Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.


The HBO Special was certainly a Dick Wolf short attention span formula job, he of Law and Order. Short and sweet, painful but with none of the scope of the orginal book by Dee Brown. That book was a landmark of American non fiction, and told the story of the American West through the eyes of native peoples (not just the specific Lakota Sioux story). Of course when it came out, the tag Mr. Charlie and Missy Anne used then and today was "revisionist history." Hmmm...notice how it's always telephone pole in the butt white people who toss around that term? I recall a brutal fight in Texas instigated by friends for Governor Perry and President Bush in reponse to the remake of The Alamo (when Billy Bob played David...the real one HATED to be called "Davey" and wore the coonskin cap as a PR gimmick...Crockett). They wanted the John Wayne version enshrined as fact, even though every historian in the universe know it was all bullshit. But how did they attack it? The smart Dubya-neo con-Fox News way. They said it was kowtowing to the Mexicans. Revisionist history. Ha! That wasn't true either. But when you challenge these scared myths, you get more than push-back. To this day, the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee raises eyebrows...


The powder puff version on HBO only made mine twitch a bit, with the exception of the pain of Dr. Charles Eastman, Sioux educated at Dartmouth. (Dartmouth was and still is a place Indians can go for free). Yanked between two worlds. Now that was powerful stuff. You see the destruction of a people and the literal re-assignment of the survivors to fit the white world through his eyes at the end.

Now if you're a brother, before you go gnash your teeth and slap the first smarmy white boy you see (I'm headed to my Princeton Reunion next weekend, so that's a target-rich environment), just recall this. Indians were displaced and exterminated. But they were treated as a people. Distinct nations, cultures--even feared and respected in a twisted way.


We weren't. Think of what was happening with Reconstruction, and then the eventual ascendency of terror, oppression and Jim Crow during this 1868-1890 period covered in Bury My Heart? Which explains the dissonance of WE, black people, mounted as the 9th and 10th Cavalries--"Buffalo Soldiers"--doing a lot of this killing. Actually...the irony, the dissonance, flows from one source. Damn...you know what?...maybe you SHOULD go ahead and key door of the SUV of that smamry white guy frat rat you hate on your job. Or if you're white, yeah--feel guilty. Question and icon or two. Turn a sacred cow into a Big Mac. All stupid and futile gestures? Sure. But it will steel your soul. Just ask Sitting Bull, even Red Cloud. Fight the power. Happy Memorial Day.

7 comments:

Chicama Vineyard said...

I agree with your write up in some ways, but I believe it was also a good effort from HBO. To do justice to the issue and the book, this would have to have been a multi part expensive project.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the movie "Thunderheart" starring Val Kilmer?

nabila J said...

I saw the HBO movie and I thought it was excellent. However you might be right about the low production values.

Lisa said...

Let me get this straight--you are saying we as black folks victimized native americans as a pathology of our own oppression? So this is like sorors who were hazed turning on new sisters? I agree in part, but I also think there were some practical and cultural forces at work, and a lot had to with what you said: that "the Indian" was looked on as a savage, but also as a worthy opponent and member of a nation and not as some sort of stupid animal as we were. Perhaps the Buffalo Soldiers were engaging in proof to white people that they were worthy too?

Anonymous said...

I do not think this is a good effort , it did not do the book justice.. Perhaps an Indian director , could have helped ... Assimilation is still being played out today . Basically the Indians can do nothing , they without funding from the government . Also it is a disgrace to produce this movie and not free leonard peltier ... Did any one see the apocalypto . I liked it . Mel Gibson , is turning out to be a hell of producer and director...

byrdparker said...

I also agree with your point re the buffallo soldiers although it my oppinion that they did not mistreat the indians , or But by killing them they are somewhat responsible for their expulsion from thier land..

When Mr Charlie and Ms Anna came to america , they had no choice but to respect the indians , they needed the indians to teach them how to survive . So it was a diachtomy , some respect in a twisted way was born from this , Mr charlie and anna has to get involved , and learn in order to survive and conquer .

When Mr charlie , decided to colonize africa , they had success with America under thier belt , plus trading experience during the slave trade . They weren't trying to live in africa ( my oppinion) but just raping it .

Free Mumia and Free Leonard Peltier !

byrd parker also anon 9;54

Anonymous said...

I really liked it. You couldn't expect them to make it a six part series like Angels in America, could you? After all, Native Americans don't have the Hollywood clout that gays do.