Currently playing on HBO GO is the 2007 period drama, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; starring Aidan Quinn, Adam Beach, August Schellenberg, Anna Paquin, Gordon Tootoosis and Directed by Yves Simoneau. Based on Dee Brown’s eponymous book about the epic tragedy that took place in that location in 1890, effecting ending the reign of the Native American’ presence as a force in the Mid-West, the film follows the intertwining lives of three men who played important roles in that tragic event.
First, a young Sioux Brave named Ohiyesa (Chevez Ezaneh) who receives his baptism of fire at the bloody Sioux victory over General George Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn; Sitting Bull (Schellenberg), the proud Lakota chief who refused to submit to the U.S. government policies that he believed were designed to strip his people of their identity, their dignity and their sacred land; and Senator Henry Dawes (Quinn), who was one of the chief architects of the government policy on Indian affairs. Shortly after the battle of Little Big Horn, Ohiyesa is collected by his father who then sends him off to be educated by the white men. We rejoin the conflicted Ohiyesa (now called Charles Eastman: and played by Beach) as he is a Dartmouth-educated, doctor who is being held up as living proof of the alleged success of the assimilation of Native Americans into the White Man’s world.
Eastman is tapped by Dawes to help “settle” the Lakota Sioux onto a reservation in the Dakotas Black Hills — land that is considered sacred to the Souix — only shortly after they are relocated there gold is discovered on the land, and so the U.S. Government once again determined to move the People off their own hunting grounds to a more desolate area (to farm) so as to acquire the gold-laden for themselves. For his part, Sitting Bull refuses to bow to the authority of the Whites, (including the bellicose stance of General William Tecumseh Sherman (Colm Feore) who is still angry and smarting over the defeat of Custer. Meanwhile Eastman and patrician schoolteacher Elaine Goodale (Paquin) — who eventually becomes Eastman’s wife — work to improve lives of the Indians on the reservation. In Washington, Senator Dawes spends his time lobbying President Grant (Fred Thompson) for more humane treatment for the Sioux.
As the U.S. Government tightens the noose around the Sioux, a glimmer of hope rises for the Indians in the form of the prophet Wovoka and the Ghost Dance; which was a messianic movement among Native Americans that promised an end of their suffering under the White man, as well as a return to glory of days past. Unfortunately, this hope was obliterated after the assassination of Sitting Bull and the massacre of hundreds of Indian men, women, and children by the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek on Dec. 29, 1890. Populated by actual Native Americans n key roles, this film does much to bring to life the horrific way that these once-proud Peoples were treated by the U.S. making it compelling important to watch.
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for some 30+ years. He came of age watching TV, reading comicbooks and going to the movies. Subscribe to receive regular articles and reviews about TV programs.