Life and hormones are humming along at Beckwourth’s. Richard
and Waka Mani’s cock fight resulted in Cleola becoming the teacher. It’s
finally heating up. In other couple news, Lewis and Simon Crow are
bringing their bromance front and center.
scene begins with Waka Mani and Cleola in the classroom. She’s sitting
in a chair. He’s sitting on a desk behind her. She reads aloud. It
starts out well. Things turn sour quick. “He…that’s King George (III)
has excited domestic insurrection amongst us. And has endeavored to
bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian
savages...” Her voice breaks. She’s disgusted by what she’s reading.
“…whose known rule of warfare…is an undistinguished destruction of all
ages…sexes and conditions.” She puts the book down, sickened.
Mani speaks. “There’s no honor in a paper that speaks of my people that
way.” Cleola tries to smooth it over by saying that it wasn’t perfect
and it’s what people believed over 100 years ago, in the late 1700s.
Waka Mani’s won’t accept any excuses and points out that she should be
angry for what to her people. He has a point, but so does she. “If I
worried about every indignity Negroes suffered during the course of a
normal day, I wouldn’t be able to think of much else.” The list would be
He shares something with her. “No one in
my family survived. I have to be strong.” She shares a bit of her pain,
too. He listens intently. “I have only my mother…I had only my mother.
My father died before I was born.” He tells her it isn’t the same.
Cleola won’t allow him to dismiss her pain. “No. Of course not. No one
has suffered more than Chief Waka Mani.” He’s a little bewildered at
first, but then they laugh, finding humor within the pain. Isn’t that
what comedy is?
share a small bout of chuckling. She gives him a book and asks if he’s
read the constitution. She doesn’t know he’s been studying the document
every night before bed, on the roof of the small house. He puts the book
on his lap and calmly recites the preamble. “We the people of the
United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice,
insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote
the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves
and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
United States of America.” Cleola slow claps in appreciation of the
meaning and of his oratory skills. Did the School House Rock version play in your head? It did in mine.
Mani’s not taken in. “Noble words that mean nothing.” She disagrees.
“Oh, I think they do. They set a standard for what is right.” He’s in
fighting form. “The words are useless because the white man does not
live by them.” Cleola has hope. “Not yet, but one day they will because
the words are there. They can never be erased.” Cleola and Waka Mani
stare at each other, smiling. Waka Mani has probably never met such a
formidable foe in battle.
It’s night. Lewis and
Simon Crow are skulking about in the dark corridor beneath the
staircase. Lewis disappears out of the frame. Simon Crow is the look
out. Lewis calls out to him. He tosses Simon an apple. They are happily
congratulating themselves when they hear a door open. Lewis goes one
way. Simon Crow and his fabulous hair go another way. President Duquesne
comes down the stairs in a long white night shirt. Lewis makes a
beeline for the stairs. Simon Crow heads past the staircase. The briefly
shake forearms in brotherhood. Lewis races up the stairs. Simon Crow
returns to the captive room. It’s such a beautiful bromance scene. A
confused President Duquesne reappears and bites an apple.
next morning, Cleola’s once again on the path to town. Waka Mani
follows behind her, part protector, part stalker. He’s back in his
original clothes, not the school uniform.
music plays in the background as the camera pans the washing area.
Various bars of soap are on the table. Cleola enters her mother’s
workplace. “Mama?” Nasty ol’ Purdy (Orsen Bean) comes out and asks if he
can help her. She says she’s looking for Miss Erma. He says she’s gone.
“She’s been dead and gone a week now.” Cleola is heartbroken.
up and died. Must have been real sick or something.” Yes, sick of his
nasty ol’ cock. Ugh. Thinking about what Miss Erma went through makes me
want to throw up in my own mouth. Purdy says her mother left a Bible
and some old clothes. He offers them to her and she accepts. She’s
completely devastated. He moves past her. Somehow, despite not doing
anything in appropriate, he’s disgusting. He gives her the Bible and a
shawl. Purdy says that Miss Erma is buried over at the Colored Cemetery
if Cleola wanted to make her last goodbyes. Purdy, at least has the
decency to appear as distressed as Cleola. Though deeply sadden, Cleola
is practical. “Did she have any wages coming? Any money at all?” Purdy’s
decency doesn’t last. “If she did, she don’t now.”Cleola
can’t believe Purdy is such a heartless bastard. Purdy continues to
suck. His distress has a different foundation. “Gotta find somebody
Mani and Cleola are at her mother’s grave. “Mama,” she laments,
clutching the small bundle of clothes. He is sympathetic. “She’s with
the Great Father. She will always watch over you from the land of
ghosts.” He squats and places something, probably a totem, on Miss
Erma’s grave. Cleola tells Waka Mani about her mother. A Lakota
spiritual plays in the background. “Mama was born a slave. Her father
was sold before she was born. All freedom meant for her was hard work
for low wages. I pretended she was dead. How could I do that?” He
doesn’t pass judgment upon her. She continues sharing her soul. “Mama
never did anything for herself. Everything was for me… so I could marry a
man like Richard. And now she’s dead… and I… can’t even tell anyone.”
