by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Indian Paint (1965)

Jack   B-

IMDB    5.5

Tribe(s) : Arikawaha, Snake

Language : English



   Indian Paint is the story of an Arikawa boy Nishko, played by Johnny Crawford from the Rifleman and his father Chief Hevatanu (Jay Silverheels, Tonto from the Lone Ranger series) in the Great Plains of North America prior to the arrival of the white man (but after escaped horses had migrated to the Plains).

   The movie starts with another tribe killing the lookout for the peaceful Arikawas. The Arikawas practice wrestling and fighting, and play war games, but Hevatanu tells his people it is better to disarm your opponent and count coup then it is to kill him.

   Nishko raises a new painted colt, Mukapo, and looks forward to the day he can ride him. The Arikawas pray to be able to live in peace and harmony but prepare to defend themselves. The Arikawas go out to hunt the buffalo, but Nishko stays in camp. The hunting party is ambushed by Snakes (Shoshownee) and then the Snakes attack to Arikawa camp. Nishko fights but there is not much he can do.

   The raiders stole three girls and the Arikawa horses, including the painted colt. Nishko goes off to search for them but his father finds him and sends him back to the village. The Arikawas then go off after the Snakes. Nishko heads back but his horse throws him, and he has to walk. He finds his pony, ill on the ground and tries to nurse him back to health.

   Meanwhile, Hevatanu and his men find the Snake camp and defeat them soundly, getting their women back. When Mukapo's mother returns, Nishko milks her (first time I ever saw a horse milked) and feeds Mukapo. Soon Mukapo is back on his feet. The Snakes return but Nishko escapes from them and brings Mukapo back with him. Nishko's mother gets bitten by a rattlesnake, and the tribe mourns. Nishko heads off to the mountains to make a sacrifice. The medicine man tells Nishko he must sacrifice what he loves the most. Just as Nishko is about to kill Mukapo, he gets word his mother is getting better.

When Mukapo runs off, Nishko goes looking for him and fights off a cougar and wolves and finally gets him back. But Nishka knows Mukapo would be happier and better off free with the wild herd, so he lets him go.

   It was great to see the natives fighting with only bows and arrows, spears and hatchets (no guns). There's something special about hearing that "twang" of the released arrow. It may sound strange, but somehow, it all seems much more civilized. Ir was one of the few movies ever made about Indians with no white men. Dancing, creation stories in the tepee for the children, smoking pipes, making fire, hunting buffalo, a ceremony where the boys become man and Jay Silverheels. Many of the actors in this movie were Native, which is particularly unusual for this time period. Not a great movie, but not a bad one either. Worth seeing.