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Caroline Weldon: A White Woman’s Doomed Effort to Save Sitting Bull


When Caroline Weldon arrived at the Standing Rock Reservation in 1889, she attracted attention. The Sioux people who lived there hadn’t invited her. The white settlers who lived nearby didn’t understand why she wanted to go there. She herself was on the run from life as a social outcast in the East, her young son in tow.

But as she approached the encampment of Lakota leader Sitting Bull, she was confident in her mission: to help save the Sioux people from a government that wanted to take away their land and their way of life.

Weldon’s mission did not succeed and she soon became a social pariah for her attempts to help the Sioux people. As the events that would end Sitting Bull’s life began to swirl, Weldon acted as his secretary and advocate, agitating for better treatment of Native Americans during a time in which bigotry against people like the Sioux was not just socially acceptable, but written into federal law.

“Weldon was one of the only white people of her time of either gender who not only had the right political view of Native American rights, but also gave her life to work for those rights,” saysEileen Pollack, author of Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull. The book, which details Weldon’s doomed, self-appointed mission to help Sitting Bull and the Sioux, was adapted into Woman Walks Ahead, a historical drama starring Jessica Chastain released in June 2018.

Weldon’s life was certainly movie-ready: She was an unconventional thinker and a woman who challenged the strict gender norms of her time. Born Susanna Faesch in Switzerland, she moved to the United States with her mother after her mother’s divorce. Susanna married a Swiss doctor and settled down in Brooklyn, but was unhappy and left her husband for another man, with whom she had a son. Her new lover left her soon after, and Susanna became a single mother.

These actions turned Susanna from an everyday Swiss immigrant into a pariah. The era’s strict gender roles meant it was nearly unthinkable for a woman to get a divorce, much less publicly raise an illegitimate child without a husband. Moreover, says Pollack, the terms of her divorce meant that, while her ex-husband could remarry, she could not.

Susanna had always been interested in the lives and rights of Native Americans in the United States’ ever-increasing westward territories. At the time, a debate raged over how to treat the nation’s Native Americans as white people flooded into the west. The United States created the first Indian reservations in 1851 with theIndian Appropriations Act, acknowledging tribal rights but driving Native Americans onto reservations where they governed themselves.

However, this was seen as a threat by a majority of Anglo-Americans, who felt that tribal loyalties could endanger white American values. Native Americans should become more “civilized” and begin to adopt their habits and customs, they argued, including adopting agrarian lifestyles and speaking the English language.

As this viewpoint grew in popularity, a tiny opposition was born. Susanna joined the National Indian Defense Organization,founded by Thomas Bland, which aimed to use U.S. laws to protect Native Americans and uphold their tribal sovereignty and land rights. The group opposed theDawes Act, proposed legislation that would break many tribal lands up into individual plots and distribute them among tribe members, assimilate Native American children by forcing them into boarding schools, and take some tribal lands.

After the Dawes Act was passed in 1887, residents of Dakota Territory tried to extend similar provisions to the Sioux people who lived on land they wanted to occupy. When Susanna heard that Sitting Bull, leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, was opposed to the plan, she began to write him letters. Then, in 1889, she decided to walk away from New York life to help him and live among the Sioux people. “She had nothing to lose,” says Pollack. “There was nobody left to shame, and she didn’t really care.” She also had a new name to indicate her new identity: Caroline Weldon.

As soon as she arrived at Standing Rock Reservation with her son, Weldon became a figure of amazement and mockery. She told Sitting Bull she wanted to be his secretary and representative and began to try to organize his supporters in the area to oppose theSioux Bill. She also painted his portrait four times, using oil paints to capture the solemn face of the beleaguered chief.

Meanwhile, local newspapers picked up on the seemingly amazing story of a white woman traveling to live with a Native American tribe. They vilified Weldon as a harpy who was in love with Sitting Bull and called her his “white squaw.” That a white woman wanted to be associated with Native Americans, much less try to help them, was unthinkable to a country convinced that assimilation was in Native Americans’ best interests.

While Weldon was with Sitting Bull, a religious movement called theGhost Dance swept through the area. The movement held that if Native people performed certain songs and dances, white people would disappear and their dead ancestors would rejoin them.

The movement was understandably popular among the Lakota Sioux, whose tribal holdings and unity were directly threatened by the Sioux Bill. Meanwhile, it was viewed as a threat by white settlers. Weldon warned Sitting Bull that it would turn him into a target, but he disregarded her. She began to advocate against the dance, causing a rift with Sitting Bull. Finally, she left the reservation. “They really meant a lot to each other,” says Pollack. “They each grieved terribly when they parted.”

Tragedy followed. Weldon’s instinct was right: A year later, U.S. officials arrested and killed Sitting Bull after he refused to stop Ghost Dance ceremonies on the reservation. Meanwhile, her son died and she returned to Brooklyn a social pariah for her association with people most white Americans loathed. She lived in poverty and died in obscurity two decades later when she was burned by a fire sparked by a candle in her apartment.

Weldon and her fellow activists were not able to halt federal policy that threatened Sitting Bull and the Lakota Sioux. The Sioux Billdevastated the Sioux people, reducing their land holdings and decimating their finances. And though Sitting Bull took advantage of Weldon’s assistance and she was welcomed among the Sioux people, she seems to have appointed herself their representative without consulting them.

