Award-winning Rich-Heape Films Unearths a Vanishing Race

By Sandra Hale Schulman
News From Indian Country 4-09

Digging deep into the National Archives, Steven-Heape and Chip Richie of Rich Heape Films have uncovered three historic films that depict Native American life in the early 1900s. The Romance of a Vanishing Race features tribal Chiefs who participated in the Last Great Indian Council and several who fought at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Originally produced on 35mm film, this priceless footage, recently discovered within the lost treasures of the National Archives, has been re-mastered to include an original music score by Jay Adkins with voiceover narration by Sophia Pati.

PROGRAM #1 – THE ROMANCE OF THE VANISHING RACE – A view of Indian life in the Southwest featuring Navajo, Pueblo, Crow, and Hopi tribes. Originally released in 1916, this footage shows everyday life and a re-enactment of an Indian battle on the plains. Running Time 29 minutes

PROGRAM #2 – RODMAN WANAMAKER EXPEDITION OF CITIZENSHIP TO THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN – Carrying the Flag and a Message of Hope to a Vanishing Race – Dr. Joseph Dixon explains the symbolism of the flag and dedication ceremonies to numerous Indian tribes who look on with mute interest. Originally released in 1913. Running Time 26 minutes

PROGRAM #3 – WINTER FARM LIFE ON A CROW RESERVATION – Featuring WWI French hero General Ferdinand Foch, this film shows reservation life including butchering a cow, raising a teepee, and ceremonies welcoming Foch. Released 1921. Running Time 8 minutes

While some of the footage is obvious recreations, it is important in it’s truthfulness and visual accuracy of tribal life. It would be interesting to know what the tribes thought of being filmed this way, and the reactions of those who saw the footage for the first time. Did these films help or harm the perceptions of Natives?

It’s a question to ponder in light of the continued view of Natives into the century as a “dead or dying” race.

The DVD can be purchased at the Indian Country Trading Post (Link the Trading Post part to the item page in our eBay site.)