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Life by Design


A Western Epic

Posted by Carren |

HBO once again stirs the mind and the heart with its adaptation of Dee Brown’s 1970 historical novel Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Text by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA Magazine Sept 2008

A HISTORICAL story well told has the power to open the eyes and renew lessons of the past for the benefit of future generations, which is precisely what Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, HBO’s Emmy award-winning movie, has accomplished. Based on Dee Brown’s 1970 novel of the same name, the movie rekindles a tale of the American Indian’s struggle for cultural survival in the midst of the White Man’s encroachment. While history books maybe tempted to whitewash this period and slip painful details under manicured rugs, HBO bravely succeeds in portraying the staggeringly contrasting perspectives of each race and reviving the many tragedies that resulted because of it.

Writer Daniel Giat masterfully weaves this historical tale and incorporates history’s oft-forgotten subtleties through the use of two central characters, Sitting Bull (Schellenberg), the last chieftain to lead his people into the reservation, and Charles Eastman (Adam Beach) a Dartmouth-educated Sioux doctor held up as a model Indian American to the U.S. government.

As the chieftain of a Sioux village, Sitting Bull is faced with difficult task of the survival of his people’s way of life despite White American assimilation. His sorrow continuously shows as he battles with his pride in order for his people and his family to survive. On the other hand, Charles Eastman (Beach) is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Taken from his village as a child, he is afforded the luxury of an education and inducted into the realm of the White Man. Together with Senator Dawes (Aidan Quinn), he architects a law that will seemingly save his people from destitution only to realize that, as he takes on the guise of a White man, he loses his own identity. In the White Man’s world, he also meets Elaine Goodale (Anna Paquin), a poetess-teacher with true compassion for the Sioux and subtle romance ensues.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee succeeds in setting itself above the hackneyed cowboy versus Indian story by bringing true compassion and understanding to this century-old tale of American Indians and by courageously exploring the many different guises racism takes on in society. HBO stays true in its quest for excellence and victoriously brings to life a story of two races in all its poignant glory.


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