#TBT Daughter of Dawn



Sometimes I go to very cool, very interesting things and fully intend to write about them in the blog. And then I forget. Instead of simply letting these stories go un-shared, I've decided to simply post them when I do happen to remember. So here's a throwback for you!

The Paramount puts on various Silent Movie series throughout the year. This February I was fortunate to attend one of the showing with a friend of mine. Not only is the Paramount a beautiful theatre in the heart of downtown, but their "Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ" is a marvel all its own. Seriously, go check it out.

This particular Monday, we went to see Daughter of Dawn. It was released in 1920 and restored in 2012 by the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 2013 it was added to the National Film Registry.


Just before the start of the film there was a brief discussion of the plot and the cultural significance this film has for us today. There was also a discussion afterwards with Tracy Rector, local Indigenous filmmaker, Dr. Cornel Pewewardy, Director of the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University and Dr. Charlotte Coté (Nuu-chah-nulth), Associate Professor, University of Washington, Department of American Indian Studies. Sadly, my friend and I couldn't stay for the discussion portion. (Something I will remember for next time!)

A large part of what makes this film so interesting is the cast and set. The cast was made up of over 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes and much of the set was supplied by the actors. The clothing, homewares, and tipis were actual goods used by these people, not just set dressing. 

The film includes a significant tipi given by Cheyenne Chief Nikko-se-vast to the Kiowa Chief Dohausen. The tipi in the movie was renewed in 1916 with images painted by Haungooah or Silverhorn and Stephen Mopope, one of the Kiowa Five. That very tipi was given to the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1928.
— Oklahoma Historical Society

The story was about Daughter of Dawn and her complicated love triangle with White Eagle and Black Wolf. Another woman, Red Wing, is tragically in love with Black Wolf. It's all a bit of a mess. Add in some inter-tribal conflict, buffalo hunts, dancing, midnight boat rides, and some deceit and you have 80 solid minutes that could rival today's film industry.

My favorite scene is also possibly the most absurd. Black Wolf and White Eagle must perform a test of their courage to prove who deserves to marry Daughter of Dawn. So they're ordered to jump off a rock cliff. (?!) Black Wolf clings to the cliff face, in a show of cowardice. White Eagle bravely leaps off the cliff and surprisingly endures very little physical damage. 

Daughter of Dawn is a special film. It featured Native people, wearing their own clothing, and doing their own cultural dances in a time that was highly antagonistic towards their way of life. This gives us a rare glimpse into the historical context and use of materials often only seen in museums. It is a type of representation that is altogether foreign to our modern cinematic experience. 

The opening scene of the 1920 silent film, "Daughter of Dawn," by Norbert Myles. The film was rediscovered and restored by the Oklahoma State Historical Society, Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director. The musical score was composed by Dr. David A. Yeagley (Comanche). Dr. Yeagley was commissioned by the Oklahoma State Historical Society, December 12, 2007.