Those who survived called it a POW Camp. The Choctaw called it Oklahumma—meaning “Red People.” During its 100th year of statehood, Erin, a descendant of pioneer settlers returns home to Oklahoma to trace the history of her family land. Cannons fire, drumrolls sound, and the clacking of hooves and wooden wagon wheels clamor through Oklahoma towns and cities as theatrical Centennial celebrations re-enact the state’s official pioneer past. Meanwhile, Erin’s personal journey takes us right into the heart of Indian Territory, where she learns the unofficial history of this land from several Native people whose ancestors were forcibly removed here, to Indian Territory. Through their eyes, we begin a radical re-telling of the history of Oklahoma (and the United States) through a lens of settler colonialism, deconstructing the mythologies of Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion, and replacing them with histories of strength, struggle and resistance, histories that hold the key to our collective survival.
I grew up in Oklahoma, immersed in a public school system that celebrated pioneer history and Westward Expansion. I was taught from the time I was a young child to be very proud of this history. The Oklahoma school system had us re-enact land runs every year during Western Heritage Week. Our teachers told us that the land was a vast, open prairie– that no one was living on it. We’d all get dressed up in our best pioneer garb. We’d line up on the playground, anxiously awaiting the gunshot at high noon, so that we could go tear across the open field with sharp, wooden stakes in our hands, on a mad dash to stake our claim and grab our perfect little piece of land.
It wasn’t until years later, when I was in college, that I had a class with a Seminole professor who taught me a very different side of my state’s history. One day in class, my professor was discussing Oklahoma’s Land Run era. I got really excited, raised my hand, and proudly shared with the class how my great-grandparents took part in one of those land runs, and how my family still owns that land today! I’ll never forget what she said next…
“Yes, and while your great grandparents were trampling over our land with their stakes and covered wagons, my ancestors were watching, with their chins on the ground, as the best pieces of our land were stolen out from under us.”
I was floored. I had no idea what she was talking about. I was embarrassed and ashamed by my own ignorance. My world turned upside-down that day, and I never recovered. That was almost 25 years ago. That day was the catalyst, just the beginning, of a very long journey of re-education around my family, state and national history.
This feature-length documentary film is my attempt to bring you along on this journey with me, deep into the heart of treaty-protected Indian Territory, into a place where the death marches ended, into a place where white settler mythologies give way to deeper truths that are still held by the land and its host people.
We are in the final editing stages. We still need funds for musical scoring, licensing of artwork, and website development. Your support makes a huge difference in being able to finish this film. Any financial donations are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated. We are honored to have the Denver Film Society as our Fiscal Sponsor.
For more information about this film, please contact Erin McCarley, director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-952-0192.