Still, says Pollack, “It’s incredibly important to look at the very few people who in their time bucked all the conventions at great danger to themselves to do the right thing.” By advocating for Sitting Bull and a group of people most white Americans saw as expendable, says Pollack, Weldon “tried to make America live up to its own ideals.”


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Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull

As hard as this book is to read, personally I must remember that Sitting Bull and Weldon&aposs bravery did have results: more land and respect for the Sioux as a people, the icon of Indian courage. If Weldon and her group had not taken up the cause of the Sioux, if Sitting Bull had not been such a wise and resilient leader, the Sioux would not have the standing they do among all native peoples worldwide.
The fight goes on with the Dakota pipeline. When will the big money figure out th Legacy Deserved

As hard as this book is to read, personally I must remember that Sitting Bull and Weldon's bravery did have results: more land and respect for the Sioux as a people, the icon of Indian courage. If Weldon and her group had not taken up the cause of the Sioux, if Sitting Bull had not been such a wise and resilient leader, the Sioux would not have the standing they do among all native peoples worldwide.
The fight goes on with the Dakota pipeline. When will the big money figure out that these are men and women who fight back?
Good work, Eileen Pollack. You carefully document every word and inference you put on the page. . more

this is a superbly written book about a historic figure whose true identity and background remain virtually unknown to the general public. Eileen Pollack, in a narrative way, walks us through the life of Catherine (Caroline) Weldon detailing her experiences while researching this very difficult subject and still conveying an intimate picture of this remarkable woman. To-date this is the only biography ever written about Catherine Weldon. Anyone studying the events that lead up to Sitting Bull&aposs this is a superbly written book about a historic figure whose true identity and background remain virtually unknown to the general public. Eileen Pollack, in a narrative way, walks us through the life of Catherine (Caroline) Weldon detailing her experiences while researching this very difficult subject and still conveying an intimate picture of this remarkable woman. To-date this is the only biography ever written about Catherine Weldon. Anyone studying the events that lead up to Sitting Bull's murder and consecutive massacre at Wounded Knee ought to read this book. It is revealing and gives a different perspective of these events.

Bill just finished reading a very interesting book, "Woman Walking Ahead, in search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull" by Eileen Pollack written in 2002. It is about E. Pollack following up on one of graduate school professors suggesting she write a book about a mysterious woman who lived with Sitting Bull during the last years of his life.

What started out as a book about Catherine Weldon became a book both Catherine Weldon and Eileen Pollack&aposs newly acquired self awareness that came about Bill just finished reading a very interesting book, "Woman Walking Ahead, in search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull" by Eileen Pollack written in 2002. It is about E. Pollack following up on one of graduate school professors suggesting she write a book about a mysterious woman who lived with Sitting Bull during the last years of his life.

What started out as a book about Catherine Weldon became a book both Catherine Weldon and Eileen Pollack's newly acquired self awareness that came about during her research, attendance at a Ghost Dance (by invitation), and how history is really fluid the way it is reported.

I would put the book in the classification of a history book, self-awareness book, and a motivational book.

To be honest, I had started reading this book last year. It was the one of the two or three books I keep by the recumbent bike to read while I am doing my daily exercise routine.

I must warn three of you ladies, my sister is reader that puts me to shame and the heck of it she can give a much better review than this lone member of the "Fearsome Foursome Plus One"
. more


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Portrait of Sitting Bull on Display at North Dakota

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  • The real purpose of Caroline (Catherine) Weldon’s appearance in Dakota Territory has been debated
  • Even if it were politically unpopular at the time, the fact is she came here with her son in tow and lived among the Sioux tribe and Sitting Bull in what is now North Dakota

Intrigue Behind a Sitting Bull Painting: The Little-Known

  • Sitting Bull portrait by Caroline Weldon 1890 (SHSND 12319) I’ve walked past this 1890 oil painting of Sitting Bull, or Tatanka Iyotanke, hundreds of times during my museum career
  • I’ve squinted behind the glass case at the amateur painting and the scrawled signature of “C

Caroline Weldon: A White Woman’s Doomed Effort to Save

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  • A portrait of Sitting Bull, painted by Caroline Weldon
  • (Credit: Daniel Guggisberg/CC BY-SA 4.0) As soon as she arrived at Standing Rock Reservation with her son, Weldon became a …

Art and Film: Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull

  • A portrait of Sitting Bull, painted by Caroline Weldon
  • (Credit: Daniel Guggisberg/CC BY-SA 4.0 via History.com)
  • Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Trump’s reactionary public policy, which has institutionalized contempt for the advances in social justice forged in the United States over the past 150 years, has produced pervasive discontent.

Caroline Weldon and Sitting Bull – The True Story

  • Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull
  • Pollack, on the basis of Johnson’s book (above), chooses to use the name “Catherine.” Because she is included in Wikipedia as “Caroline,” I chose to use this …

How a Brooklyn widow became the Victorian era’s ‘Hanoi Jane’

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Portrait of Sitting Bull painted by Catherine Weldon Historic Arkansas Museum “They said she was carrying his love child, that his wives were running around after her with knives,” said

The story behind 'Woman Walks Ahead' movie

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The portrait of the Hunkpapa Lakota leader was done by Catherine Weldon, an Indian activist who came to the Standing Rock Reservation in 1889, to capture Sitting Bull

'Woman Walks Ahead' Lead Sees A Sea Change For Indigenous

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In Woman Walks Ahead, a New York City activist and artist named Catherine Weldon (played by Jessica Chastain) travels across the United States to paint the great Native American chief Sitting Bull

