A film by Stéphanie Gillard
2016, 91 minutes
No. 052


After Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn and Chief Sitting Bull's subsequent surrender and execution, the Lakota Sioux set out on a 300-mile walk southward through South Dakota. Along the way they were joined by Chief Big Foot's band of Minneconjou Lakota. Pursued by the Seventh Cavalry, both tribes ended up at Wounded Knee where 350 Lakota were massacred, on December 28, 1890, marking the end of the Indian Wars in the U.S.

Since 1986, every December, young Lakota have been retracing this 300-mile route on horseback as part of an annual tradition known as the Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride. In Stephanie Gillard's intimate and moving documentary, we accompany the riders - many of whose ancestors were murdered on that day in 1890 - on this important journey.

Amid the captivating, stunningly photographed South Dakota Badlands, the documentary captures the interactions between the riders and the adult Lakota supervising the trek. The guides, most of whom have participated since they themselves were teenagers, share their wisdom and knowledge, while reflecting on their culture's history and traditions. For the young riders, it's a transformational experience, as they open up about their fears and emotions and thoughts about the future.

* Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival

“Captivating. One rider in the film calls the annual crossing an act of ‘decolonization,’ and it’s powerful to see over 100 horses descending on Wounded Knee at the journey’s culmination. The poverty, depression, and enduring losses of the reservations that are echoed in the dialogue fade for a moment in the flurry of hooves, and the remembered past seems to promise a more hopeful future.” – Hyperallergic

“This beautifully filmed production follows the annual journey a number of Lakota make to commemorate the 300-mile walk that their ancestors made in 1890 to Wounded Knee… Recommended for collections in Native American history and sociology and American history.” - Educational Media Reviews Online

“Stunningly crafted cinematography. Warmly explores how [the riders’] past can inform their current lives. It's especially great to see the youth with such an interest in their past. This is a ride definitely worth going on.” – Artswire Weekly