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Film Explores Wounded Knee Massacre Through Eyes Of Its Native Actors


The independent film Neither Wolf Nor Dog is set to screen in Jackson this week. Set in Indian Country, it showcases Native actors and explores the history of the Wounded Knee massacre.

95-year-old Lakota elder Dave Bald Eagle stars as a character who commissions a young white man to write a book of his memories of the event. Scottish Director Steven Louis Simpson has filmed several documentaries about the Lakota tribe, but he said during filming of Neither Wolf Nor Dog, he had to go off-script.

“At the climax, which takes place at Wounded Knee, we abandoned the script and the novel because they felt too contrived by this point,” said Simpson. “And we let Dave Bald Eagle improvise the whole sequence, because Dave and his own family background were even closer to the Wounded Knee massacre events than the character he was playing.”

In 1890, 150 Lakota members were shot down by the U.S. Army near Wounded Knee Creek while attempting to perform the Ghost Dance, which was believed to bring family and buffalo back from the dead.

“And at the end of filming [that scene, Bald Eagle] says to Christopher Sweeney who was playing opposite, ‘I’ve been holding that in for 95 years,’” recalled Simpson. “To me, it takes the audience into what happened at Wounded Knee in a very contemporary way. It shows how the echoes of it are still deep rooted today.”

The film is based on a novel that loosely followed the author Kent Nerbum’s own relationship with a Lakota elder. Simpson said of all the films he’s made about the Lakota tribe’s history, this film has been especially popular around the country.

Simpson said if people want Neither Wolf Nor Bear to come to their community, they can put in requests through their local theaters. It plays at the Cinema Twin Theater in Jackson September 12-16, and in Cody, Cheyenne and Sheridan in coming weeks.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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