Wind River - (US, 1998)


Figure 1.--The 1998 movie "Wind River" is about Native Americans. Blake Heron played a white boy who had been captured and raised by Indians. The movie is set in 1854 Wyoming. It is Tom Shell's adaptation of the memoirs of Pony Express rider Nick Wilson.

The 1998 movie "Wind River" is about Native Americans. Blake Heron played a white boy who had been captured and raised by Indians. The movie is set in 1854 Wyoming. It is Tom Shell's adaptation of the memoirs of Pony Express rider Nick Wilson. Before Nick is captured, the wife of a powerful Shoshone Indian chief has a vision. She somehow foresees that a white chile, specifically a blonde child will save their daughter. Beliefing that the tribe needs a blond child, the chief kidnaps Nicholas from his settler parents. Nick meets the description of the boy in his wife's dream perfectly. Nick soon becomes accustomed to his new circu,stances and comes to love the family. Eventually settlers comes searching for Nick. He has to choose between his white family and his Shoshone family. The costumes and the weapons depicted seemed very accurate.

Filmology

The 1998 movie "Wind River" is a wonderful account about Native Americans.

Cast

Blake Heron played the white boy Nick Wilson who had been captured and raised by Indians.

Setting

The movie is set in 1854 Utah and Wyoming. It is based on the actul true life adventures of Nick Wilson.

Nick Wilson (1845-1916)

It is Tom Shell's adaptation of the memoirs of Pony Express rider Nick Wilson. Nick was a real life person who lived an amazing life as a boy. Nick was born in 1845. Nick and his parents settled in Utah duing 1850. He was captured by Shoshone Indians when he was 9 years old (1854). Chief Washakie's mother adopted him. He lived with the Shoshones for approximately 2 years, but then returned to his white family. If that was enough adventure for a boy, he got a job at the age of 15 years as a Pony Express rider (1860). He rode in Egan's Division between Shell Creek and Deep Creek. The Pony Express didn't last very long. He wanted nothing to do with cities as an adult. He lived on the frontier which after the Civil War rapidly disappeared. He finally settled in Jackson's Hole, Wyoming. The small town of Wilson is named in his honor. [Wilson]

Captured White People

The topic of Native Americans capturing white settlers was of great interest in America and books began to appear in the 18th century. The books sold very well in part because of the salacious details. Settlers looked at being taken captive as virtually a fate worse than death--especially for white women. An inkling of this can be seen in the James Fenimore Cooper novels and later American movies. The John Wayne classive "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949) is a good example of this as is his later film "The Searchers" (1956). Race was a very important factor in the white settle view of these captures. In contrast race was a concept completely alien to Native Americans. White as well as blacks were accepted into the tribes. Native American raiders often killed the whites they attacked. Captive were also taken and if they kept up with the raiding party they might be brought back to the Native American villages or camps. Here the men might be tortured and killed. The women might be made slaves, but eventually usually taken as a wife. The children were normally adopted. One interesting fact. White the settlers viewed this as a harrowing experience, actual accounts often paint a different stort. Nick Wilson's experience is a good example. Even more interesting, some of the women involved did nor want to return to white society. Here reasons varied. Some knew how they would be viewed when they returned. If they had children they did not want to leave them but knew theyh would not be trated well in white society. Some had developed a bond with their Native American husbands. Others liked the feeedom a respect afforded women in Native American society.

Pony Express

The Pony Express is one of the mosted fabled feats in the history of the American West. In actuality the Pony Express mail service only operated for a brief period from April 1860 to November 1861. Previously letters from the eastern states mostly reached Califonia by long sea voyages around Cape Horn which took weeks in the best of circumstances. The Pony Express, operated by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company, to deliver mail and news between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. The mail was delivered in relay, not unlike modern relay races, only mail and newspapers rather than batons were passed on. The Pony Express ran day and night, both in the summer and winter. A fresh horse and rider were waiting at each station to take the mail on to next station. Most of the riders were teenage boys. One rider was 11 years old. An ad for Pony Express riders read, "Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." The reason boys were preferred was that they did not weigh as much as adult riders and the horses could thus sustain faster speeds, the same reason that jockeys in horse raising have to be small. The Pony Express was a very popular service. In ended after only a year and a half because of the invention of the telegraph. Even fast ponies could not compete with the wires.

Plot

Before Nick is captured, the wife of a powerful Shoshone Indian chief has a vision. She somehow foresees that a white chile, specifically a blonde child will save their daughter. Beliefing that the tribe needs a blond child, the chief kidnaps Nicholas from his settler parents. Nick meets the description of the boy in his wife's dream perfectly. Nick soon becomes accustomed to his new circu,stances and comes to love the family. Eventually settlers comes searching for Nick. He has to choose between his white family and his Shoshone family.

Costuming

The costumes and the weapons depicted seemed very accurate.

Archery

Nick learns to become very proficient with the bow and arrow. There are several bow and arrow scenes in the film. The period cover is very important for Native Americans. Rifles gave white people a militay advantage, but before the Civil War it was not as great as might be imagined. Native Americans could actually fire bows more rapidly than soldiers with rifles could load and shoot. It was more the larger population of whites that gave them the advantage. With the appearance of first the Colt-45 revolver and the Winchester repeating rifle that gave white the overwealming military advantage.

Sources

Wilson, Elijah Nicholas. The White Indian Boy: The Story of Uncle Nick Among the Shoshones (Paragon Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991).












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Created: 1:43 AM 10/29/2005
Last updated: 1:43 AM 10/29/2005