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As explained by the book that inspired the movie, Eileen Pollack’s Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull, she …

The True Story Behind Woman Walks Ahead

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The movie Woman Walks Ahead — opening Friday, starring Jessica Chastain, Michael Greyeyes and Sam Rockwell — centers on what might seem like a minor moment in history: the 19th century efforts of Catherine Weldon, a white woman from Brooklyn, to paint a portrait of Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.But the story of the painting, which plays a much smaller role in the real history of Sitting

Sitting Bull and Caroline Weldon: Facts vs Fiction

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  • Portrait of Sitting Bull painted by Caroline Weldon FICTION: In the movie, Sitting Bull is wary of the Ghost Dance, a religious dance sweeping through Native American communities
  • Participants of the Ghost Dance believed the dance would make white settlers leave their lands and would also bring back dead warriors to help aid them in their fight.

Woman Walks Ahead (2018) SHOWTIME

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  • Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a widowed artist from New York in the 1880s, travels alone to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes)
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  • In Woman Walks Ahead, Catherine Weldon, a thirtysomething painter from New York, travels to the Dakota territory to meet the living legend Sitting Bull and paint his portrait
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  • The filmmakers want Weldon to be…

The Real Catherine Weldon, Subject Of Woman Walks Ahead

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  • In 1889, Weldon traveled to the Dakota territory to offer her services as a lobbyist, translator, and an advisor to the Lakota Sioux
  • As Bobby Bridger writes the book Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull

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  • catherine weldon portrait of sitting bull art Weldon painted four portraits of Sitting Bull of which two are known to have survived
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  • Sitting Bull has become a farmer, and the U.S

Caroline Weldon, 19th Century Indigenous Rights Advocate

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  • For several months after arriving at Standing Rock, Weldon acted as Sitting Bull’s secretary
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Catherine Weldon (unknown-1939)

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  • Weldon was one of the only white people of her time of either gender who not only had the right political view of Native American rights, but also gave her life to work for those rights,” says Eileen Pollack, author of Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull
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Eileen Pollack writes about Catherine Weldon, a woman from Brooklyn, who twice came to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to work with Sitting Bull and to paint his portrait.

Sitting bull portrait by catherine weldon

  • A portrait of Sitting Bull, painted by Caroline Weldon
  • (Credit: Daniel Guggisberg/CC BY-SA 4.0) As soon as she arrived at Standing Rock Reservation with her son, Weldon became a …

Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and

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  • An amazing book by a woman who has great fortitude - just like Catherine Weldon
  • I got interested in reading this book after watching the movie, She Walked Ahead (2018) starring Jessica Chastain
  • In the beginning you learn about Sitting Bull ‘s character which most attracted CS Weldon who desired to paint his portrait.

Review: Woman Walks Ahead Proves Good Intentions Don’t

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  • The real Catherine Weldon, and her relationship with Sitting Bull, would have made for a much more radical film than this same old, snoozy biopic

Jessica Chastain On Playing Catherine Weldon in 'Woman

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Chastain explained that she was excited by the opportunity to illuminate the story of Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from New York who travels to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull

Flick tells story of activist famous for Sitting Bull

Starring Jessica Chastain, right, as Catherine Weldon and Michael Greyeyes, left, as Sitting Bull, "Woman Walks Ahead" depicts Weldon's journey to the Dakotas in the late 1800s to paint a portrait

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  • Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

Intrigue behind a Sitting Bull Painting: The little know

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  • 1 “Catherine Weldon, Sitting Bull,” North Dakota History 72, nos
  • Weldon Sitting Bull’s White Squaw?,” The West, October 1964, 67
  • Hollow, “Portrait of Sitting Bull by Caroline Weldon,” North Dakota

What this 1800s film about Sitting Bull says about

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Michael Greyeyes (left) as Sitting Bull and Jessica Chastain as Catherine Weldon, in 'Woman Walks Ahead,' which premiered at the Toronto International Film …

Jessica Chastain Drama ‘Woman Walks Ahead’ Nabbed by A24

Directed by Susanna White, the film centers on Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, who travels to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull

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  • Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

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  • Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

"sitting bull" Movies — The Movie Database (TMDb)

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  • In 1890, Catherine Weldon, a painter from New York, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull and becomes involved in the struggle of the Lakota people to get the Government respects their rights over the land where they live

Woman Walks Ahead (DVD) Las Vegas-Clark County Library

  • Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

Woman Walks Ahead (DVD) The Indianapolis Public Library

Woman Walks Ahead (DVD) : Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

Jessica Chastain Interview On ‘Woman Walks Ahead

  • Casting Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull was easy for the director
  • Susanna admitted that Jessica has a lot of the same incredible qualities as Catherine

"Woman Walks Ahead" stumbles between fact and fiction

  • The screen version says Weldon went West to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull
  • It seems she’s a widow, and there’s no child
  • As she confronts the Indians’ living conditions, the white’s hatred of them, and political machinations, Weldon begins to champion Native Americans
  • She is fascinated by Sitting Bull, and he with her.

