Arapaho Covered Wagon Redux – What if a 1923 epic silent movie, The Covered Wagon, that cast 500 Arapaho tribal members from the Wind River Reservation had a new soundtrack that retold the story from a tribal perspective?
Adding a new live soundtrack to the Redux is one of an ambitious two-part production.The project has been four years in the making. The Redux was originally envision to be produced first but 30 months of COVID delayed the project.
Compounding the timing setbacks, The Covered Wagon 97 minute run time is a challenge for an independent film score and largely a labor of love for the participants.
As background, The Covered Wagon was an epic silent movie filmed in Utah with 500 mostly Northern Arapaho tribal members cast by Ed Farlow of Lander and future cowboy movie star, Tim McCoy, who also lived in Lander and later Thermopolis. McCoy’s Hollywood life story has been thoroughly vetted, but his early career breaking into the movie business, not so much.
What if a contemporary score from a tribal perspective was was written and performed?
Silent movie soundtracks were performed by live musicians who played while the film screened. The Covered Wagon premiered at the Rivoli Theater in New York City with a soundtrack written by Hugo Riesenfeld.
University of Wyoming music professor Anne Guzzo, PhD was commissioned to compile the Redux soundtrack. Watch the trailer about Anne and her process. She is a scholar of silent film and early cartoon background music and a collaborative composer and has partnered with diverse groups and disciplines over the years – vertical dancers, a geologist, a rangeland ecologist, a painter, and a microbiologist.
The preliminary artist list includes:
• Susan Stubson – Six Generation Wyoming native, pianist and relative of Tim McCoy
• The Boulder Symphony – Devin Hughes, conductor
• Northern Arapaho Eagle Society Drum – drummers/singers and Harvey Spoonhunter
Beyond Sand Creek documentary – Before each screening of The Covered Wagon, McCoy, Farlow and Cruze appeared before the audience along with Arapaho tribal members in full regalia. Cruze wanted to depict Native Americans playing as themselves, not as Latino or Philippino or white actors in makeup.
In that spirit, Boulder Community Media produced a documentary called Beyond Sand Creek to undo Native American stereotypes in popular culture as “side kicks” or as the “noble savage” or “actual savages.” Beyond Sand Creek delves into historical Native American stereotypes and perspectives from contemporary Northern Arapaho voices, how they have changed and outlooks about the future.
Beyond Sand Creek also is about Arapaho elders repatriating lands in northern Colorado back to the tribes and tying their language and traditions to their original homeland through culture camps for tribal youth. Beyond Sand Creek will air on Wyoming PBS and on PBS Passport sometime in February 2023.