As promised, I am continuing my analysis of Bury My heart at Wounded Knee produced by HBO. Last time, I spoke about the effect of colonization on Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman). If you need to catch up, you can do so here:
For today's post I want to talk about:
- imagery, and
- the characterization of Sitting Bull
The imagery in this movie from overhead that shows the stand-off at Little Big Horn between the Sioux and Custer's men is mind blowing. From a distance it looks like a tornado has touched down and swirling on the ground, but we soon realize that it is the Native Americans on horseback that have surrounded Custer and his soldiers.
This movie shows so many stunning images of the hard life bestowed upon the Indigenous people of this time. Its effect on the story creates a realistic setting for the time and conditions.
We see Tatanka Iyotanka (Chief Sitting Bull) fight for his land and retreat to Canada (southern Alberta) after the massacre at Little Big Horn in which Custer died after he decided to attack Sitting Bull and his tribe at high noon. Sitting Bull's people decide to return to Dakota and go to the Reservation as many of the tribe's people are dying from starvation on the Canadian plains. Sitting Bull goes to the Reservation but only after he thinks that all hope is lost. Much to the dismay of the "Indian" agent, Sitting Bull is seen as a hero.
Sitting Bull's characterization shows us that he is hard on his people for not following orders, but is also generous with the women and children. We are also shown a man that is struggling to change to a new way of doing things. He doesn't want his lifestyle to change and he doesn't want to become dependent on the rations offered within the reserve lifestyle. Sitting Bull takes a risk and starts to travel with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show that depicts stories about cowboys and Native Americans. In the movie, Sitting Bull becomes a famous figure and the reserve agent does not like it.
Sitting Bull also speaks out against the US Government and their want to possess land that is rightfully the Sioux's. Sitting Bull is murdered by the reserve police officers and what is most shocking is that some of these officers are his own people.
We see Sitting Bull as a stoic and brave man; but also a man that is weak in his ability to overturn the US Government's control over his people. I believe that the movie does Sitting Bull's character justice and shows the humility and strength of a great leader.
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