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With Sitting Bull at the Spirit Lake Massacre1927

A long-thought-lost film finally surfaces after being unseen for over eight decades. Created and copyrighted by Sunset Productions in 1925 but not released until June 15, 1927, this silent epic features the superior Native American actor Chief Yowlachie (performing here under the name Chief Yowlache) as Sitting Bull. Other fine actors in the cast include the always popular Bryant Washburn and a young Bob Steele, who appears under his real name Bob Bradbury Jr. The story takes place in the 1860s or 1870s near Spirit Lake, Iowa. Settlements of whites are growing in that region but the Sioux Indians also have professed their interest in one such settlement. Chief Sitting Bull surveys the settlement at Spirit Lake from afar and with the advice of the Great Spirit vows to retake the land that belonged to his fathers.

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Member Reviews (2)

top reviewer

Why do I even watch this film? It is nice to see Natives on the screen, but watching a colonial production depicting the Native people of this land requires an increased amount of patience than I have to give; and I have much to give. I come to my senses after watching the 1st few minutes and then fast forward to write this review. I am interested in watching films about Natives, but this is other than the 1. Love And Peace.

Yes, this movie and other like it should only be offered for viewing as examples of the racist and stereotype dogma about Native American. Shame on Fandor for offering this film for anything more than that.


Fandor only offers these types of films for historical context (hence why BIRTH OF A NATION is on the website). Unfortunately many believed that this was how Native Americans and Indigenous people actually were. The popularity of westerns had more audiences calling for "authentic" images of Native Americans and this was authentic to them at the time. So filmmakers attempted to create that sense of authenticity by using Native American consultants and actors to authenticate the film’s image, which explains why Chief Yowlachie is in this film. I hope that helps in understand why films like these provide information about filmmaking at the time and should be seen as a record of 1. how far we've come and 2. how far we have to go.

I am also very passionate about how Native Americans are portrayed on film since I am of Lumbee descent and I wrote my thesis on Native American cinema. So thank you for your comment!