Kent Monkman’s Shooting Geronimo

Shooting Geronimo is an amazing short film by Kent Monkman. Unfortunately, it is no where to be found on the internet but is available at the York University Sound and Moving Image Library! I took a number of screen shots for a visual understanding of the film.

The short film opens with a backdrop of rocks, a cactus and distant mountains to depict a traditional landscape of “somewhere in the old west”. This landscape encourages the viewer to think about “Cowboys and Indians” in the Wild West through this imagery, as well as the garb worn by a Native man. These images write the script of “being Native” in the wilderness. The men, later revealed as Johnny Silvercloud and Blake Tenderfoot, wear this stereotypical “Indian” clothing when in front of the backdrop of the wilderness. This depiction of wilderness and Native practice are paralleled in the film, presenting the men in the image of an “authentic Indian man” to the colonial white man behind the camera. The construction of this Native identity is done so in conjunction with nature.  It is the setting of the wilderness that encourages these stereotypes and supports the preconceived notions of “Cowboys and Indians”.

This shot demonstrates the ideas about a Native culture, and how the colonizer behind the camera perpetuates the stereotypes. The Native men are encouraged to uphold these identities. The fictions and images of Native men in a wilderness setting have come to stand in for the real and are authenticated as truth. The perception of “Indian-ness” is constructed through a racist lens, focused on the stereotyped ideas of Native culture and it’s relationship to nature and wilderness at it’s most authentic or real.

The Lonesome Rider is introduced on screen, a body which challenges these notions of “Indian-ness” and disrupts the dualism between a Cowboy and an Indian in the wilderness.

The white colonizer stands behind the camera, critiquing Johnny Silvercloud’s facial expressions, insinuating that they are not masculine, somber or stern enough. He is not performing the Indian-ness the white man wants to capture.

The white man looks to Blake Tenderfoot to perform on stage as the Red Menance, believing he can present himself in the authentic image of the ‘Indian’ he seeks to portray better than the former.

The “Ghost Dance of the American Indian” is a one of the most prominent dances of Native culture.

The men are asked to perform this dance, but are stopped when the white colonizer exclaims, “No, more authentic … like this!” and proceed to dance in circles while patting his mouth, assuming the stereotypes of Native American dance. This white man has identified himself to be more authentic at dancing a Native American dance than the two men he is filming.

This shot consists of The Lonesome Rider, Silvercloud and Tenderfoot dancing freely; the two men mirroring her actions.  We see her challenge the space for Native American identity through her queer body. She is challenging white power through rearticulating how a space of wilderness can be used.

The three dancers challenge the colonial requests and use their bodies to recreate the traditional Ghost Dance through moves I can only equate to hip-hop and break dancing.

This scene has jumped to the white man reminding Silvercloud that as the Red Menace, he is a “fierce renegade”. To demonstrate this Indian-ness he wants Silvercloud to perform, the colonizer puts on the wig of long black hair to “show” him how a Native man should act. He initiates a mock fight, hiding behind a large rock on set with an axe to explain the actions of the “Indian” identity.

He continues on to tell Silvercloud, “Now the Cowboy shoots the Indian” while performing the role of the “Indian”.  We see a reversal of these roles of Cowboys and Indians when the Native man kills the white man. While this is happening, The Lonesome Rider watches, symbolizing the disruption of these stereotypes.

This short film challenged the cultural roles of the colonizer and the Native man in nature, and the concepts associated with their identities.  These stereotyped identities of Native men are presented very sexually and encourage by the amateur filmmaker, as Monkman also presents a homoerotic desire depicted in the film by the white man. The identities are founded on their relationship with nature, and the film challenges how the landscape of the West creates a fictional identity of “Indian-ness”


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