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movie scene

Many years after the story of Dances With Wolves, after the great Indian wars, when the Sioux were finally vanquished and confined to reservations, a new cult emerged called the Ghost Dance. It was an attempt to escape from the oppression of reservation life into the glorious past.

The dancers underwent a symbolic death "and found themselves walking in a new, beautiful land. They spoke with their parents and grandparents, and with friends that the white soldiers had killed. Their friends were well, and this new world was like the old one, the one the white man had destroyed. It was full of game, full of antelope and buffalo. The grass was green and high, and though long-dead people from other tribes also lived in this new land, there was peace. All the Indian nations formed one tribe and could understand each other."

-The Ghost Dance at Wounded Knee
as told by Dick Fool Bull

Dunbar's Journal

movie scene The strangeness of this life cannot be measured. In trying to produce my own death, I was elevated to the status of a living hero. I was also awarded Cisco, the trusty mount that carried me across the field that day. And on full recovery was given transfer to any station I desired. The bloody slaughter continues in the East as I arrive at Fort Hays, a tiny island of men and material surrounded by a never-ending sea of prairie.

We have been gone four days now, and still we have seen no signs of life. Only earth and sky.

Were it not for my companion, I believe I would be having the time of my life. I know he means well, but he is quite possibly the foulest person I have ever met.

Despite our late starts we have explored much of this great country. It would seem endless. For all of Timmons' chatter he cannot say when we will arrive at Fort Sedgewick. There is still no sign of human life save the bones we passed some five days ago. I am certain I have made the right choice and I am anxious to see my new home.

movie scene Have arrived to find Fort Sedgewick deserted. Am now waiting for the garrison's return or word from headquarters. Post is in exceedingly poor condition. Have decided to assign myself clean-up duty beginning tomorrow. Supplies abundant. The country is everything I dreamed it would be. There can be no place like this on earth.

I am pleased with my efforts thus far. For all my improvements, though, there remains an ugliness here I cannot dispel. An injury that goes beyond neglect and, like a bruise, it will be slow to heal.

It's been almost 30 days. I have come to enjoy the patterns of my life at Fort Sedgewick, especially my daily reconaissance rides with Cisco. Each day we go further into the prairie and every discovery, big or small, becomes etched in my mind forever.

It would seem I have been marooned as no one has yet come for me. I can only assume that there is a problem which the Army will solve shortly. Maybe I'm being foolish in my optimism, but when I look to the Eastern horizon, I never fail to hope that a column might be out there.

Still no sign of Captain Cargill's command. I don't know what to do. Communication can only take place if I leave, and I don't want to abandon my post. Made a short patrol yesterday p.m. … discovered nothing. Will go further tomorrow.

There is a wolf who seems intent on the goings-on here. He does not seem inclined to be a nuisance, however, and aside from Cisco has been my only company. He has appeared each afternoon for the past two days. He has milky white socks on both front feet. If he comes calling tomorrow, I will name him Two Socks.

Almost a month and no one has come. The longer this condition persists, the less inclined I am to believe that anyone will. Rain has forced me indoors for most of two days. I have begun an awning. The work has ruined my hands, but I am excited about the improvement it will bring to this place. It is the loneliest of times... but I cannot say that I am unhappy.

Have made first contact with a wild Indian. One came to the fort and tried to steal my horse. Do not know how many more are in the vicinity, but I am taking steps for another visitation. Am burying excess ordinance, lest it fall into enemy hands.

Have made all the preparations I can think of. I cannot mount an adequate defense, but will try to make a big impression when they come. Waiting. The man I encountered was a magnificent-looking fellow.

movie scene I realize now that I have been wrong. All this time I have been waiting. Waiting for what? For Indians to steal my horse? to see a buffalo? Since I arrived at this post, I have been walking on eggs. It has become a bad habit and I am sick of it. Tomorrow morning I will ride out to the Indians. I do not know the outcome or the wisdom of this thinking. But I have become a target, and a target makes a poor impression. I am through waiting!

The Fierce One, as I call him, seems a very tough fellow. I hope I never have to fight him. From what little I know so far, he seems an honest and perfectly direct fellow. I like the Quiet One immensely. He has been patient and inquisitive. He seems eager to communicate. I would conclude that he is a man of some weight among his people.

So much goes unsaid, though, and I have the curious feeling that these people, the Quiet One in particular, want something from me. What it is I cannot guess. But I don't believe I go too far in saying that a foundation for good relations is being laid.

So far I have learned the words for head, hand, horse, fire, coffee, buffalo, hello and goodbye. But it is not nearly enough. The Quiet One seems as eager for barriers to be broken as I am. For some odd reason, he insists on calling me Loo Ten Tant. I have tried to break him of this but he persists. I have to admit… it does have a distinctive ring.

Two Socks, like Cisco, has become a trusted friend. He still won't eat from my hand, but his keen eyes and ears never fail to alert me when something is wrong.