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  • Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to North Dakota to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

Jessica Chastain on How Trump's Immigration Policy

“Woman Walks Ahead” follows the true story of Catherine Weldon (played by Chastain), a 1800s portrait painter from Brooklyn who travels out West to seek out Sitting Bull


Smoke in Our Eyes

With a strong cast of American Indian actors in leading and supporting roles, Hostiles, produced in 2017, is one of the most recent Westerns to attempt to tell the story of the American-Indian conflict on the Western frontier.
– Courtesy Lionsgate. –

The very first feature-length movie made in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1914 film The Squaw Man, was an Indian-centered Western, and D.W. Griffith was making films like The Red Man’s View five years earlier. Whether factual or fantasy, Indian Westerns have a long, if checkered, history. The points of view run the gamut: when Francis Ford directed and starred in 1912’s Custer’s Last Fight, the Indians were portrayed as savages. When younger brother John Ford directed 1948’s Fort Apache, there was no doubt that Henry Fonda’s Custer character was the savage.

While early films tended to show Indians as the enemy both of whites and of progress, there were always sympathetic portrayals of Indians—whether as noble savages, childlike innocents or simply as human beings. More evenhanded treatment became the norm by the 1970s, not coincidentally concurrent with the rise of Indian activism. The American Indian Movement’s occupation of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee, and Marlon Brando’s refusal of his Godfather Oscar over Indian treatment in films, were initially greeted by the public with amusement or annoyance, but these actions forced a spotlight on the unfair treatment of Indians by various government agencies. Three of the most visible participants and spokesmen for the Movement would eventually become three of the most respected actors in the new wave of Westerns: Russell Means, Graham Greene and Wes Studi, who in October became the first American Indian to be awarded a career Oscar.

Social justice warriors might dismiss older films simply because the Indians were portrayed by non-Indians, but that would be foolish. The suddenly widely accepted idea that people should portray only their own ethnic/racial/sexual identity, is of very new vintage. Michael Horse, Yaqui and Apache, who played Tonto in 1981’s Legend of the Lone Ranger, Deputy Hawk in Twin Peaks, and is in the current Call of the Wild, reminds us, “The process of acting is to portray something that you’re not.” He adds, “But if you’re doing a cultural piece, and you don’t bring somebody who comes with that culture, you’re going to cheat yourself.”

Michael Dante, an actor of Italian descent, played many a cowboy in Westerns, but also played the son of Victorio, opposite Audie Murphy, in 1964’s Apache Rifles Crazy Horse in the Custer TV series and most famously starred as Winterhawk. “The problem in those days, there weren’t that many Native Americans that had a background in the theatre. They weren’t professionals they weren’t given the opportunities.”

In the early days of the silent movie, indigenous people often portrayed themselves. In 1908’s The Bank Robbery, Quanah Parker, the last Comanche war chief, plays himself. In 1920’s The Daughter of Dawn, Quanah’s daughter Wanada, and son White, play lead roles. Shot in Oklahoma, the film tells the story of the struggles between Comanche and Kiowa, and tribe mem-bers make up the entire cast. Beginning her screen career in 1908, actress Red Wing was born on Nebraska’s Winnebago Reservation, and had appeared in over 60 films when she starred in DeMille’s T he Squaw Man. Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance’s swoon-worthy physique made a powerful impression in the Paramount early talkie The Silen t Enemy, and stardom seemed a real possibility. Tragically, when word leaked out that he wasn’t “pure” Indian, but part black, his career collapsed, and he committed suicide.

With the coming of sound, DeMille filmed The Squaw Man yet a third time, with Mexican actress Lupe Valez as the Indian girl. In 1934, Valez would star in the remark able Laughing Boy, based on Oliver La Farge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The tale of a traditional Navajo lad (Ramon Novarro) who falls for “Americanized” city Navajo girl—and kept woman, Valez was so daring and controversial that director W.S. Van Dyke kept his name off of the credits.

Based on the 1905 Broadway play of the same title, The Squaw Man was produced by Cecil B. DeMille in 1914 and was the first Indian-centered Western.
– Courtesy Jesse L. Lasky, Feature Play Company. –

End of The Trail, released in 1932, was a B Western like no other. Tim McCoy, who’d lived on the Wind River Reservation, and was adjutant general of Wyoming before becoming an actor, plays Cavalry Capt. Tim Travers, who has made enemies at the fort for being an “Injun lover.” Framed for selling rifles to the Arapahos, he’s discharged from the service, but leaves only after giving a scathing speech denouncing the military and the government for not honoring any treaties made with Indians. Soon his son is killed by soldiers, he’s wrongly sentenced to death, and this is only partway through this unique 59-minute movie!

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s very few Westerns were built around Indian characters. Then came 1950, and Broken Arrow, director Delmer Daves’s largely true story of the peace negotiated between former Indian fighter Tom Jeffords (James Stewart), and the Apache Chief Cochise (Oscar-nominated Jeff Chandler). The honor and wisdom of the protagonists is striking. The unspoken irony is that the peace would not be honored by the government. Jay Silverheels took a break from The Lone Ranger to give a powerful though brief performance as Geronimo.

After World War II, producers, directors and writers began challenging stereotypes in Westerns, as in 1950’s Broken Arrow, although the majority of the Indian roles were played by non-Indian actors, including Jeff Chandler as Cochise. Broken Arrow’s Italian distributor changed the title to the melodramatic L’Amante Indiana, “Indian Lover.”
– Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. –

In 1954 Drum Beat, Delmer Daves’s story of the Modoc War of 1873, starred Charles Bronson as Kintpaush, the Modoc leader known as Captain Jack, opposite Alan Ladd as the frontiersman who’s trying to prevent further bloodshed. In addition to being brave and daring, Kintpaush has a sense of humor, and is more sophisticated than the ministers and generals he manipulates. Bronson’s parents came from Lithuania. Eastern Shoshone actor and stuntman Cody Jones,who has worked on The Son, Hostiles and the upcoming Outlaw Johnny Black, says, “At the end of the day, acting’s acting. Charles Bronson, he was good.” Michael Horse agrees. “Charles Bronson used to come pretty close.”

