Seven people. Seven horses. A nearly 1,400-mile journey. One moving documentary.
From June 2 through July 25, a group of men and women — some Native American, some white — will embark on the route of the 1878 Cheyenne Exodus, riding rescued wild mustangs in a show of solidarity between the treatment of such horses and the treatment of indigenous peoples.
And local friends Kristin Jordan, a director, and Atma Cornelius, an editor, want to film it. The only problem? By Sunday, May 27, they need to raise $33,000 to pay for filming equipment and food for their five-person crew. Although Cornelius said they have received “possible interest” from HBO and PBS, they still need money to get the documentary started. In the last few days, Cornelius said, they’ve met one-third of that $33,000 goal, and are hoping to reach it by Sunday to get their project off ground … and en route.
To be titled The Ride Home, their documentary (as well as a weekly web series) will follow the group on their trip and help bring awareness to the issues — human and animal — at hand, said Cornelius.
“This story of the Cheyenne Exodus is just one particular story of just one particular tribe in the U.S.,” said Cornelius, a member of Wisconsin’s Oneida Indian tribe. “But it’s really the story of most Native American tribes that were systematically dislocated from their original homelands and put on reservations. These horses are also seen as a nuisance, [as being] in the way of people and organizations that don’t necessarily serve the noblest of causes.”
Many of the horses going on the trip, Cornelius continued, are from Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue in Lancaster, California. “These animals have been gathered from all over the place and are now going back to their homelands as well,” he said, calling the parallel between their plight and the plight of the Native Americans an “interesting full-circle thing.”
Jordan agreed, saying that she hopes the documentary will “flip the lens on how we perceive things.”
Along the path — from El Reno, Oklahoma to Lame Deer, Montana — the seven riders (plus some others who will participate in various legs of the journey) will stop at various historical sites and participate in “earth teachings,” like learning how to start a fire. The last stop will be at the annual meeting of the International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. One of its members first envisioned the ride.
If they are able to raise the necessary $33,000, Cornelius said, the documentary and web series could be “a really neat way for people to connect [with the journey]” even if they can’t directly participate. And, if all goes well, Cornelius said, he and Jordan — whose directorial debut, Masaai at the Crossroads premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2010 — would love to let Santa Barbarans be the first to see The Ride Home at next year’s festival.
“The history’s still deep within the earth,” said Jordan of the ride. “In order for everyone and everything to heal, the story needs to be revisited.”