articles that you see about people in the news none of them are really as correct as they could be, it’s filtered and re-filtered white washed and edited.

    I was once visiting with some very English friends and it was about the time Pocahontas came out, my Native friends and I were on the same page, “why did the not tell the truth about this story” my english friends said that “we” didn’t understand and gave the movie some sort of a title, it was not “Epic” I assure you , infact it was closer to parady.

    Anyway that’s what folks do, they tell history to themselves , digest the make me feel goodstuff and carry on giving thier version of what happened. We all do accept the truth on our own ground, the fall out is we don’t enable the people in this case the Lakota to tell thier own story!

    I won’t even get into the other native movies that have come out, but other than to say this, if it’s not your story and you can’t ask the people most involved in the storey to help then leave it alone!


    i have to say i agree a bit with all of you!! i watched the movie, there were some parts that were true & others not. white man did make us change our names, they did swindle us out of our land, & yes it all to do with money!! they also did what they do best…lied to us & break promises! they were jealous of us cause we were livin good & if they got greedy cause they were livin ruff.


    I saw the movie and was not impressed. I haven’t read the book (yet), so I can’t compare the two.

    That being said, I thought the movie showed Sitting Bull and the Lakota in a bad light.


    jealousy is the green eyed monster that sucks our spirits dry of all that is generous & wise!!


    i agree rockhound


    I think anyone who places too much into a movie/gets upset with a movie, has way too much time on their hands. It is called the entertainment industry for a reason, and to look for something “on a grand scale” as far as facts go from HBO…well there is a reason it is called “The Beastmaster Channel”.

    I never really ever hear about people raising such a huff over films like “The Untouchables”, “Bonnie & Clyde”, or even the movie “Deliverance” with it’s many stereotypes of people from the Appalachians that simply are not true. But as soon as an Adam Beach film, or anything with NA’s in it is released, people start complaining about the “bad light”. People complained about “The New World” not being representative of the Native peoples, yet it involved every Native tribe across the U.S. and from Canada.

    Again, films are not to be taken literally. It is just entertainment. If people think they can deliver a better representation of “Wounded Knee”, then they should grab a camera and make the film. I know indy film makers personally who made outstanding films with just one camcorder. But I seriously doubt anyone complaining will ever do that…they like to moan and groan too much.

    “Critics need jobs too” ~ B.B. King


    very well put steve-o!!!


    I watched the movie and I was so disappointed. We were betrayed in such a disrespectful way. I watched Into The West a couple of years ago on TNT. That has been the closest to the real story that I have ever seen in a movie or on tv. I bought that movie. It is a set of 6 cd’s. If you have not seen it try and get it. There were times in that movie that I had to cry. Everytime I watch it I still cry. It was like living back in those days.


    Ed Yancey

    You have all made excellent comments on this so I have only one thing to add. The well said cliche ” The one who wins the war lives to write the history, or something like that.” My GGgrandfather never owned a slave and never would, he didn’t believe in it! When he entered the war of secession he fought for his country because it was being invaded by other states and believed deeply in his right to defend his home and family. He was in Pickett’s charge when 15,000 men fell dead or dying , wounded and captured . He spent the rest of the war in a federal prison under extreme circumstances and came home carrying lead in his body. I refuse to watch the movie Gettysburg and so cannot comment on it but I feel too close to the subject after sitting and listening to the older members of my family who came out of the 1800’s having lived through this time. Just remember the side that wins the war tells and writes the history! This knowledge alone could well mean we approach movie, tape, CD, or book (even school books) with well informed minds. We had an old country expression, “Don’t believe everything (some say anything) you hear and only half of what you see.”

    That would really keep us on our toes when interpreting what we are told or think we have seen. Again, I am not surprised when the communication options of our present time leave us still waiting for nothing but the truth, the only truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ED


    I must be just of a different mindset, because I easily overlook it all as entertainment. Plenty movies in regards to my family, ancestry, what-have-you have been made and do not represent anything “truely” regarding anything, or regarding the families in whole.

    HBO had a documentary film about my wife’s family descendants out a while back called “American Hollow”. This showed a very “backwoods” look at my wife’s side of the family. But it only showed the life of “one” of the families that are related to/descended from my wife’s family. My wife’s immediate family certainly does not live like those portraid in the film in any way, shape, or form. We have a copy of the film, and it has been passed around a bit, and we just joke about it, in jest, because one cannot help whom one is related to and we know we are not like that in any way. To get upset by it would be, in our opinion, pointless.

    The Disney film about Pocahontas, and the film “The New World” also pertains to my wife as she is a descendant of Pocahontas. We know full well that both of these films have errors in facts, but again we do not become “offended” by any of it. Our opinion is that film-makers take on certain “allowances” to try and make a fim more interesting to the general public who could care less about any of it. Plus we know that the only accurate portrayal would only come if someone from the 1600’s was still alive to be able to convey what actually did happen. What is said in most motion pictures, as far as in biographical context goes, certainly could not have been what the actual person said or did. Again very few of the GP even care…they just want to see a good film.

    “The Mothman Prophecies” is another film that pertains to my family. The whole “Cornstalk Curse” thing is the premise of the film, and The Mothman for that matter. The only mention of my ancestor, and his alleged curse, in the film came in the form of a small narrative in the DVD booklet. The only thing factual in the whole film was the Silver Bridge collapse. Still it was a decent thriller, but again represented the Point Pleasant people in a backwoods/ignorant sense. Again, I certainly felt nothing about it that caused me to get angry over the mis-representations.

    I look at film as entertainment, just like the old westerns where the cowboys had revolvers that could shoot 300 bullets without reload. Or the scene in the Jody Foster film where she walks away unscathed from a plane that has just been bombed. Directors take certain freedoms to make the film more for entertainment than fact in most cases.

    In my opinion, which probably isn’t worth a plug nickel to most, instead of fuming about a film and “mis-representations” therein, we should use the mind and the mouth God gave us and teach our children what is fact and what is fiction. I was taught that a long time ago and often talk to my children about their ancestry, disregarding the countless sites and books written about my ancestors and family, and telling them the truth. Again, I might be a bit different than most, but that was how I was raised and that is what I do. After all, our children are the ones who will be in charge of things when we are all gone. The more they know, the more they will be equipped to handle all the misconceptions, bad lights, etc., because they will know the truth.

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