After World War II, producers, directors and writers began challenging stereotypes in Westerns, as in 1950’s Broken Arrow, although the majority of the Indian roles were played by non-Indian actors, including Jeff Chandler as Cochise. Broken Arrow’s Italian distributor changed the title to the melodramatic L’Amante Indiana, “Indian Lover.”
– Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox –

Also in 1954, Burt Lancaster played Massai, a warrior who breaks away from Geronimo rather than live on the Florida reservation, in Apache. While his and his woman Jean Peters’ pale blue eyes are distracting, it’s a fine film full of original scenes, like Massai’s first terrifying visit to a white mans’ town, and his meeting with a successful Cherokee farmer. Charles Bronson again excels as Hondo, a sell-out to the Army.

Among the “White Man Who is Made an Indian Because of His Bravery” films, the best is 1957’s Run of The Arrow, from writer/director Sam Fuller. Rod Steiger plays an ex-Confederate who runs afoul of the Sioux, and when he survives their ritual “run of the arrow,” is made a member of the tribe by Chief Blue Buffalo (yes, Charles Bronson). A fine successor, is Elliot Silverstein’s 1970 film A Man Called Horse. From the pen of Dorothy M. Johnson, whose other filmed stories include The Hanging Tree and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it stars Richard Harris as a British aristocrat whose hunting vacation ends when he’s captured and enslaved by a Sioux raiding party. When he’s allowed to join the tribe, and marry, the enemies they must contend with are not other whites, but Seminoles, with jarring brutality on both sides. The rituals are historically documented, and unflinching, performed by Iron Eyes Cody. Cody himself is perhaps the best real-life example of tribe adoption. Beginning in silent Westerns in 1926, Cody became the screen’s foremost Indian actor, with more than 200 roles in his nearly 60-year career, best remembered as the Crying Indian in the famous anti-littering P.S.A. Most Indians were well-aware that Cody was in fact the son of Italian immigrants, but because he always portrayed Indians in an honorable and historically accurate way, they kept his secret from the general public until after his death.

A Man Called Horse, starring Richard Harris (left, tied up) was released in 1970, the same year as Little Big Man. Both films were part of a new wave of Westerns with strong Native actor casts and sympathetic Indian storylines.
– Courtesy National General. –

Horse’s screenplay was by Jack DeWitt, whose Westerns were revisionist long before the term was coined. In Sitting Bull (1954), starring J. Carrol Naish, DeWitt pulls no punches in his contempt for Custer. And he daringly includes a historically accurate but rarely seen black Sioux (Joel Fluellen), a former slave adopted by the tribe. In DeWitt’s The Battles of Chief Pontiac (1952), Pontiac (Lon Chaney, Jr.) must deal with English allies and their homicidal Hessian mercenaries. “The industry has needed a good Indian for years,” Chaney had said, “and I’d like to be it.” He would be that in 1956’s Daniel Boone—Trailblazer, and the following year in the Saturday morning series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans, in which he played James Fenimore Cooper’s Chingachook to John Hart’s Hawkeye.

In John Ford’s 1962 Cheyenne Autumn, Carroll Baker (left) starred with Mexican actors Dolores Del Rio as a Spanish woman and Gilbert Roland as Cheyenne leader Dull Knife. The film was the award-winning director’s most overt attempt to dramatize the plight of the Western Indians’ relocation to reservations.
– Courtesy Warner Bros. –

Although the often-glacial pace requires as much patience from the audience as the Congress expected from the Cheyenne, John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn (1964) is a pro-Cheyenne telling of the Army’s attempt to force the Cheyenne from their homelands, to a reservation. Mad Magazine’s parody, Cheyenne Awful, features a background Indian commenting, “Notice how the director gave the five leading Indian roles to three Spaniards, an American and an Italian, while we real Indians play crummy extras!” To be fair to Ford, the three “Spaniards”—Dolores Del Rio, Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland—were all Mexican by birth, and presumably of Indian as well as Spanish blood.

“Paul Newman nailed it,” Michael Horse says of his performance in 1967’s Hombre, Elmore Leonard’s Western take on J. M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton. Newman is the self-possessed white-raised-by- Apaches whose path crosses with a stagecoach full of “real” whites, including embezzling Indian Agent Fredric March and outlaw Richard Boone. Directed by Martin Ritt, the film makes social points that are organic yet startling.

In 1970, Dustin Hoffman (far left) starred as Jack Crabb in the title role of the alt-Western Little Big Man opposite Oscar-nominated Canadian Indian actor Chief Dan George George (near left). A Coast Salish tribal member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, George’s character, Old Lodge Skins, is Crabb’s adopted Indian father and philosophical voice of the film. His dialogue, written by novelist Thomas Berger and screenwriter Calder Willingham, is often quoted, including the famous line, “Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
– Courtesy National General. –

Michael Horse recalls, “Little Big Man was the first time I saw one of those funny old elders that I grew up with, and Chief Dan George was just magic. ‘Am I still in this world?’ ‘Yes, grandpa.’ Dustin Hoffman tells him, ‘I have a white wife.’ ‘Does she show enthusiasm when you mount her?’” Little Big Man (1970) is the story of the only white survivor of Custer’s Last Stand. A jarring mix of broad humor and horrendous slaughter, the brutality in the depiction of the Army, and Richard Mulligan’s portrayal of Custer as a preening halfwit, make it unforgettable.