Riders were sent out to pick up the trail. In the time it took to gather my things at Sedgewick, the entire tribe was on its way. The efficiency of the people and the speed at which they moved was enough to impress any military commander.

Spirits are high and overnight I have gone from a person of suspicion to one of genuine standing. I am greeted with open smiles and looks of appreciation. In short, I have become a celebrity.

Scouts have picked up the trail exactly where I said it would be. It was not hard to find… a gigantic swath of torn-up ground extending to the horizon. The sheer numbers it took to create this impossible image was hard to imagine.

movie scene Who would do such a thing? The field was proof enough that it was a people without value and without soul, with no regard for Sioux rights. The wagon tracks leading away left little doubt, and my heart sank as I knew it could only be white hunters. Voices that had been joyous all morning long were now as silent as the dead buffalo left to rot in this valley - killed only for their tongues and the price of their hides.

It was suddenly clear now what had happened and my heart sank as I tried to convince myself that the white men who'd been killed were bad people and deserved to die. But it was no use. I tried to believe that Wind In His Hair and Kicking Bird and all the other people who shared in the killing were not so happy for having done it. But they were. As I looked at familiar faces, I realized that the gap between us was greater than I could ever have imagined.

As they celebrated into the night the coming hunt, it was hard to know where to be. I don't know if they understood, but I could not sleep among them. There had been no looks and there was no blame. There was only the confusion of a people not able to predict the future.

It seems every day ends with a miracle here, and whatever God may be, I thank God for this day. To stay any longer would have been useless. We had all the meat we could possibly carry. We'd hunted for three days, losing a half a dozen ponies and only three men injured.

I'd never known a people so eager to laugh, so devoted to family, so dedicated to each other, and the only word that came to mind was harmony. Many times I've felt alone, but until this afternoon I'd never felt completely lonely.

movie scene Made a long patrol today. There is nothing to report. Time seems irrelevant except for the fact that I am bored and these hours alone are endless. It is difficult for me to muster any enthusiasm for my regular duties here and the fort is showing serious signs of neglect. The truth is I am missing the company of my friends. I can see all of their faces, but somehow it is not enough. Tomorrow, I will pay them a visit. It may be forward of me but what can it hurt? After all, they are my neighbors.

The night sounds have become so familiar as to be comforting. My life on the prairie's a good one and for the most part, I am content. The Indians have a great pull for me that goes beyond curiosity. There's something wise about them and I find myself drawn to them in ways much stronger than my obligations to the military.

It is autumn now and I am spending more time than ever with my friends. They have given me my own lodge and I feel comfortable there. We talk every day but I know Kicking Bird is frustrated with me. He always wants to know how many more white people are coming. I tell him that the white people will most likely pass through this country and nothing more. But I am speaking in half-truths. One day there will be too many, but I cannot bring myself to tell him that. I am sure that Stands With A Fist knows that I am holding back, but to her credit, she says nothing.

A war party is going against the Pawnee soon, and I have asked to go. I sensed that I have made a mistake in doing so, but I could not bring myself to take it back. They are my friends, and from what little I gather, the Pawnee have been very hard on these people. I hope I have not overstepped my bounds.

the final entry:
I love Stands With A Fist
Dances With Wolves

Dunbar (voiceover)

It was hard to know how to feel. I'd never been in a battle like this one. There was no dark political objective. This was not a fight for territory or riches or to make men free. It had been fought to preserve the food stores that would see us through the winter, to protect the lives of women and children and loved ones only a few feet away. Stone Calf was a great loss but even the old men could not remember such a one-sided victory. And I gradually began to look at it in a new way. I felt a pride I'd never felt before.

I'd never really known who John Dunbar was. Perhaps the name itself had no meaning. But as I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was.

movie scene The whole village was eager to take up a collection on my behalf. The generosity of the People was astonishing. The more valued the gift, the more easily it was given. Even the poor families wanted to give up animals they could not afford. It was hard to turn them away. Black Shawl was a mystery. I couldn't guess what she was thinking and she offered no advice, no words of encouragement. I may well have been the brunt of an inside joke that included the entire village, but I was determined. Wind In His Hair told me if all the gifts were gone in the morning, my offer had been accepted. I spent a sleepless night wondering what mis-step, if any, I had made. I had no idea what Kicking Bird's decision would be.

I had never been married before. I don't know if all grooms have the same experience. But as Kicking Bird began to speak about what was expected of a Sioux husband, my mind began to swim in a way that shut out everything but her. The tiny details of her costume. The contours of her shape. The light in her eyes. The smallness of her feet. I knew that the love between us would be served.

With Ten Bears it was always more than awhile. There was purpose in everything he did, and I knew he wanted me to stay. But I was sure of myself. I would be an excuse, and that was all the Army would need to find this place. I pushed him as far as I could to move the camp. But in the end he only smiled and talked of simple pleasures. He reminded me that at his age, a good fire is better than anything.