Pow Wow Highway

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Ethnicities 150
Professor Brian Baker
Spring, 2012
Extra Credit

Pow Wow Highway

I enjoyed this movie, based on a book by the same name by Davis Seals, a Native activist. The story is based in the mid to late 1970’s and begins on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s reservation in Lame Deer, Montana. The two lead characters, Buddy Red Bow (A. Martinez) and his acquaintance (who later in the film becomes his friend), Philbert “Phil” Bono (Gary Farmer) travel to Santa Fe to rescue Buddy’s sister, Bonnie Red Bow who has been wrongfully jailed. Buddy finds out that his estranged sister has two small girls and he is determined to bring her back home to the reservation and get her out of jail. Philbert is a free spirit who sees visions and is very gentle natured. He is more in tune with the ancient traditions of their Tribe, stopping frequently to pray and meditate.

Buddy Red Bow is antagonistic at first and very impatient with Philbert, but in time he starts to lose his inhibitions about praying and meditating and eventually joins Philbert in embracing the ancient chants and meditating. Although Buddy doesn’t see any visions like Philbert does, he respects Phil’s insights and stops complaining, eventually joining him in calling out to the spirits on their frequent stops. The plot of the story is simple enough to follow. Buddy’s sister was wrongfully arrested in Santa Fe, and she was set up as a ploy by some strip mining developer goons back on the res in Montana to keep Buddy Red Bow (the activist who’s opposed to the strip mining) off the reservation so they can get the other tribe members to give them a favorable vote so they can proceed to exploit tribal land.

There are several underlying messages that become evident as you are watching the film that are begging to be noticed by the film’s director, Jonathan Wacks. Most of them are to direct the attention of the viewer as to the assimilation of the Native Americans and just how far reaching...
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