by Jack Nilan            EMail :

The Sons of the Great Bear (1951)

Jack   C-

IMDB    5.8

Tribe(s) : Sioux, Delaware, Siksika

Language : German (subtitles in English)



   Made in East Germany, at the height of the Cold War, you know for sure that the Americans are not going to come off too good in this one.

A white man named Red Fox, meets with Mattotaupa, a Sioux chief, in a bar. Mattotaupa makes a mistake and pays for his drink with a gold nugget. Red Fox wants to know where he got it, but Mattotaupa won't tell. Red Fox stabs and kills Mattotaupa, with his son Tokei-ihto looking on.

The the movie just goes over to a cavalry scene where an officer is saying the Dakotas have to go to the resevation by January 31, 1876. He says Tokei-ihto's Bear band is still up to trouble. Chief Tashunka Witko comes to ask Tokei-ihto to join up with him in a fight against the advancing General Crook. Tokei-ihto leads his men in attacking a cavalry supply train. The Indians take the supplies to camp and Tokei-ihto brings Major Smith's daughter back to the fort.

Tokei-ihto: Samuel Smith. I want to smoke the pipe with you. We shall speak justice.
Major Smith: I did not invite you, Redskin.
Tokei-ihto: I come as lord of this prarie.
Major Smith: You come as a spy, and we hang spies here.

Most of the dialogue is like this: awkward and often just silly. The translation from Germany to English just wasn't too smooth. The Indians finish many of their sentences with "how".

Red Fox, accompanied by a Delaware named Wolfchief, goes to the Sioux camp and saya that he brings peace. He asks Tokei-ihto to be his brother but Tokei-ihto refuses (which kind of makes sense since this guy stabbed and killed his father for no reason). Red Fox tells the chief to send Tokei-ihto to the fort to negotiate the peace. Wolfchief tells Tokei-ihto that thewhites have destroyed his tribe, the Delawares. There are just too many of them. Tokei-ihto asks why Wolfchief "fight for Longknifes and the thieves of his father's land?" Wolfchief says that he has taken an oath to Samuel Smith.

The chief tells Tokei-ihto to go hear Samuel Smith's words before they let their arrows sing again. The army tells Tokei-ihto that gold has been discovered in the Black Hills and they will now build towns. Tokei-ihto refuses to sign the new treaty (even though Sitting Bull has?). The army arrests Tokei-ihto and his braves. The army then goes to the Sioux camp and the children are taken to get educated, and some of the men are shot.

When the Sioux get to the reservation, it is all rocks. Major Smith has died, and the new commander. Lieutenant Roach is even more biased against the Indians. Commands come to release Tokei-ihto. Red Fox is still after the gold and he hits a tied up Tokei-ihto. Tokei-ihto is released and along with Wolfchief head for the reservation. When he gets to the reservation he finds out that Tashunka-witko has been killed. He decides to take his followers to Canada. A member of the Indian police comes from the fort and says to Ihto: "Coyote! Son of a drunk! Put down your feathers. You're arrested." In the confusion the policeman is shot, and Ihto and his band head for Canada.

In Canada the Sioux run in to Siksika Indians and Ihto fights their chief to the death. Ihto wins and spares the chief. Ihto says "Our tribes can be brothers." The cavalry follows and Ihta's men steal their horses. Red Fox then chases after Ihto for a $200 reward. Ihto and Red Fox duel one on one, but Ihto doesn't have any bullets left so it is bow and arrow against rifle on horseback. In a wild scene, Ihto is being dragged behind a horse but makes it up to his feet and then runs up and jumps up behind Red Fox on his horse and kills him. Ihto then holds off about fifteen men with pistols, knives, bow and arrow: weapons just keep popping in to his hand.

In the end we see Ihto swimming with his horse, as his girl watches with a German girl singing in the background. Ihto is now chosen as the Peace Chief and he smokes the pipe.

The movie was sincere and tried to show the plight of the American Indians. Even though the writing, acting and dialogue were all pretty weak, there were many things in the movie that were true. Treaties were torn up and re-written to suit the needs of the whites, and the Indians were hardly even considered. Interesting look at how the East Germans of 1966 got to see American imperialism in action on the American frontier of 1876.