In Chato’s Land (1972), all Charles Bronson’s half breed Chato wants is to enjoy a drink at the saloon, but when a lawman gives him no other choice, Chato kills him. A posse pursues him into the desert, not realizing they’ve become Chato’s quarry. With almost no dialogue, performing almost entirely alone, Bronson gives a calm dignity and perseverance to his character.

American Indian actor Ned Romero played Nez Perces Chief Joseph in the ground-breaking television production I Will Fight No More Forever. Produced by Wolper-Margulies Productions two years before Roots, the film featured the largest American Indian cast in television production history.
– Courtesy ABC Television. –

In David Wolper and Stan Margulis’s 1975 Emmy-nominated production I Will Fight No More Forever, the unpunished murder of an Indian by a white begins an unwanted war. Famed one-armed Gen. Oliver O. Howard (James Whitmore) is ordered to force the Nez Perce onto a reservation. Chief Joseph (Ned Romero) befuddles the general with his superior tactics, keeping his tribe one step ahead of the Army for over a hundred days, nearly reaching Canada before surrendering with the words that are the film’s title. Written by Jeb Rosebrook and Theodore Strauss, the TV movie features a young Sam Elliott as Indian-sympathetic Capt. Charles E.S. Wood .

In 1993, Cherokee actor Wes Studi (foreground, above, left) starred in the title role of Geronimo: An American Legend, with a strong supporting cast of fellow American Indian actors, including Steve Reevis as Chato (foreground, above, right).
– Courtesy Columbia Pictures. –

In 1975, independent rural filmmaker Charles B. Pierce wrote and directed Winterhawk. When a Blackfeet village is struck with smallpox, Winterhawk (Michael Dante) goes to a mountain man rendezvous to trade pelts for medicine, but is instead bushwhacked and robbed by badman L.Q. Jones. Winterhawk captures a sister (Dawn Wells) and brother to trade for medicine. Notable for its cast, the pursuers are Leif Erickson, Woody Strode, Denver Pyle and Elisha Cook Jr. Dante notes, “When you’re playing a Native American, you have to speak with your hands in the dirt psychologically, to relate to the moon, the wind and stars, the elements, the environment. They’re very spiritual. He was not written as a spiritual man. I brought that.” It was the last time Dante would play an Indian. “Now they won’t hire a white man. They don’t need to they have a lot of wonderful actors. Graham Greene, Wes Studi, Zahn McClarnon, Adam Beach—he’s an outstanding actor.” Dante was delighted to learn that one of his favorite current actors made his first visit to a set on Winterhawk. “I grew up in Montana,” says Longmire’s Zahn McClarnon. “They were looking for extra women. My mom is this gorgeous Lakota woman, and she went onto the set to be an extra. And I met Woody Strode. I was like six or seven, I wouldn’t go ask for his autog raph. But I finally got the nerve to.”

Creek Indian Will Sampson, who received great notoriety for his groundbreaking role as Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, co-starred with Chief Dan George as Ten Bears in Clint Eastwood’s Western classic, The Outlaw Josey Wales.
– Courtesy Warner Bros. –

What are some of McClarnon’s favorite Indian films? “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Josey Wales.” Cody Jones concurs. “Clint Eastwood used Chief Dan George in Outlaw Josey Wales, that’s one I enjoy a whole lot. Even today, the image of the Native is the great warrior of the plains, the stoic. But reality is, American Indian culture has a lot of laughing. And Will Samson: big guy, big presence. It was awesome to see Clint bring the natives into the forefront like he did.” At least the first half of Josey Wales, one of Eastwood’s best films, is about a farmer seeking revenge on the Union soldiers who slaughtered his family. But it’s the humor and the humanity that stays with you.

In Legend of Walks Far Woman (1982), Raquel Welch’s character, banished by her Blackfeet tribe, tries to make a life with her mother’s Sioux people. This is a woman’s story full of unusual situations, like dealing with her husband after a concussion suffered at the Little Bighorn makes him violent. The only whites seen are the dead cavalrymen whose pockets are emptied.

A groundbreaking film released 30 years ago, Dances with Wolves, starring Kevin Costner (far left) won Best Picture for its poignant and empathetic story of a white soldier who is adopted into the Lakota Sioux tribe. The award-winning movie remains the standard bearer for Western films about the 19th-century American Indian experience.
– Courtesy Orion Pictures. –

Dances with Wolves (1990) was the game changer. In addition to being an excellent film, and an astounding first-time directing effort by Kevin Costner, no other film had ever given so many major roles to Native actors: Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal, Wes Studi and nearly a dozen others. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) continued the same trajectory. Michael Mann’s film, the ninth version in America alone, starred Daniel-Day Lewis, Madeleine Stowe and Wes Studi, and introduced many audiences to Russell Means and Eric Schweig. Both films combine thrilling romance and action, compelling characters, and seemingly doomed civilizations. They are both beautifully made films. Mohicans made a fortune, and Wolves is the most successful Western of all time.

