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1920 Silent Film “Daughter of Dawn”

During the process of discovery, acquisition, and restoration of Daughter of Dawn, the Oklahoma Historical Society realized it owned one of the tipis from the film.

Daughter of Dawn, a 1920 silent film with an all-Native (Kiowa and Comanche) cast, will be released for home video by Milestone Films in the fall of 2015 with a score by Comanche classical composer David Yeagley. Although there were American Indians cast as leads and actors in early silent film, there are not many existing examples, which makes this film rather unique. This film has also struck a chord because it includes rare footage of ceremonial dances, a buffalo chase/hunt (to make it even more interesting, these were the progeny of an original 15 buffaloes shipped from the Bronx Zoo in New York City!), and it was filmed in Oklahoma rather than, say Monument Valley (the setting for many Westerns). It’s also notable because no costumes were used; the actors brought and wore their own regalia. This is no small detail in Hollywood, where Westerns have been heavily criticized for largely using Plains clothing to depict all types of American Indian nations. Interestingly, some elements of the movie (its love story and and the urgency of hunting for food) are reminiscent of another silent movie from 1930 with a Native cast called The Silent Enemy. Catch a few minutes of Daughter of Dawn below.

Thanks to fellow AILA member Debbie West of Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama for sharing this!

Clip from Daughter of Dawn

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