“The Daughter of Dawn” was shot in the summer of 1920 in the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma using an American Indian cast.
By Bryan Painter
But for White, 82, this was the part of his mother, one of about 300 Kiowas and Comanches in the all-Indian cast, he had only heard of throughout his life. When she died in 1946, so many people talked of her appearance in the film.
Although a “sneak preview” of “The Daughter of Dawn” was held in mid-October 1920 at the College Theater in Los Angeles, nothing was really heard of the film after that.
Until Brian Hearn, film curator at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, answered the phone one day about seven years ago. A private investigator in North Carolina said he had received a copy of a silver nitrate film as payment for an investigation, and thought the film was “The Daughter of Dawn.”
The investigator was interested in selling it. But since the museum hadn't started collecting films, Hearn decided to contact the Oklahoma Historical Society. Through the actions of many people and organizations, the movie has been restored and rereleased with the first screening held in June at the deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City.
Extraordinary 1920 silent film with all-Indian cast re-released after a painstaking restoration project
Comment: For more on old movies, see Thousands of Indian Movies and TV Shows and Hollywood Loves Dying Indians.
For more on the subject, see:
Discovery of Long-Lost Silent Film With All-Indian Cast Has Historians Reeling
Banks drew on his 25 years of experience living among the Indians and his knowledge of what he called “an old Comanche legend,” to lend authenticity to the film. He decided to shoot on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, a national reserve known for its mountains and grassy plains spread across 60,000 acres in southwestern Oklahoma. This was an attractive setting for several reasons, including the fact that in 1907 a program to reintroduce the nearly extinct bison to the Great Plains was launched. Under the auspices of the American Bison Society, 15 of these American icons, plucked from New York City’s Bronx Zoo, were sent by railway to grasslands in Oklahoma, and in little more than a decade, they flourished and were an enormous herd.
Banks must have also realized that shooting there would provide not only the perfect backdrop, but would also afford him an abundant source of American Indian talent. For actors Myles tapped into the local tribes—notably the Kiowa and Comanche, who were living on reservations near Lawton, Oklahoma. This wildly ambitious project had an all-Native cast, just one cameraman, no costumes, no lighting, no props and wild buffalo. The Indians, who had been on the reservation less than 50 years, brought with them their own tipis, horses and gear. Featured in the film were White Parker, Esther LeBarre, Hunting Horse, Jack Sankeydoty and Wanada Parker, daughter of Quanah Parker, a Comanche chief and one of the founders of the Native American Church movement. Among the 100 extras were Slim Tyebo, Old Man Saupitty and Oscar Yellow Wolf.
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