In the early hours of Monday, 7th June 2010, this year’s Sun Dance attendants erected the first teepee. Others soon followed it and the little camp grew rapidly.
At the same time, an arbor was erected, a fire-pit was dug and an inipi (sweat lodge) was constructed in the traditional manner of the Lakota people.
Tuesday was ‘tree day’ – bushy pine trees were cut and placed around the arbor frame, leaving the eastern gate open so that the rays of the rising sun could enter unhindered. Finally, the tree of life, a tall birch with a single fork was selected by the elders and ceremoniously cut down. Many willing hands caught the tree as it came down and carried it to the trailer on which it would be transported to the Sun Dance grounds.
Once the tree arrived there, those same willing hands raised it in an effort that surpassed the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
The dancers settled into their teepee and the fire, which would burn for the duration of the ceremony, was lit.
In the morning, before the sun rose, the dancers entered the inipi, cleansed their bodies and prepared to dance to the sound of a drum and the traditional songs. Solemnly they entered the arbor through the eastern gate and began their dance that would not cease until the sun had traversed the sky and touched the western horizon. They finished the day with another ceremonial cleansing and then retired for the night, denying themselves food and water.
This was repeated for the following two days, culminating on the fourth day with their final sacrifice.
Steven Lewis Simpson is director, producer, musician and editor who started his film career working for the legendary Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures. He has directed the feature Ties (best film at the Cherbourg Festival of British Film), the documentary Timor Timor, the action feature The Ticking Man and its sequel Retribution. His latest feature, Rez Bomb, is the first universal story set on an American Indian reservation. His documentary, A Thunder-Being Nation, filmed over seven years on Pine Ridge Reservation, will be released soon.
I had the honor to meet the charismatic Steven Lewis Simpson, writer, director and producer, at the Sundance 2010 ceremony, spending a week with him, mostly beside a roaring fire, which we tended even as the rain fell from the heavens. Steven’s energy and enthusiams is contageous, his deep feelings for the Lakota Indians and his understanding of their plight is beautifully expressed in his movie ‘REZ BOMB’. Although fictional, it has a ring of truth to it. Many desire to break away from the Reservation Life, many try to find their way in this world, many succumb to the presures of society, join gangs, deal in drugs and seek easy solutions to life’s problems. But there is more to life than money – and this lesson is depicted in this love story, which is indeed a twist on Romeo and Juliet – it is a tale that echoes the sentiments so beautifully expressed in ‘Love Story’ – namely ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’