A Man Called Horse (film)  

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A Man Called Horse is a 1970 American Western film starring Richard Harris and directed by Elliot Silverstein. Based on a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, "A Man Called Horse", published in 1950 in Collier's magazine and again in 1968 in the Johnson's book Indian Country. The basic story was used in a 1958 episode of the "Wagon Train" TV show entitled "A Man Called Horse." Partially spoken in Sioux, the film tells the history of an English aristocrat, John Morgan, who is captured by a Native American tribe.



Initially enslaved and mocked by being treated as an animal, John Morgan comes to respect his captors' culture and gain their respect. He is aided in understanding the Sioux by a captive, Baptiste, the tribe's half-breed fool, who had tried to escape and was hamstrung behind both knees.

Determining that his only chance of freedom is to gain the respect of the tribe, he overcomes his repugnance and kills two warriors from the neighboring (enemy) Shoshone tribe, which allows him to claim warrior status. After his victory, he proposes marriage to one of the women with the horses taken in battle as bride-price and undergoes painful initiation rites, taking the native name "Shunkawakan" (or "Horse") as his Sioux name.

When one of the warriors takes a vow never to retreat in battle, Morgan's changing perspective is shown, as he turns angrily on the uncomprehending Baptiste, telling him "Five years you've lived here, and you've learned nothing about these people – all his death is to you is a means of escape."

After successfully helping to fend off an attack by the enemy tribe, he becomes a respected member of the tribe and ultimately their leader.


The tribal people were acted by members of the Rosebud Sioux tribe of South Dakota.


For the crucial native American initiation ceremony, wherein actor Richard Harris is hung on pins in his chest, make-up artist John Chambers created a prosthetic chest.


Two sequels to the original movie were made, both with Harris reprising his role:

Representation of cultures

The film notably treats both sides dispassionately, from the view of neither the white man nor the American Indian nations, but encompassing both cultures.Template:Cn However, some Indian activists criticized the film harshly. Buffy Sainte Marie said, "Even the so-called authentic movies like A Man Called Horse—that's the whitest of movies I've ever seen." Vine Deloria, Jr. said, "As we learned from movies like A Man Called Horse, the more 'accurate' and 'authentic' a film is said to be, the more extravagant it is likely to be in at least some aspects of its misrepresentation of Indians."

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