tend to think of us as buffalo people, but really, we are horse
people, too. That got lost and is coming back, and we want to document
that," said Jim Cortez, the film's editor of "We Are A Horse Nation."
for "We Are A Horse Nation" has audiences calling for more. Still
photographs from the film prove there is plenty to look forward
to in this new documentary. Now in its final production stages,
"Horse Nation" is expected to be completed by November for entrance
into film festivals.
is the result of the efforts of Keith Brave Heart, social marketing
manager of Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi, and Jim Cortez, who heads the media
department at Sinte Gleska University in Rosebud, South Dakota.
They started shooting the documentary last winter.
to have a film that was told by the peoplefrom the little
kids all the way to elderswith all of their different stories
about what the horse as a relative means to them. We wanted a film
that stays away from the poverty porn, that has a good sense of
humor. We wanted to show the profound beauty and the spirit that
is still here; it's about the horse and the people whose lives are
touched by them," Cortez said.
relationship with the horse changed with the boarding schools,"
Brave Heart said. "The cowboys were "breaking" horses, and it became
a time when we were being broken ourselves. Now we see the honoring
Memorial Rides, the Dakota 38 plus two, Wounded Knee, and you can
see that people are bringing the horse back to the homelands."
Heart began this filmmaking journey after watching the young horse
handlers at Sinte Gleska University's Tiwahe
Glu Kini Pi program, "Bringing the Family Back to Life." The
program serves children, ages 3 to 21, and is held at the university's
SGU Ranch on the Rosebud Reservation. "I wanted to put together
a film that would follow the youth horse handler on their journey
working the horse. I was going to document the program and our system
of care, but I also wanted to see something good and entertaining,"
Brave Heart said.
he understood the wakan (spiritual and sacred) relationship between
the horse and the Lakota, Brave Heart expanded the film into multiple
stories. "The Oceti Sakowin, or Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota, are
all from the horse nation. I traveled to all the reservations in
South Dakota to see what they wanted to share about the history
of the horse and their traditional stories," Brave Heart said.
about the way outsiders view the reservations, Brave Heart said,
"We are not just about poverty and alcoholics. I wanted to see a
story told from the Oceti Sakowin perspective. This is an opportunity
to see the positive stories. We still have our culture."
a critical role both in the documentary and in the lives of the
youth in therapy, Sam High Crane, youth coordinator with Tiwahe
Glu Kini Pi, and elder, cultural mentor and advisor, has worked
much of his life with horses and youth. Years ago, he developed
the Lakota history and culture curriculum, including horses and
traditions, for the Saint Francis School in Rosebud. "I would see
how horses would react to kids who had problems and I told the kids,
'Look what the horse is doing,' and, 'Why do you think this is happening?'
They had to take a look at themselves and change their ways. Working
with the horses worked."
for my own issues, sometimes I ride my horse way out in the boonies
and lead my own ceremony, offer tobacco, and talk to the horse.
If we are worried about confidentiality," High Crane laughed, and
acknowledged that a horse can keep a secret.
celebrates the relationship between the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota
nations and the Sunkawakan Oyate (Horse Nation) and includes an
honoring ceremony with regalia for the horse. "At one time in Lakota
and Dakota history, the use of horse regalia was commonly practiced.
Unfortunately over time, this practice has become almost obsolete,"
reports artist James
Star Comes Out. Doing his part for the program, Star Comes Out
had the youth develop designs for the horse masks and regalia used
in the film. Some of those masks became part of a giveaway during
the summer's honoring ceremony.
takes place where the clinical world meets the wakan. Marlies White
Hat, director of the Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi program said that Equine
Therapy is natural and comfortable for Lakota people. "The youth
learn how to communicate. It is much easier to talk to a horse than
to sit in a counselor's office," she said.
film, the youth are seen working with the horses and expressing
themselves in various ways. "They may paint their feelings on the
horses," White Hat said. "We have paints and brushes, and we also
have activities that teach lessons based on Lakota values."
all this money training people how to get well, and all this time
we had these horses and never used them to fix the issue," High
Crane said. "I truly believe we are not perfect, and if you hang
around the horse, you will find your mistakes."
not about us being master cinematographers. It is just about the
people being truthful. There are no actors, it's real lifeand
why I believe it is so good," Brave Heart said.
agreed. "We wanted to find the ikce oyate, the common people,
not the usual spokespeople, but the ones who rarely get to tell
their story. We traveled around and we wanted to encourage people
to know, you just have to stand up and do this."
the film is complete, Brave Heart envisions taking the film back
into all of those communities. "They will get pride by hearing these
stories in their home," he said.
was produced with funding through by Substance Abuse Mental Health
Services Administration/ Child Mental Health Initiative, and the
help of many volunteers including Cortez and musicians Keith Secola
and Cody Blackbird. "We also have artwork from Oscar Howe, and artist
Donald Montileaux explains about ledger art. Marlena Miles is doing
graphic art, so we are bringing some recognition to their artwork,"
Brave Heart said.
"We are just common people, honoring each other, each of the Oyate
(people) of the Oceti working together as relatives. I am just happy
working on this project. Looking at footage, it makes me appreciate
our elders. We need to make this happen so the youth can know these
things, to have an initiative to know more. The youth is the reason
to do this, to take pride in their history and culture, learn from
the elders and carry on."
the film's news and to see more photos, visit "We
Are A Horse Nation" on Facebook.
extended trailer below:
Are A Horse Nation"
To present a quality Documentary Film that will tell the story of
why we (Oceti Sakowin) are a Sunka Wakan Oyate (Horse
Nation). This film will present that story through the voices of
the Oceti Sakowin (Lakota, Dakota & Nakota). This project will
be a working example of the philosophy of the Oceti Sakowin, and
as relatives we will bring together Traditional &
Contemporary Lakota/Dakota/Nakota songs, stories, teachings, experiences,
knowledge, thoughts & beliefs, to be compiled for a one-of-a-kind
film resource; to be utilized by the intended audience of the future
generations of the Oceti Sakowin.
Glu Kini Pi
SGU Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi System of Care program is here to improve
the lives and conditions of children and families suffering with
Serious Emotional Behavioral Disturbances. To enhance mental health
services for children and their families using Lakota cultural practices,
contemporary counseling and equine therapy. Develop a counseling
center that will partner with all other child and family serving
programs and increase mental health services on the Rosebud reservation.
Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi serves children, ages 3-21, and their families
who live within the 5 county area of the Sicangu reservation.