A nearly 100-year-old movie, which showcases 300 Kiowa and Comanche people from Kansas and Oklahoma, is now showing on Netflix.
The rare silent movie, “The Daughter of Dawn,” was made in 1920. Only one copy of the movie, which was filmed on highly flammable and easily decomposable silver nitrate film, was made. It was shown to the public only once, at a 1920 viewing in Los Angeles.
The lone surviving copy of the movie was found in a North Carolina garage nearly 15 years ago where it had been stored for decades. The Oklahoma Historical Society purchased the copy in 2007 for $5,000.
Grants were received to restore it. Amazingly, the entire movie – all 83 minutes – survived. The film was digitized, with closed captions added.
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The movie started streaming earlier this month on the online-subscription service for movies and television shows – in part, because of high demand. Within the past few years, the Oklahoma Historical Society has offered small viewings of the restored movie around the region. Word of mouth and social media quickly helped spread interest of the movie.
“We have been fortunate to share this with tribes in Oklahoma and the feedback from the tribal members is that it is such a rare opportunity to see family members and elders they have heard about in this movie,” said Jeff Moore, director of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture.
“It would be like going and seeing a movie your grandparents were all in.”
What makes “Daughter of Dawn” so valuable and a historic wonder are the actors, all of whom are the sons and daughters of the Kiowa and Comanche tribes who once roamed the plains of Kansas. They brought their own clothing, horses, tepees and everyday objects to be filmed on location in the summer of 1920 in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, near Anadarko.
Key actors were White and Wandada Parker, the children of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker.
The demand to see the movie has been so strong, Moore said, the Oklahoma Historical Society is planning on releasing DVDs of the movie for sale by the end of the year.
During the late 19th century and turn of the 20th century, native languages and customs were strongly discouraged by the federal government through military force and at government boarding schools. The Kiowa and Comanche were pushed from Kansas into Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
“When you look at this movie and you realize that tribes around this country at this time period were not allowed to wear traditional clothing or participate in any traditional ceremonies – and then you look at this film and see how it was made, you realize it was a little bit subversive, if you understand history,” Moore said.
“The director and producer didn’t have to rely on Hollywood props; these people used their own things. They weren’t made up costumes.”