Bridge the Gap to Pine Ridge
“What do you want people to remember about you?” Chris asks Martin Bad Wound, a respected community leader—“It ain’t just me I want you to remember. It’s my people. We ain’t all depressed, we ain’t all oppressed, we ain’t all alcoholics. We all want something out of life. We’re just like you.”
24-year-old Chris Bashinelli immerses himself fully into Lakota culture on this most personal journey in order to flip the media’s “negative” lens. The adventure begins with a buffalo harvest. Witnessing a two thousand pound animal die completely shifts Chris’s perspective on food and sacrifice. Patricia Hammond, a community volunteer, leads the hunt and ceremony with reverence.
From there, Chris tests his skills on the court with the women’s college basketball team, embarrassing himself beyond belief. He learns that basketball is more than just a game in Pine Ridge, it’s a way out of poverty and into the classroom. He’s sees more proof of the giving spirit of the Lakota people when he meets a student, whose coach gave her food, clothing, and a home, for nearly 10 years—so she could receive her education.
A 12 hour day of ranch work with a young Lakota man named Marcus, reveals some unique correlations between the “Lakota” and the “Western” mentality. But it’s the evening with the Suicide Prevention program that is inspiring more than one could imagine. After a fourteen year old girl shares her story of attempting suicide, when Chris seems to have lost all hope, the group rallies with love in support of Chris, a complete stranger, to remind him of the importance of looking beyond ourselves.
Born to Explore
South Dakota: Sacred Land
Both documentaries did a decent if superficial job. Both had a problem or two. Bridge the Gap was a little too much about Bashinelli and his misadventures. The white guy has to be the star in a Native drama.
This reached its climax when he became overwrought as the Lakota youngsters told him about trying to commit suicide. He went off to a corner where he tried to choke back sobs. The kids had to comfort him, even though they're the ones living with suicide every day. Poor white guy who can't imagine a life so hard that it impels people to kill themselves.
At the end, the Lakota watched the episode and had a few criticisms. They wanted to see a basketball game, a rodeo, a powwow. But no one said what they'd cut to make room for more segments. The show actually had a decent selection of slices of life.
Born to Explore was a little too gushing about Lakota spirituality. Everything inspired a sense of awe, even though it didn't go deeper than what you could read on thousands of Web pages. The Lakota believe all life is connected...wow.
Host Richard Wiese relied too heavily on stereotypes: buffalo, tipis, wolves, chiefs, warriors, dances, ceremonies, etc. Was it necessary to feature a white guy who makes buffalo-hide tipis? Especially since tipis aren't a part of everyday Lakota life? Or a Lakota artist who admires the wolf and the elk as well as the buffalo? What about the eagle and the bear? Can we talk about being one with nature without them?
But both Lakota docs gave a more positive and well-rounded view of the Lakota than the 2011 Children of the Plains special on 20/20. Bridge the Gap offered more scenes of people working and helping each other, while Born to Explore offered more history and culture. Bashinelli even criticized the US for treating the Indians unfairly.
All this should be unremarkable, but it's more than Diane Sawyer did. Even though she had more money and more experience--especially compared to the 24-year-old Bashinelli. If you had to learn about the Lakota from one of these shows, Bridge the Gap to Pine Ridge probably would be your best bet.
Below: Gus Yellow Hair with host Richard Wiese.