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Soldier Blue (1970)

Jack   B-

IMDB    6.8

Tribe(s) : Cheyenne, Kiowa

Language : English, Cheyenne



   The movie starts with a white woman, Kathy Lee, played by Candice Bergen, being brought back from being rescued from a two years captivity with the Cheyenne. On the way back, the detail is attacked and massacred by the Cheyenne. Kathy takes off with a young soldier, Honus Gent, and the movie is mostly about the adventures they encounter on their journey. They meet up with a party of Kiowa and Honus defeats one in a knife fight and the Kiowas let them go on. They then meet up with a man who sells rifles to the Indians. They eventually are able to escape from him.
   Honus is wounded but Kathy makes her way back to a cavalry unit. They don't have time to go back for Honus because they are planning an attack on a Cheyenne camp. Kathy escapes and runs off to warn the Cheyenne, including her former husband, Spotted Wolf. Spotted Wolf doesn't think the troops will attack because he has a treaty with them. As he makes his way out to meet them with an American and a white flag, the cannons begin firing.
   What follows is a massacre scene showing rapes and brutal violence. The women and children are brutally cut down and the survivors are executed as they lay hiding in a gully.
   The movie came out right after the Mai Lai massacre in Viet Nam and many people felt that it was a Viet Nam allegory, condemning the US involvement in Viet Nam.
  In his book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, author Dee Brown said :
"On the morning of November 29, 1864, 600 Cheyenne and Arapahos camped on a bend of Sand Creek were awakened by the sound of charging hooves. Two thirds of these 600 were women and children as the government granted able bodied men to go east and hunt buffalo to feed their hungry families. Only 35 braves were in the camp. This made the ensuing charge all the more frightening for the women, children, elders, and remaining braves.

So great was the fear of the coming charge that men, women, and children ran from their lodges into the biting cold taking no time to fully dress. The partially dressed Indians began to gather under a huge American flag above Black Kettles lodge (Black Kettle was given the huge American flag and peace medals by Abraham Lincoln and Colonel A. B. Greenwood in Washington only a year earlier and was told that as long as the American flag was above them, no one would be harmed). The braves present surrounded the women and children gathered under the flag. At 8:00 am more than 700 cavalry men under the command of Colonel John M. Chivington and Major Scott J. Anthony, rode in and fired on the huddled Indians from two directions. After the initial charge the US soldiers dismounted and continued the indiscriminate killing of men, women, and children. During the killing unspeakable atrocities and mutilations were committed by the soldiers. Accounts from two white men, John S. Smith and Lieutenant James Connor, described the acts of dehumanization."

According to John S. Smith, Colonel Chivington knew these Indians to be peaceful before the massacre. Smith witnessed, as did helpless Indian mothers and fathers, young children having their sex organs cut away. U.S. soldiers mutilated Native American women, cutting away their breasts and removing all other sex organs. After the Massacre, soldiers displayed the women's severed body parts on their hats and stretched them over their saddle-bows while riding in the ranks. The sex organs of every male were removed in the most grotesque manner. One soldier boasted that he would make a tobacco pouch with the removed privates of White Antelope, a respected elder. Conner witnessed a soldier displaying the body parts of a woman on a stick. The fingers of Indians were cut off to get at the rings on them. Connor remembered a baby only a few months old who had been hidden in the feed box of a wagon for protection. When the soldiers discovered the baby some time later, the baby was thrown onto the frozen ground to die. In going over the site the next day, it was noted that every corpse was mutilated in some way, and scalped.

Two other men, Robert Bent and James Beckwourth were forced to ride with Chivington that morning. They recorded similar images. Beckwourth noted that before the massacre, White Antelope (age 75) ran out to meet the soldiers. He came running out to meet the command, holding up his hands and saying Stop! Stop! He spoke in as plain English as I can. He stopped and folded his arms until shot down. Bent remembered seeing the shooting of a little girl carrying a white flag. He also remembered seeing an Indian woman on the ground whose leg had been shattered by a shell. As she lay helpless, a soldier drew his saber, breaking the arm she had risen in defense. She then rolled over on her other side. The soldier did not leave until breaking her other arm with his saber, whereupon he left without killing her. Bent saw a pregnant woman who had been cut open and disemboweled. Her unborn child lay mutilated almost beyond human recognition beside her. Quite a number of mothers were slain; still clinging to their babies. Such was the scene that cold gray morning at Sand Creek, November 29, 1864.

   The movie was kind of quirky because it dealt with such a serious subject matter, but the music and the behavior of Kathy kept things light and goofy. In an effort to make the movie marketable, the movie took on a kind of schizophrenic tone. Could have been better.

   In his great book, Gunfighter Nation (1992), Richard Slotkin says of Soldier Blue, "In effect, the Mylai counter-myth follows the scenario of the old 'Cult of the Indian',: the standard Western mythology of captivities, rescues and regenerative violence is reproduced, with the 'normal' racial referents reversed, so the Whites are savages and the Indians are pure and helpless victims. In 1970-71 the logic of this counter-myth would lead to the re-emergence of a new 'Cult of the Indian', represented in movie-mythology by films like Little Big Man and Soldier Blue, which invokes parallels between Mylai and the Washita and Sand Creek massacre of Indians by Whites. However, this 'cult' reflected a more profound revulsion against the normative ideology than its predecessor.