The late August Schellenberg, a Canadian actor of Mohawk and European descent, starred as Sitting Bull in the HBO film adaptation of Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. He considered it his greatest role.
– Courtesy HBO. –

Geronimo—An American Legend is the 1993 masterpiece of director Walter Hill, writer John Milius, and star Wes Studi. A lavish war movie as well as a Western, it follows Geronimo from his surrender to the Army, to his followers’ and his own mis treatment, to his escape to Mexico, and beyond. The problems of the chain of command are highlighted, as Geronimo puts his faith in General Crook (Gene Hackman), and Lieutenant Gatewood (Jason Patric), whose actions are controlled from Washington.

Plains Cree Michael Greyeyes starred as Sitting Bull in the critically acclaimed Woman Walks Ahead. Released in 2017, the indie film reflects a growing trend by filmmakers to cast Indian actors to star in films exploring a broader understanding of American Indian culture.
– Courtesy Black Bicycle Productions. –

Unlike Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull and his Lakota followers did manage to reach Canada, but not for long. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the heartbreaking 2007 TV movie, is seen largely through the eyes of Charles Eastman (Adam Beach). As a Sioux child he’s taken from his parents, and sent to a school to be Americanized: his hair cut, his clothing replaced, forbidden to use his native language, he’s even forced to take on a Christian name. But when the educators see how bright he is, he’s sent to college and medical school, used as a PR tool by the government, and finally returns to Standing Rock, where he tries desperately to fit in, and to save his people.

Wes Studi, who starred in Hostiles as Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk, recently became the first Indian actor to receive an Academy Honorary Oscar Award.
– Courtesy Lionsgate. –

In the past couple of years, there have been two impressive Indian-centered Westerns. Hostiles stars Wes Studi as a long-imprisoned Cheyenne Chief finally allowed to return to his ancestral home. Christian Bale is the Indian-hating Army captain who reluctantly agrees to escort him. It feels spiritually like a continuation of Studi’s earlier Geronimo. Woman Walks Ahead stars Jessica Chastain as Catherine Weldon, a New York painter who journeyed out west to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes), and becomes involved in the Sioux battle to protect their land.

Henry Parke is True West’s Western film and television editor. His book of interviews, Indians and Cowboys, will be published later this year. If we missed any of your favorite Indian Westerns, please share them with us. If you’d like to read more of Michael Dante’s interview and Henry’s columns on Western film and television, go to TrueWestMagazine.com and subscribe for full access to True West’s Archives.

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Intrigue Behind a Sitting Bull Painting: The Little-Known

  • Weldon left the reservation just weeks before Sitting Bull’s death and became a footnote in history
  • Her painting was hanging in Sitting Bull’s cabin on Dec
  • On that morning a gunfight broke out when Indian agency police came to arrest him, and Sitting Bull and others were killed.

Portrait of Sitting Bull on Display at North Dakota

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Original painting done by Catherine (Caroline) Weldon from "Woman Walks Ahead" Forget for a moment that the movie “Woman Walks Ahead” is anything more than a great story: That a woman from New York City came to Fort Yates Agency in the late 1800s and painted Sitting Bull, one of the greatest and most well-known Native American chiefs in our

Caroline Weldon: A White Woman’s Doomed Effort to Save

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  • Weldon warned Sitting Bull that it would turn him into a target, but he disregarded her
  • She began to advocate against the dance, causing a rift with Sitting Bull
  • Finally, she left the reservation.

Caroline Weldon: The Real Painter Who Befriended Chief

  • Caroline Weldon: The Real Painter Who Befriended Chief Sitting Bull
  • Caroline Weldon shocked the world when she moved to the Dakota Territory intent on helping Chief Sitting Bull

Original Painting Of Sitting Bull By Catherine Weldon

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Caroline Weldon and Sitting Bull – The True Story

  • Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull
  • Pollack, on the basis of Johnson’s book (above), chooses to use the name “Catherine.” Because she is included in Wikipedia as “Caroline,” I chose to use this name to make it …

How a Brooklyn widow became the Victorian era’s ‘Hanoi Jane’

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Portrait of Sitting Bull painted by Catherine Weldon Historic Arkansas Museum “They said she was carrying his love child, that his wives were running around after her with knives,” said

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Art and Film: Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull

  • Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull and Jessica Chastain as painter Catherine Weldon in Woman Walks Ahead
  • Handsomely shot in New Mexico and based on a true story that is liberally embellished, the movie concerns the 1889–90 quest of activist painter Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain, humbly calibrated), here a New York widow (in reality, a

Sitting Bull and Caroline Weldon: Facts vs Fiction

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  • Weldon's courage to travel to the Dakota Territory alone, intent on painting a portrait of the great Lakota chief Sitting Bull
  • My heart ached for Sitting Bull and his people as they struggled to preserve their way of life in the face of white settlement and laws created by white men who lived far, far away from Lakota land.

