By Rose Aguilar
"The government school had tried to force me to forget the Lakota language and I wouldn't do it," he says in the film. "We had a deep sense of preservation for our culture, so we would go and hide in order to speak Lakota. If we got caught, they were allowed to beat us with whatever they could, but we took that chance. The Lakota language is something that comes from deep inside of you. It comes from how you look at things and how you see things."
"The Thick Dark Fog" profiles Walter's healing process and attempt to reclaim his heritage. "It wasn't until my sixtieth year that I began to realize that there was more to me. Something was missing. It was like I was a nonbeing," he says. "I didn't know the medical words of multigenerational trauma or the complex post-traumatic stress disorder, so I called the problem what I felt it to be: the thick dark fog."
One of the film's more haunting moments provides a montage of excerpts of interviews with Indians describing their boarding school experiences:
"I remember always going to bed hungry."
"We were being punished, but none of us really knew why."
"It wasn't punishment. It was beatings. You'd put your hands down and they'd slam the desk down on your hands. They'd take you downstairs and make you kneel down on either a broom handle or a pencil."
"Soap. That's what she used to wash my mouth. I'll never forget the burning, the choking, the helplessness, the fading out that I went through."
By Stephanie Woodard
“Several younger people told me seeing the film helped them better understand their parents or grandparents,” said Littlemoon. “One guy was crying after the panel discussion and saying he now realized it was his boarding-school experience that had caused him to fight so much with his parents.”
The revelations weren’t confined to the Native community, according to Littlemoon: “A Japanese man who’d been imprisoned as a child in World War II concentration camps told me he could now explain to his children how that affected him. I felt the film had impact. We got our message out, and it felt good.”
For more on intergenerational trauma, see Subtle Racism = Psychological Torture and Intergenerational Trauma = PTSD.
Below: "Director Randy Vasquez, left, and Walter Littlemoon, Oglala Lakota, the subject of Vasquez's new film on the Native American boarding-school experience, shown at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, where the movie won Best Documentary Feature."