The Only Good Indian, which takes place in the early 1900s, is a poetic movie that sheds light on the crisis that was the removal of American Indian children from their homes to be placed in boarding schools where they were forced to assimilate to the white man’s view of what was “civilized” at the time. Emotional scenes depicting the treatment of the children when they attempted to rebel and when they spoke their native tongues give the viewers a sense of the truly dramatic changes American Indian children were forced to undergo.
The Only Good Indian
Directed by Kevin Willmot
Starring: Wes Studi, Winter Fox Frank, J Kenneth Campbell
Rated: Film Not Yet Rated
Release Date: DVD, December 1, 2009
Entertainment Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
Wes Studi character, Sam Franklin aka Black Fox, is the driving force in this movie. We watch Sam Franklin go through a transformation that is powerful from an investigative agent with dreams of becoming the first Indian detective for the Pinkerton Agency to a man who is forced to reevaluate his beliefs and reconnect with his true heritage as a Cherokee Indian. This transformation is spurred on by his relationship with a runaway from the Haskell Industrial Institute.
Charlie (played by newcomer Winter Fox Frank) plays the Haskell school runaway from the Kickapoo tribe who tries to get home when he is captured by Sam Franklin. On their way back to the school, they get into trouble with the law and Sam Franklin’s longtime nemesis “Indian Killer” Henry McCoy sets his sights on tracking Franklin down.
At different parts of the movie we also hear snippets of Bram Stoker’s Dracula as it is read by Charlie and as it relates to the intersecting journeys that he, Sam Franklin, and Henry McCoy travel. We see Sam Franklin’s attempt to “out White man the White man” questioned repeatedly, first by young Charlie, by a Reverend and his wife, and by a Pinkerton employee. Even Henry McCoy comments that Sam was a good Indian once when he was a warrior who fought him. The Only Good Indian comes across as a simple, smoothly written movie and yet it has such depth that is gripping, something like a coffee table book that is set out to provoke discussion. Overall the movie is beautifully shot and one you don’t want to miss.