by Derek Adams for Time Out
Derek Adams on a season of films highlighting the plight and history of the first people of the Americas
This writer, like most young boys in the late ’60s and ’70s, grew up on a diet of Hollywood westerns, especially those featuring Native Americans – or Indians, as they were then known. ‘Little Big Man’, ‘Stage Coach’, ‘Fort Apache’, ‘Chato’s Land’, ‘Custer of the West’, ‘Broken Arrow’, ‘Soldier Blue’… It didn’t matter whether Hollywood portrayed the ‘Injuns’ as blood-thirsty, scalp-hungry savages or noble peace-loving beings; I rooted for them every time. I can only surmise that, as a young kid, I was smitten by their cool feather-decked costumes, proud manner, ace bareback riding skills and wicked woo-woo war cry. That’s the power of film for you.
But then I got to reading historian Dee Brown’s engrossing 1970 book ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ and learned the truth about our European ancestors and their conquering of the Wild West: how, for instance, between Columbus arriving in 1498 and the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890, the Native American Indian population had been reduced from a healthy 12-15 million to a paltry 250,000. This writer considers that genocide on a humongous scale. And I’m not the only one: it’s a sentiment shared by many, including the talking heads featured in one especially fine documentary that screens as part of the forthcoming and eminently welcome Native Spirit Film & Video Festival, a season designed to promote understanding of the indigenous people of the Three Americas. (…)