November 10, 2008

Episodes 9-11 of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

With episodes 9-12 of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, we get four Native-themed episodes in a row. These solidify the show's take on Indians and give us a good idea of the underlying attitude.

Here are the summaries of episodes 9-11 from Wikipedia (rewritten by me to ensure accuracy):The Great American Medicine Show (episode 9)

Dr. Mike tries to heal the soul of Doc Eli Jackson, a Civil War surgeon turned medicine-show huckster. With the aid of a drunken Indian (Franklin, aka "Chief Sick No More") and his boy, Doc Eli touts an all-curing elixir supposedly developed by the Kickapoo. Dr. Mike doesn't trust the sales pitch of this exploitative showman, especially when she faces a real medical crisis involving Myra. She must help Doc Eli confront his demons before he can help her remove an ovarian cyst from Myra. Meanwhile, Sully's on a similar mission to convince Franklin, a disillusioned Cheyenne and massacre survivor, to join his own people in their continuing fight for survival. Myra and Horace get engaged.
Comment:  Sully recognizes that Franklin is Cheyenne, not Kickapoo, by the Sun Dance marks on his back. Dr. Mike's boy Brian doesn't hesitate to talk to the Indian boy and offer to teach him stickball. At the end, Franklin joins Cloud Dancing, who is brandishing a rifle and riding with two other Cheyenne "Dog Soldiers."A Cowboy's Lullaby (episode 10)

Dr. Mike takes in Red McCall, a down-and-out cowboy, and his ailing "half-breed" infant boy. McCall reaches the end of his rope, so he abandons the baby with Dr. Mike, robs Loren's store, and flees. Dr. Mike tries to find a home for the baby, but the potential parents prove unwilling or unsuitable. When she travels to a remote cabin to check on the health of its owner, she finds him badly mangled from a bear attack. Her horse is frightened off and she's trapped in the cabin until Sully shows up looking for her. They narrowly escape being the rabid bear's next victims. After returning to town, Dr. Mike decides she'd rather raise the child herself than turn him over to an orphanage. But Sully locates Red and convinces him to keep the child.
Comment:  McCall doesn't mention the name or tribe of the baby's mother. Apparently these details don't matter. The Indian woman is a nonentity like so many Indian women on the screen.

Dr. Mike eventually thinks of taking the child to the Cheyenne. But Black Kettle (through Cloud Dancing) says they're starving and can't afford to feed another mouth. Dr. Mike gives the equivalent of a shrug and leaves without offering to help the hungry Cheyenne.Running Ghost (episode 11)

Sully ends up badly beaten and partially paralyzed after a run-in with buffalo hunters whom a railroad has hired to clear the herds and Indians out of the planned train path. As Dr. Mike, Cloud Dancing, and the kids fight to help Sully regain the use of his legs, a con man passing himself off as the railroad's advance man is swindling the townsfolk out of the deeds to their properties. As Sully recovers, Dr. Mike unmasks the con man's plan and saves the town. When Sully confronts the buffalo hunters, a mystical white buffalo ("Running Ghost") appears to avenge the animals' deaths.
Comment:  Although the railroad has hired the buffalo hunters, they come across as individual "bad men," not part of a bad system. No one in this episode has much to say about US government policy.

The Cheyenne who have gone wherever they wanted in previous episodes suddenly are sticklers for not leaving their reservation. They continue to suffer hunger while a large herd of buffalo roams nearby.

One Cheyenne warrior, Iron Knife, attacks the buffalo hunters in typical Western-movie fashion: a foolish headlong rush. The hunters kill him and dispose of the body and no one mentions this dead Indian again.

Dr. Mike says she'd welcome a railroad through the middle of town as long as the corporation bought the town's property legally. She's oblivious to how it would destroy the way of life of the Cheyenne and the townspeople.

Sully has told the kids about Running Ghost the white buffalo. When he confronts the last hunter, he seems to transform into Running Ghost. So Sully the white pseudo-Indian ends up being the hero for the mostly ineffectual Indians.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

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