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Film / White Fawn's Devotion

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White Fawn's Devotion is an 11-minute 1910 film directed by James Young Deer.

The story involves a mixed-race couple living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. One day the husband, a white man named Combs, receives word that he has received a large inheritance. His wife White Fawn, a Sioux, tries to stop him from leaving. When he remains determined to go, White Fawn stabs herself in the chest with a knife. Their daughter sees the husband bent over White Fawn's body and concludes that he killed her. The daughter then tells the tribe, which sets out after Combs.

White Fawn's Devotion is the oldest surviving film made by Native Americans. It has a place on the National Film Registry. Compare The Daughter of Dawn, a 1920 feature film with an all-Native American cast (although it was written and directed by a white man).

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Tropes:

  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Naturally, Combs has to pick up the knife after finding White Fawn, making sure that he is fingered as the killer.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: White Fawn and the other Sioux are dressed this way.
  • Driven to Suicide: White Fawn pulls out a knife and kills herself as Combs prepares to leave—or at least it looks like she does.
  • Just in Time: White Fawn arrives just as her daughter is being strong-armed into executing her own father.
  • No Escape but Down: Combs is driven to the edge of a cliff by the band of Sioux that is chasing him. He winds up tying a rope to a rock and rappelling down—while a Sioux tries to cut the rope before he makes it down.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Everyone thinks White Fawn is dead, but she shows up in time to save Combs.
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  • The Rez: Pine Ridge. White Fawn simply assumes that if Combs leaves, he will never come back.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Combs is surprised to learn that he stands to inherit a large sum.

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