Scorsese’s upcoming film adaptation of “Killers of the Flower Moon” gained popularity but the Reign of Terror was depicted in film over 95 years earlier.
Angela Aleiss, Columbia University doctorate film scholar and lecturer at the University of California Los Angeles, seeks to highlight seemingly forgotten Native filmmakers.
“I work to bring these Native actors and filmmakers out of the shadows,” Aleiss said.
James Young Deer, a prolific Native director and actor of the silent film era, depicts a particularly intriguing filmography because of his work directing the 1926 silent film, “Tragedies of the Osage Hills.” Between 1920 and 1925 more than 60 mysterious Osage deaths occurred and the film was released shortly after during the Reign of Terror trials.
Although Young Deer was of Nanticoke heritage and not Osage, he brought light to what is believed to be the first film about the Osage murders as well as a Native presence in the film industry as the first Native filmmaker.
Aleiss updated the IMDB database to create a larger online presence of Young Deer and his films. She explained that unfortunately, only a small percentage of silent films are watchable today, and that “Tragedies of the Osage Hills” is among the percentage of films gone forever.
“There is no way to actually view the movie. Unless by some miracle someone had them preserved in their basement for the last 100 years, it has disappeared,” she said.
Stay up-to-date with Aleiss’s findings on the importance of Native American contributions in film by following her on Twitter @ReelNatives.