HORSE TRIBE is the story of a First Peoples' love for horses, which is a feeling I understand and share. It is what drew me to the subject and, I am quite sure, why the Nez Perce are allowing me to tell it. I've been riding horses since I was 5 yeas old.
Poised upon the fulcrum of heritage and destiny, the 21st century Nez Perce of Lapwai, Idaho, concluded that timeworn notions of Native American nobility and loss are unproductive. Recognized for centuries as one of America's greatest horse tribes, they chose to implement a cultural renaissance by bringing horses back to their land and lives. HORSE TRIBE documents their struggle to do so with the help of a charismatic Navajo horseman. His exceptional gifts bring legendary Nez Perce equine expertise to modern renown, and his mentorship of at-risk teenagers guides them toward the 'strong medicine' of horses. But his personal demons imperil both accomplishments.
It is an epic story about the connection of human to animal, history to life, individuals to community, despair to resolve, and values to action. Aristotle defines happiness as "the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope." The Nez Perce Tribe and a Navajo horseman engaged in such a quest. Our goal is a work of art worthy of its subject.
Major funding of $99,952 from Native American Public Telecommunications, grants from the Idaho and Oregon Humanities, private donors and kind friends in the NY film industry who have provided in-kind services and technology worth well in excess of $40,000 made our work to date possible. We are nearing editorial completion, and must finish the picture by the end of the year.
Our anticipated completion costs increased when we decided that it was absolutely necessary to use our original 16mm footage from the negative, rather than from the tape transfers done when we shot that material in 1998-2001. The images are just so beautiful that we have to do them justice. We'll only be able to finish this film once, and the end product is forever. Creative editing of this complex and nuanced story also required additional time. We were, ironically, lucky that delays in raising money for completion
allowed time to continue shooting (heading West with a camera didn't cost a whole lot), and we were therefore present when events on the rez took an unexpected dramatic turn that radically altered the trajectory of the story.
Although we need to raise about $30,000 for everything we need to do (the narration in the trailer says $50G, but we've raised some money since then), I set a goal of $12,500 for our Kickstarter threshold to minimize the scary possibility of falling short, but it sure would be great if we can raise more than that. Donations to HORSE TRIBE are TAX DEDUCTIBLE through the 501.c.3 non-profit Gunk Foundation, which Kickstarter approves for this project.
On a personal note, the inexplicably generous instincts of a people who have experienced unfathomable loss are a lesson, a mystery, and a gift to me. Although I have received no financial compensation for fourteen years of work on HORSE TRIBE, my life has been enriched beyond measure in the company of the Nez Perce. On a hardscrabble reservation where daily life is a fugue of grief and gumption and grace, foals are being born.
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