When the government agency fails to deliver even the meager supplies due by treaty to the proud Cheyenne tribe in their barren desert reserve, the starving Indians have taken more abuse than it's worth and break it too by embarking on a 1,500 miles journey back to their ancestral hunting grounds. US Cavalry Capt. Thomas Archer is charged with their retrieval, but during the hunt grows to respect their noble courage, and decides to help them. Written by
Little Wolf was a chief of the Cheyenne tribe in 1878. He and another chief led the Cheyenne off their Oklahoma reservation and took them back to their homeland in Montana, despite hundreds of US cavalry troops trying to stop them. This was called the "Cheyenne Autumn Trail" and is the basis for this film. See more »
About a third of the way through the movie, when the "white" guys charge the Indians, their charge takes them across virgin sand. Except for the track of what is clearly a modern car (tread marks clearly visible) across their path. See more »
Listen to me, Miss Wright. You're a Quaker and you're dedicated to self-sacrifice. Well, I'm dedicated to self-preservation. You know, you want me to go out there, don't you? Yeah, and take me future, me career and me pension... and throw it down the drain. Is that what you want, huh? Yeah, well... that's exactly what I'm going to do.
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This film shows just a bit of the tragedy of Northern Cheyenne. The film or John Ford did not show that they initially fought together with Sioux led by Sitting Bull war in 1876 and were partially massacred by Custer. Later they fought once again and were defeated at McKenzie compelling them to surrender. Two years later, the prisoners Dull Knife, Wild Hog, and Little Wolf were brought down as prisoners to Fort Reno, from where they escaped and were later killed without mercy. Part of the survivors were killed later when they tried to escape from Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and the others finally confined to a reservation in Montana. Probably Ford wanted to show this story softly giving some feeling of justice to Captain Archer (Richard Widmark), but at the end the film became an approximate story of the reality. Cheyenne, either northern or southern were expelled out from their natural areas, they missed bull hunting and their ancestral traditions. Beside this historical considerations, one must admit that Ford had a very good cast for the film with Widmark, Carroll Baker, always efficient Edward G. Robinson, Karl Malden and others. The only thing difficult to understand was the scene with James Stewart (as Wyatt Earp) together with the veterans Arthur Kennedy and John Carradine, which in my opinion was out of the context.
Some people believe that Westerns are not more of use in Hollywood. I believe that some westerns giving real stories of what happened with the Indians are very much necessary to understand the history of the real American people. Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Dull Knife and others were not criminals, they were only defending the land where they were born and raised. So their lives should be brought fairly to the screen in the coming future.
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