Sioux Ghost Dance (1894) Poster

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The very first "Injun" movie
PeterJordan25 February 2003
According to the Edison Film Historian C Muesser this piece of film featured genuine Native Americans (Possibly Sioux) from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, decked out in full war paint and war costumes. Filmed on 24th September 1894 in Edison's Black Maria Studio, this clip is poignantly historic in one particular aspect, that it represents the first ever appearance of Native American's (Indians) on moving film, either in a real or fictional context. One could almost say that out of this very birth came a million movie cliches.
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Buffalo Bill's show arrives to the Kinetoscope...
1894 was an extremely important year for American cinema, as finally after 5 years of hard work, the Edison Manufacturing Company showed to the world the first motion picture exhibition device: William K.L. Dickson's Kinetoscope. It wasn't anything like what we now know as cinema (it wasn't a projector), but it was the first device that allowed people to be able to contemplate moving images. Soon the first public Kinetoscope parlor was opened and motion pictures started to become part of our world, opening the way to new pioneers like the Lumière brothers, inventors of cinema as we know it, who found a lot of inspiration for their work in Dickson's invention. When the Kinetoscope debuted, it offered short films depicting vaudeville artists, common activities like horse shoeing or metal forging, and some sports; but soon everyone wanted to be captured by the camera and among those first movie stars were the members of the "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" show.

According to historians, on September 24, 1894, several members of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show arrived to Edison's famous Black Maria studio in order to perform in front of the camera and be part of the motion pictures revolution. Among the films done that day by Dickson and cinematographer William Heise, were two short films about Native American dances, which are considered as the very first movies where Native Americans appeared. "Sioux Ghost Dance" and "Buffalo Dance" were those two films, and both showed a group of Native Americans performing a song. In "Sioux Ghost Dance", a group of Sioux people make the ritual dance inspired by prophet Jack Wilson's (known as Wovoka) religious teachings. Sadly, due to the limitations of Dickson's early camera-work the magnitude of the Ghost dance can not be fully appreciated.

While a product of the late 1800s, the Ghost Dance was based on the traditional circle dances that Native Americans had been performing for centuries, so "Sioux Ghost Dance" (and its companion piece, "Buffalo Dance") allowed to Kinetoscope's audiences a small look at real Native American traditions. Despite being a show were the actors reenacted scenes from the wild west, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" had many extremely accurate and realistic elements, and the Native dances were one of them, proudly portraying their traditions under the protection of Buffalo Bill Cody (who was very respectful of them). It's true that without the sound, the dance loses a lot of its impact, but this movie is still an early example of documentary film. 6/10
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An Illustration of Early Studio Practices
Snow Leopard8 December 2005
While much of the print of this feature has deteriorated badly, and while the footage itself may strike many present-day viewers as simply emphasizing stereotyped portrayals of Native Americans, it is still of some interest as an example of early studio practices. It was one of a number of features that the Edison Company filmed at around the same time using performers from the Buffalo Bill Wild West exhibition, but this one in particular was made not for domestic viewing, but rather for European distribution.

The Edison Company was always on the lookout for money-making and money-saving ideas, and many of their early features were financed by potential distributors, at little or no cost to Edison. According to film historian Charles Musser (in an interview accompanying Kino's DVD collection of Edison films), this particular movie was one such example, having been made as part of promoting the Wild West's upcoming tour of Europe.

The footage itself is not especially impressive, in large part because of damage done to the film over time. It does apparently use genuine members of the Sioux tribe, and in viewing it, it should also be remembered that the constraints of filming inside the Edison Company's 'Black Maria' studio almost certainly hindered the dancers' ability to do the dance on its usual scale. As a result, they seem to be unnaturally scrunched together for most of the running time.

In any case, the fascination with the 'wild west', its myths, and its figures seems to have been at least as strong in Europe as it was in the USA, and this brief movie is one illustration of that. It is also one of many illustrations of the competitive business practices of the earliest film-makers - there seems never to have been a time when movie-making was not a serious business to some.
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native Americans on moving picture
Mikko_Elo_16 October 2004
this short, 22-second film is another one of edison's black maria studios' motion picture camera experiments, this time heise and dickson immortalize fully war-painted American natives performing the mystical ghost dance.

the film itself is quite dark, you can barely see what's going on. ironically the ghost dance, as far as i understand, was a native American ritual/religion to separate the natives from the white man, his alcohol, weapons and _technology_.

