Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (film)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a 2007 historical drama television film adapted from the book of the same name by Dee Brown. The film was written by Daniel Giat, directed by Yves Simoneau and produced by HBO Films. The book on which the movie is based is a history of Native Americans in the American West in the 1860s and 1870s, focusing upon the transition from traditional ways of living to living on reservations and their treatment during that period. The title of the film and the book is taken from a line in the Stephen Vincent Benet poem "American Names." It was shot in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Written byDaniel Giat
Directed byYves Simoneau
StarringAidan Quinn
Adam Beach
August Schellenberg
Anna Paquin
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Tom Thayer
Dick Wolf
CinematographyDavid Franco
Running time132 minutes
Production company(s)Wolf Films
Traveler's Rest Films
Original networkHBO
Original releaseMay 27, 2007 (2007-05-27)
External links


The plot, which is based on events covered by several chapters of Brown's book, other sources, and on real events, revolves around four main characters: Charles EastmanOhiyesa (Beach), a young, mixed-race Sioux doctor educated at Dartmouth and Boston University, who is held up as proof of the success of assimilation; Sitting Bull (Schellenberg), the Sioux chief who refuses to submit to U.S. government policies designed to strip his people of their identity, their dignity and their sacred land, the gold-laden Black Hills of the Dakotas; U.S. Senator Henry L. Dawes (Quinn), an architect of government policy for allotment of Indian lands to individual households to force adoption of subsistence farming; and Red Cloud (Tootoosis), whose decision to make peace with the American government and go to a reservation disturbed Sitting Bull.

While Eastman and his future wife Elaine Goodale (Paquin), a reformer from New England and Superintendent of Indian Schools in the Dakotas, work to improve life for Indians on the reservation, Senator Dawes lobbies President Ulysses S. Grant (Thompson) for more humane treatment of the Indians. He opposes the adversarial stance of General William Tecumseh Sherman (Feore). The Dawes Commission (held from 1893 to 1914)[1] develops a proposal to break up the Great Sioux Reservation to allow for American demands for land while preserving enough land for the Sioux to live on. The Commission's plan is held up by Sitting Bull's opposition. He has risen to leadership among the Sioux as one of the last chiefs to fight for their independence. Dawes, in turn, urges Eastman to help him convince the recalcitrant tribal leaders. After witnessing conditions on the Sioux reservation, Eastman refuses.

The prophet Wovoka (Studi) raised Western Indian hopes with his spiritual movement based on a revival of religious practice and the ritual Ghost Dance; it was a messianic movement that promised an end of their suffering under the white man. The assassination of Sitting Bull and the massacre of nearly 200 Indian men, women and children by the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29, 1890 ended such hopes.

Henry L. Dawes' wanted to increase the cultural assimilation of Native Americans into American society by his Dawes Act (1887) and his later efforts as head of the Dawes Commission. During the 47 years of implementing the Act, Native Americans lost about 90 million acres (360,000 km²) of treaty land, or about two-thirds of their 1887 land base. About 90,000 Indians were made landless. The Implementation of the Dawes Act disrupted Native American tribes' communal life, culture, and unity.[2][3]



The film received 17 nominations at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards,[4] earning more nominations than any other nominee. It won six Emmy Awards:[5]

It also received three nominations at the 65th Golden Globe Awards:

It also won the 2007 Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Picture Made for Television.

Satellite Awards

  • Nominated: Best Actor Miniseries or Television Film, Aidan Quinn
  • Nominated: Best Television Film

Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • Nominated: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, Anna Paquin


  1. |Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (The Dawes Commission), 1893-1914
  2. Case DS, Voluck DA (2002). Alaska Natives and American Laws (2nd ed.). Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press. pp. 104–5. ISBN 978-1-889963-08-2.
  3. Gibson, Arrell M. Gibson. "Indian Land Transfers." Handbook of North American Indians: History of Indian-White Relations, Volume 4. Wilcomb E. Washburn & William C. Sturtevant, eds. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1988. pp. 226–29
  4. 59th Primetime Emmy Awards Archived 2008-05-15 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2007-09-22.
  5. "59th Primetime Emmy Awards Winners" (PDF). emmys.org. 2007-09-16. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2007-09-22.
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