Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee brings a dark chapter of U.S. history to light revealing an epic saga of the U.S. government’s deliberate extermination of the American Indians. Beginning after the Sioux victory at Little Big Horn, this docudrama traces the stories of three men: a Sioux doctor, a lobbying senator, and the Lakota hero Sitting Bull.  In this film, we follow a handful of participants as they experience the ugliness that is the US government’s relationship with Native Americans. We see how promises were broken again and again… how Native Americans were sometimes their own worst enemy… and how that generation of Americans committed genocide as the White Man kept going until he hit the Pacific Ocean, conquering all native peoples in his path. Emmy-winning made-for-TV movie depicting the “Manifest Destiny” of white Americans and how it displaced and affected the lives of the Native American tribes which stood in the way. This is a fact-based drama which shows how the lives of the Native American Indians were changed when the white man decided they wanted to expand westward, and then found gold in the Black Hills of the Dakotas. Every treaty made with the Indians was broken, and the outright slaughter of the Native Americans is brought to light in this film. Sitting Bull had the foresight to see what would happen to his people and became the spiritual leader of the resistance. After herding the Indians onto the reservations and taking away their way of life, their spirits were broken. Alcoholism and depression followed. This is a great film about the Wounded Knee Massacre. There is a double point of view given: one of Sitting Bull, the most famous Sioux (Oglala Lakota) chiefs, and another of a Lakota doctor, Oyesa, aka Charles Eastman, who was the doctor at the Pine Ridge Reservation where the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred. All the main characters in the film were based on real people, but of course the actors that play them are perhaps more Caucasian and more handsome in appearance. The actual massacre is dealt with mostly in still photographs, so this is not an action film. But it is far more accurate than most. The history serves as the background for the life story of Charles Eastman (Adam Beach), a young Sioux boy who goes East to study and becomes a doctor. He later returns West to serve his Native American tribe. Good story that remains entertaining despite some slow moments. The battle scenes (Little Big Horn, Wounded Knee) are depicted well, but may be too violent for small children. Finally, someone put together a film about the western expansion of the U.S. and destruction of native cultures without browbeating the audience with one view or the other. Balanced as far as the story goes, without favoring either side or portraying either side as villainous. This film takes a very even-handed look at the way the white man took over the hills and plains of the west — without portraying them as simplistic, mustache twirling, two dimensional, just plain evil caricatures. Giving more than one view of the events leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee makes this film far more intriguing than having only a one-sided version. It would be nice if Hollywood would continue the trend of showing history as “gray” and not just “black and white”. I have always been interested in the Native American culture and history. It was a tear- jerker and breaks your heart, but we all know that it was true, and probably even many of the more disturbing facts were left out! But I must say that after watching this, I have a better understanding of what took place during this time in our history with the Native American Indians. No wonder after being humiliated, having had their land taken away, innocent people killed, and finally forced to live in squalor that they turned against the white man and eventually to alcohol. It makes me as an American ashamed of what we did to these proud people. Not something we should be proud of. There is no escaping the fact that the White Eyes screwed Native Americans and broke all their promises again and again and again. A bitter pill to swallow, we Americans have our own holocaust to face, though nowhere near the scale of Germany’s WWII misdeeds. All the same, a terrible injustice was done to the Indians of the American plains during the years after the civil war. Villages were wiped out without mercy — women and children were not spared. Of course there were Indians who shared some of the same blood lust, but on measure there were many peaceful tribes. The tribes who surrendered were sold the government line of a piece of land and freedom. They bought into a government lie that promised far more than delivered. The film was heartbreaking, with a depiction of the slaughter of Wounded Knee that makes you ask yourself, “How does a cavalry trooper shoot into the back of a child with his Sharp’s carbine without conscience?” For that matter, how does any soldier carry out heinous acts of mass murder against non-combatants. How did Nazi SS thugs look into the eyes of rows upon rows of women and children marching into the gas chambers and go home to their own families at the dinner table? This film is not a fun movie to watch and you may need a box of Kleenex, but it is well worth it. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is the film adaptation of the book of the same name. Read the book by Dee Brown for a more accurate picture of the US Government’s relationship with the Native Americans. This film may be an eye-opener for anyone who hasn’t read Dee Brown’s book. The book broke in early 1970s after another uprising and standoff at Wounded Knee. That brought awareness and demand for inclusion of the Natives of America and recognition of what really happened throughout the settling of the West. There is of course more to the story, and this film is interesting enough for me to want to take time to research the subject to get a fuller picture. I would suggest that if you decide to watch this movie, that you brush up on the history of the Sioux, the white men involved, and what led to these tragic events. My recommendation even if you have seen this film is to read the book. Then ask why our true history isn’t being taught in our public schools. Are we too ashamed as a people to face the facts? When I think back on my schooling, I am very upset that there were not more informative stories like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I learned more in this DVD about the suffering of the American Indians than in all my years of school combined. The interactive historical guide throughout the film was pure genius. Having read the book many years ago, I am still stunned by atrocities that were perpetrated upon the Indigenous People by the White world. Wow. From start to finish this movie was a jaw-dropper. I had no idea just how violent and sleazy we were during this period of history. This is the American history that rarely is mentioned. I think this movie was well-made, and the story was told with amazing emotional detail. This is a really good film.  Five stars. I would give it six stars! One of the best movies I’ve viewed in some time. The best docudrama I have ever seen. It was outstanding!  All Americans should see it – what a tragedy! Earned an Emmy Award for Best Made-for-Television Movie. Docudrama 2007 NR 132 minutes.

(The real-life Charles Eastman portrayed in this film went on to become the first Native American author to write American history from the Native point of view. As he was struggling financially, his European-American wife Elaine Goodale Eastman encouraged him to write some of the stories of his childhood. At her suggestion (and with her editing help), he published the first two in a magazine in 1893, and these stories were later collected in his first book. In 1902 Eastman published a memoir, Indian Boyhood, recounting his first fifteen years of life among the Sioux during the last part of the nineteenth century. In the following two decades, he wrote ten more books concerned with his Native American culture, and most are available on Amazon.com.)

SEE ALSO:

Ishi, The Last Yahi

Dances with Wolves

Rabbit-Proof Fence

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