While searching the StoryCenter’s YouTube channel for recently uploaded digital stories I encountered “Ghost Dance.” Early into watching Tommy Orange’s digital story I connected it with Dee Brown’s (1971) seminal book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West” which is credited with exposing “some” of the systematic destruction of Native American tribes and their culture by European immigrants. Brown (1971) describes the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, which was perpetrated by the US Army against the Lakota Sioux and happened as a result of the Ghost Dance religious movement. The massacre at Wounded Knee was one of many incidents, and the most bloody, which occurred during the Ghost Dance War of 1890 and 1891.
Orange connects the historic events that Brown (1971) describes with the current protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline by over one-hundred Native American tribes. He employs moving images from early Edison motion pictures as the background for much of his narrative. Orange describes his story as, “A story about the first films ever recorded, what we choose to keep, and making sure we don’t look away.” He is asking if the past isn’t being repeated, although many prefer to think that as a society the US has evolved beyond behaviors previously justified by manifest destiny. Has it?
This story really works and is very well structured. Orange did his research and presents compelling facts in order to captivate his audience and then asks many important questions of them. He works to engage his audience in deep reflection on this very sad subject. As I previously stated, I immediately connected Orange’s digital story with Brown’s (1971) book, which I believe was the producer’s hope. The way he says, “They all want to look away, look forward, but it all keeps looking like the past again.” I strongly agree with this statement and the older I get the more I feel this way. It’s not at all hopeless but the US must come to terms with its history or the collective willful blindness will enable more of the same. Thanks for sharing!
Brown, D. (1971). Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.