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A group of young Native Americans stage a protest against the United States government on the Sioux Indian Reservation. They rally at the site of the massacre of Wounded Knee to focus attention on the years of deception regarding their people and eventually the event comes to a violent end.
Young hitchhiker Danny wanders by a South Dakota cemetery where, upon seeing a marker for a Sioux tribal chieftain, he imagines the ghosts of the tribe guarding the small community below. Curious, Danny enters the town of Rosebud and its Tribal Office. In one corner, a park ranger complains to a white couple that Native Americans legally hold title to the barren land in which they are interested, while there are homeless blacks and whites. Later in the council room, a young native woman, Shirley, leads a discussion among several Sioux who are concerned by the town council's efforts to force tribal members off their land and into a housing project. An older woman, Mrs. Blackwing, asks Shirley to pass her concerns about the move on to Frank, the tribal spokesman. Later, Danny stops at a bar as a drunken Frank staggers outside. Sitting at the bar next to three young Sioux, Danny asks if they can recommend a place for him to board. The men offer no suggestions, and when Danny finishes his beer and departs, they laugh, calling him a "goddamned hippie." A few blocks from the bar, Danny comes upon Frank stumbling about in the gathering dusk. After helping him retrieve his spectacles, Danny insists on driving Frank's car to the small house that he shares with his mother. The next morning, Frank awakens Danny, who has slept in the car, as the sheriff drives up. The sheriff takes Frank aside to warn him not to create a scene over the day's scheduled hearing for native Stanley Pike, who has been charged with hunting out of season. Noting Danny's nervousness at the arrival of the sheriff, Frank later asks Danny if he is running from the law, and Danny admits that he fled his California home after being drafted by the army. Taken aback, Frank reveals that he is a Vietnam war veteran, having served eighteen months. Despite his disappointment over Danny's revelation, Frank offers him breakfast. Later that morning, Frank rounds up several tribal members to drive to Pike's hearing. Under questioning, Pike points out that natives have government-sanctioned, year-round hunting rights, while Frank and the others, carrying shotguns, surround the building. When the ranger confronts Frank, he insists with dignity that the group is there to defend native hunting rights. Watching nearby with Shirley, Danny has an impression of ghostly native riders watching the proceedings. Uneasy over the presence of the tribal members, the town council leader orders an indefinite postponement of Pike's hearing. In celebration, Frank and several of the young men drive out to an open area and chase some cattle. Initially delighted by the men's antics, Danny follows them, only to be horrified when the men corner and slaughter a steer, which they then offer to the "Great Spirit" in thanks. That evening as the tribal members gather to dine on the steer and join the festivities, Frank admits to Danny that the steer was private property, but if the animals wander onto native territory, they can take advantage of the situation. When Danny looks uneasy, Frank adds that these rare occasions often supply many tribal members with the only meat they eat for weeks. While Frank goes to speak with the tribal elders, Danny learns from Shirley that she was once married to Frank, but his abrupt departure to Vietnam without telling her broke up their relationship. Watching several women perform a ceremonial dance, Danny smokes some hashish and joins in. The next morning, Danny awakens in the car to overhear Shirley fretting that Mrs. Blackwing is being bullied off her land and has requested Frank's assistance. When Frank is evasive, Shirley presses him to help the older woman. Uncomfortable, Danny goes for a swim in the nearby river as the town sheriff drives up to chastise Frank for leading the display at the hearing. After the sheriff departs, Shirley asks Frank about Danny, who joins them. Although Frank disparagingly describes Danny as a draft dodger, Shirley expresses admiration that Danny acted on his beliefs. Miffed, Frank declares it is not his country. Puzzled, Danny asks Frank why he served and Shirley angrily replies that Frank had to prove his masculinity. Later that afternoon at a demolition derby, Frank leaves Shirley and Danny in the stands to meet the track manager to ask for a driving job. After the manager insults Frank by asking if he is allowed off the reservation, he offers him three dollars to clean up the stands after the races. Later at the bar, an embittered Frank sits in the men's bathroom drinking. When Danny approaches him, Frank relates a violent confrontation in Vietnam where he witnessed civilian deaths. Hoping to encourage Frank, Danny confesses that Frank's unwavering stance at the hearing and his demeanor at the tribal celebration was impressive and indicates that Frank is a legitimate presence in his community. Ignoring Danny, Frank stumbles out to the bar where an angry Shirley demands he fulfill his promise to see Mrs. Blackwing. Going to the Blackwings' new residence in the project, a belligerent Frank tells Mrs. Blackwing she can simply return to her land, but the elderly woman admits she has sold her truck and so has no means to do so. Outside, Frank carelessly confesses his helplessness to Shirley, then collapses retching in the dirt. Danny and Shirley drive the unconscious Frank to Shirley's home, but leave him in the car. Shirley invites Danny inside and eventually the couple kisses and retires to Shirley's bedroom to have sex. The next morning, Frank awakens and, peering in the window, is stunned to see Danny asleep with Shirley. Thoroughly disheartened, he races off, losing control of the car, which flips off the road several times, killing him. Walking into Rosebud later, Danny learns of Frank's death from the sheriff. Stunned, Danny runs to Frank's mother's home, but the police have already informed her. Retrieving his backpack, Danny offers his condolences but is ignored. Returning to town, Danny goes to the Tribal Office, where many Sioux have gathered to console Shirley. When Shirley makes no move toward Danny, he leaves the building, but is followed by several of the men. As the men attack the unresisting Danny, a white tourist couple inside asks about a picture of an elderly native man. Pike explains that the man was a victim of the confrontation at Wounded Knee, which the government refuses to acknowledge as a massacre, instead applying the term to the all-white slaughter at Little Big Horn. When the couple expresses bewilderment, Pike explains that at Wounded Knee the natives were unarmed, in comparison to Little Big Horn, where the men who died were fully armed soldiers. Battered and bruised, but unwilling to make any protest, Danny staggers alone out of Rosebud.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||GSF Productions, Inc.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||GSF Productions, Inc.|
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