by Jack Nilan            EMail :

The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)

Jack   C

IMDB    6.4

Tribe(s) : ?

Language : Silent



A twenty nine minute movie movie by D.W. Griffith made two years before Birth of a Nation. I din't think that there would be a sensitive portrayal of the Indians by Griffith and I was right.

The movie has Lillian Gish, Lionel Barrymore and Harry Carey, but it stars two little girls who, along with their puppies, who travel with their parents out west to visit their uncles. They are told when they get there that they are welcome but the dogs must stay outside.

Then we see the Indians who are having The Dog Feast (Sunka Alawan). The card says "Wa Yatamin Sunka E Ya E-E Yo" ("May you eat dog and live long"). The Indians dance, eat and then lie on the ground trying to recover from the feast. The chief's son and a friend come back to the village but the dog is all gone. They head out and then they find the puppies. "Wanna Watinbe" ("Now we Eat"). As they are about to kill the puppies one of the girls runs out and saves them. Then shooting breaks out and the chief's son is killed.

The Indians then attack the town and we see scalping and one Indian who grabs a baby from his mother and smashes it in to the ground. The cavalry arrives and runs the Indians off. The battle sequences are very well done, and we can see how Griffith was developing the skills that he would use in his masterpiece.

A very early film, close to the time of the tribal conflicts on the plains. Griffith is very obviously justifying the conquering of these "savages". They want to eat puppies and smash innocent babies in to the ground.

An interesting movie, technically very well done for the period. It was also one of the first movies to present a stereotyped image of the Indian as a savage.