Where is the painting of Sitting Bull by Catherine Weldon

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The story behind 'Woman Walks Ahead' movie

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The portrait of the Hunkpapa Lakota leader was done by Catherine Weldon, an Indian activist who came to the Standing Rock Reservation in 1889, to capture Sitting Bull

The Real Catherine Weldon, Subject Of Woman Walks Ahead

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  • Weldon and her son lived with Sitting Bull's two wives, children, and 200 tribesmen
  • Sitting Bull’s people named her Toka hey mani win , which translates to …

The True Story Behind Woman Walks Ahead

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The movie Woman Walks Ahead — opening Friday, starring Jessica Chastain, Michael Greyeyes and Sam Rockwell — centers on what might seem like a minor moment in history: the 19th century efforts of Catherine Weldon, a white woman from Brooklyn, to paint a portrait of Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.But the story of the painting, which plays a much smaller role in the real history of Sitting

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As explained by the book that inspired the movie, Eileen Pollack’s Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull, she …

Caroline Weldon, 19th Century Indigenous Rights Advocate

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  • Steele bought the painting from Sitting Bull's wives for $2 and kept it for six decades, donating it to the State Historical Society of North Dakota in 1953
  • Weldon acted as Sitting Bull’s

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The Story of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull

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  • I don’t remember the last time a film impacted me this much (movie: Woman Walks Ahead)
  • Here’s the story of chief Sitting Bull and painter Catherine Weldon.

Woman Walks Ahead: Brooklyn’s Catherine Weldon’s

  • As Sitting Bull tells Catherine, when the Sioux killed buffalo, every part of it was used by the community, unlike the indiscriminate slaughter of the whites
  • So nature plays a major role in the film.

Book details woman who had special relationship with

Eileen Pollack writes about Catherine Weldon, a woman from Brooklyn, who twice came to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to work with Sitting Bull and to paint his portrait.

Woman Walks Ahead Sitting Bull the Painter

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Dances With Bulls (“Woman Walks Ahead”) Linnet Moss

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  • In Woman Walks Ahead, Catherine Weldon, a thirtysomething painter from New York, travels to the Dakota territory to meet the living legend Sitting Bull and paint his portrait
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  • The filmmakers want Weldon to be…

Catherine Weldon (unknown-1939)

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  • Weldon was one of the only white people of her time of either gender who not only had the right political view of Native American rights, but also gave her life to work for those rights,” says Eileen Pollack, author of Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull
  • The book, which details Weldon’s doomed, self

Art and Film: Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull Sitting

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  • Oct 15, 2018 - Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Trump’s reactionary public policy, which has institutionalized contempt for the advances in social justice forged in the United States over the past 150 years, has produced pervasive discontent
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Review: Woman Walks Ahead Proves Good Intentions Don’t

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  • The real Catherine Weldon, and her relationship with Sitting Bull, would have made for a much more radical film than this same old, snoozy biopic

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  • Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull: New and Updated Edition - Kindle edition by Pollack, Eileen
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North Dakota Heritage Center Expansion Proposed

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  • This painting is one of several items from the collections of the State Historical Society sent to Eu-rope for the Sitting Bull exhibit
  • The New York artist Catherine Weldon created this image and gave it to Sitting Bull, who hung it on the wall of one of his cabins
  • In the exchange of gun fi re that resulted in

Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and

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  • This book restores a little-known advocate of Indian rights to her place in history
  • In June 1889, a widowed Brooklyn artist named Catherine Weldon traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota Territory to help Sitting Bull hold onto land that the government was trying to wrest from his people.

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The True Story Behind Woman Walks Ahead – New York News

  • The movie Woman Walks Ahead — opening Friday, starring Jessica Chastain, Michael Greyeyes and Sam Rockwell — centers on what might seem like a minor moment in history: the 19th century efforts of Catherine Weldon, a white woman from Brooklyn, to paint a portrait of Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull
  • But the story of the painting, which plays a much smaller role in the real history of Sitting

Jessica Chastain Journeys to Paint Sitting Bull in ‘Woman

In the clip, the actress plays Catherine Weldon, an American widowed artist from New York that travels alone via train to North Dakota in pursuit of painting a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull

Review: Jessica Chastain plays the artist who painted

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In “Woman Walks Ahead,” a handsome snooze of a historical drama, Jessica Chastain plays Catherine Weldon, a widowed New York City artist who travels to …

How “Woman Walks Ahead” Tries Not To Be A White Savior Film

  • Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull and Jessica Chastain as Catherine Weldon in Woman Walks Ahead
  • At its heart, Woman Walks Ahead is a film about fighting against erasure
  • A biographical film, director Susanna White characterizes it as an “anti-western” — a recalibration of a genre that has historically sidelined and maligned women and

Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and

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  • Bill just finished reading a very interesting book, "Woman Walking Ahead, in search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull" by Eileen Pollack written in 2002
  • Pollack following up on one of graduate school professors suggesting she write a book about a mysterious woman who lived with Sitting Bull during the last years of his life.

Sitting Bull film to be shown in North Dakota Grand

Starring Jessica Chastain, right, as Catherine Weldon and Michael Greyeyes, left, as Sitting Bull, "Woman Walks Ahead" depicts Weldon's journey to the Dakotas in …

Review: A ‘Woman Walks Ahead,’ and Sitting Bull Stands Up

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Intent on painting the portrait of the Lakota Sioux chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes), Catherine (Jessica Chastain) travels from New York City to North Dakota.

'Woman Walks Ahead' Review: Jessica Chastain as Catherine

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As in Eileen Pollack’s 2002 book, “Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull,” director White seems to identify personally with the challenge that a …

Woman Walks Ahead review – Jessica Chastain historical

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Chastain stars as Catherine Weldon, the artist who risked the ire of the pioneers to paint Native American leader Sitting Bull, in a solidly crafted film ‘A film that shows that art is political


Watch the video: For Jessica Chastain and Michael Greyeyes Woman Walks Ahead, the DAPL protests hit home (January 2022).