'sioux ghost dance' was shot five years after, according to the story, wovoka's peyote induced vision where he saw the future evils of white man and the second coming of Christ, who (surprise surprise), came in wovoka's shape. as the word spread, the lakota came to meet him and learn the ghost dance. the most fanatic followers of the cult, big foot and his band, mostly women and children, got slaughtered by whites at wounded creek in 1890, only two weeks after the arrests where the lakota chief sitting bull was shot in the head by the lakota police during a gunfight between the police and the ghost dancers, an event precipitating the wounded creek massacre.
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A whole lotta Indians
Tornado_Sam21 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a pretty interesting little film from the Edison Company, and is among the various films they made of Buffalo Bill's performers. Basically, it's a performance of the Sioux Ghost Dance, or at least a bit of it. Historians won't want to pass this up, and because of the fact these Indians are not actors. Here, Edison filmed real live Native Americans in real costumes, which is lucky for us so we can watch it today.

On the con side, however, the picture is pretty contrasty. It's hard to watch the dance and the Natives dark skin doesn't help. I'm not sure why the result was so contrasted but at least we can still see the dance. Nothing special by today's standards or ground-breaking at all but it remains a good record of a time long gone.
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Historically Important
Michael_Elliott14 August 2015
Sioux Ghost Dance (1894)

If you go through the early part of cinema, starting in 1888, you can tell that things were progressively getting much better to the point where motion pictures were starting to take form. Most of these early pictures that were put on display for crowds were very simple and showed certain things that they might have paid to see on a stage.

This one here features a group of Indians doing the title dance. This lasts just under thirty seconds so there's obviously not a plot to follow or anything too difficult. I found this footage to be highlight entertaining for a number of reasons. For starters, this appears to be a real tribe and not just actors, which is a major plus. The dance certainly isn't anything you'll be trying to do yourself but it's fun. The historic importance of these early pictures
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The first filming of Native-Americans
kobe14137 July 2014
The world's first filmmakers William Heise and W.K.L. Dickson film members of Buffalo Bill Cody's traveling performers. These Native-Americans do a small portion of what is supposed to be a Sioux Ghost Dance.

The group is crowded on stage, with both children and adults doing the dance. There is no word as whether this is an authentic dance from actual Sioux culture or if it is an invention by Cody to fill seats at his shows. Not much is actually shown in the short clip, but it is the first known representation of Native-Americans, real or otherwise, in cinema, so it is noteworthy for that alone.
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Indians dancing, that's all there is
Warning: Spoilers
I'd say the title is exactly what you see in this 20-second-long short movie, but I wasn't really sure where the "ghost" reference was. Maybe the way they were moving? It was actually rather boring and not too artistic and certainly didn't seem too supernatural or spooky to me to be honest and if you asked them, they might even agree. It's still an okay film for the beautiful dresses and especially hair-dresses these Indians were wearing. As a whole, though, I'd really only recommend it to silent film enthusiasts. Everybody else can do very well without this experience. The physical quality of the film is not great either, even for 1894. Dickson and Heise have delivered some more impressive works even in the same year.
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Bury My Heart in Hollywood . . .
cricket crockett30 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
. . . or at Thomas Alva Edison's East Orange, NJ, Black Mariah Tinseltown forerunner. Why not brainwash the American public via ZERO DARK THIRTY that the well-documented ruthless indiscriminate non-stop torture of hundreds of random minority people (like the guy murdered in the Oscar-honored TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE) turned up one guilty guy who blabbed something which allowed SEAL Team 6 to interrupt Usama Bin Laden's late-night porn choking session, shoot him in the face, and ditch him in the Pacific (though all the evidence proves this just did NOT happen, and all the American tax dollars spent to torture family men taxi drivers to death was just more government waste)? Edison waited about as long after the assassination of Sitting Bull and the machine-gunning of a couple hundred women and children of his extended family as the ZERO people waited after the SEAL team raid to come out with this anti-Lakota propaganda. First, he insulted them by cramming the Black Mariah film studio beyond its capacity, leaving the braves with not enough room to turn around, let alone ghost dance. What follows is a necessarily fake "performance," shot haphazardly, met to assure the Eastern public, "Hey, buy some train tickets and buy some camping gear: if this is all those Injuns can muster up, itz safe to go back West, young man, woman & child!"
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And the natives make their first appearance as well.
Boba_Fett11389 March 2010
Well, not much to say about this really, since it isn't anything too remarkable or groundbreaking, other than the fact that this was the first time ever native Americans got captured by the Thomas A. Edison's camera.

Appereantly the native American's in this movie were part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show but indeed they were real Sioux Indians. They are in full war paint and costume and show of one of their dances. We see how they start out, dance around a bit before the movie suddenly comes to an end.

It got not shot on location but in the Black Maria studio, with William Heise behind the camera, on September 24, 1894. The same day other similar type of movies got shot, featuring natives.

They were probably interesting in capturing the complicated movements of several people at the same time and distributed for the people to have a change to see actual Indians doing their stuff. It's quite good quality all and all of the movements seem smooth and natural. The movie got definitely shot in the right speed.

Only really relevant or interesting if you are into movie history or that of native American Indians.

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