By Amelia Pang
The documentary “illuminates human nature in a way that is complex, humane, full of nuance and struggle—more than a story of simple success,” Kern said. The film is based on the process of the modern Nez Perce getting back their horses, a cultural core, after losing everything during a war with the United States.
In 1877, the U.S. Army chased the Nez Perce for 1,300 miles, losing every battle except the last. Gen. W.T. Sherman, a Civil War general, called the epic battle “the most extraordinary of Indian wars.”
According to Kern, the Nez Perce’s initial success and victories were due to their “superior knowledge of horses and how to travel with them.” But after losing the last skirmish, the government took away their most valuable weapon, their horses.
The “epic story boils down to a heroic, but deeply flawed main character,”—Rudy Shebala, a Navajo who married a Nez Perce and crossbred a new breed of horses, known as the “Sik’een,” or “The Nez Perce horse.”
This marked the return of horses for the tribe.
Below: "Nez Perce man on horseback, wearing loin cloth and moccasins." (Edward S. Curtis/Public Domain)