Waka Mani doesn’t take offense. He’s there for her. “You told me.”
kneels next to him, touches the totem, fingers the dirt and then asks
him the meaning of his name. He answers. “Walking Sacred.” Cleola
ingests this news for a few moments and then seeks faith. “Do you really
think Mama will look out for me?” He’s truly there for her. The Lakota
spiritual continues to play in the background. “My people believe…the
spirit world helps the living.” He’s firm in his beliefs. She’s crushed,
barely hanging on. “How?” He doesn’t miss a beat. “Our ancestors speak
to us through the wind, in the trees, the howl of the wolf, the thunder
of the buffalo.” She tells him his sentiments are beautiful. He shakes
his head sadly. “The buffalo have gone.” They sit in silence.
The buffalo provided Indigenous people on the Plains with all they
needed to survive: food, clothing and shelter. No part of this mighty
creature went to waste. When the Europeans figured this out, they
slaughtered the buffalo by the thousands. Let it be known that there is
more than one way to commit genocide.
and Waka Mani are walking back to Beckwourth’s in the next scene.
Jumping Elk plops out of a tree branch onto the ground in front of them.
Cleola is surprised. Waka Mani is not. Doesn’t take a genius to figure
out the origin of Jumping Elk’s name. “Prayers have begun.” Cleola takes
her leave. Jumping Elk takes Waka Mani to task. “There’ll be trouble.
She does not belong to you.” Waka Mani knows that. “No!” He starts to
stomp off, stops, abruptly and stares after her. He meant to sex her up,
not fall for her.
Elk has angst of his own. “I do not understand them! The one called
Junius, he hates. He would see us dead, but he teaches well.” He has
mastered sarcasm. “He wishes me to learn.” Waka Mani is getting angrier
by the second. “Because you’re his prisoner!” Waka Mani’s tired of the
Beckwourth drama. “It’s time to leave.” Jumping Elk has news. “Simon
will not come.” Waka Mani has a WTF moment. Jumping Elk lays it out for
him. “He’s praying with the others. “He walks away. Waka Mani is
crushed. He’s losing a brother and he can’t have the girl.
the next scene, Cleola and Miss Cooper are walking. Cleola asks about a
scholarship. “What about your trust fund?” Cleola is at a loss for
words. Miss Cooper understands. “I see.” She’s probably known about
Cleola’s true circumstances the entire time. Miss Cooper has news.
“President Duquesne is hoping to find patrons at the anniversary
celebration, but that will be for the young men who are already here on
scholarship.” Defeated, Cleola begins walking away. Miss Cooper places a
reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I will speak with him.” Cleola gently
pats Miss Cooper’s hand and thanks her. The older woman sighs.
appears in a series of scenes showing her reflecting on the future. It
begins with her working with Anna on the invitations. She’s distracted.
Next, she’s in the chapel reading her mother’s Bible while the little
boy cleans the pews. Before or after dinner, she pulls off her long
gloves. A worried Waka Mani looks on from the entrance, partially
hidden. Sadly, Cleola walks away without even noticing him. He’s exuding
love and care.
Cleola’s in her room when a thought occurs to her. She goes to the old
house wearing her mother’s shawl. The little boy is on the porch shining
shoes. She tries to climb the ladder to the rooftop many times
unsuccessfully. She goes on the porch and tries to access the ladder via
the railing. She can’t. The little boy offers her his stool.
Gratefully, she kisses him on the cheek.
By the time
she makes it to the top, she’s crying, overcome by the struggle to get
up there and by grief. Her mother’s dead and she’s all alone in the
world. Waka Mani is lying beneath his blanket, all brown, gorgeous and
muscled. He’s deeply concerned. Cleola wraps up in the shawl. Her tears
are flowing freely. He eases closer to her, but says nothing. She sobs
openly and loudly. Waka Mani knows there’s nothing he can do to ease her
pain. He shucks the blanket and slips it over her shoulders. Cleola
draws the blanket closer, appreciating his warmth and kindness.
Tentatively, he reaches out to touch her shoulder and then covers her
hand with his. Still sobbing, she looks at their hands. She slips hers
from beneath his and covers his with her own.
Richard… Richard… Richard…
next day, Jumping Elk, Lewis, Isaac, Junius, Waka Mani, and Simon Crow
are busy building the reviewing stand. Everyone’s sawing or hammering
away. A weary Simon Crow stops working and sits on the stairs. Jumping
Elk and Lewis look on with concern. Junius is peeved and calls him out
for sitting down on the job. Everyone looks at Simon Crow. He says he
needs water. Junius says they’ll break when they finish the section
they’re working on. Waka Mani puts down his hammer, takes a nail from
his mouth, jumps off the platform, and hands Simon Crow a ladle of
Junius, standing rod straight with his hands
behind his back, propels a minor situation into ugly issue. “I know work
is a strange concept for you Indians, but let’s not take all day.” Waka
Mani picks up his hammer and walks off. “The Lakota know how to work.
We’re not lazy niggers.” Oh gods, he dropped the N-Bomb! Why in the hell
did he go there? Junius screams “filthy savage” and jumps off the
platform onto Waka Mani. They wrestle like two men possessed. Isaac begs
them to stop. Waka Mani goes after Junius with a hammer. Isaac screams
Junius’ name and throws him a piece of wood (2x4?). Jumping Elk calls
out “Kagi!” and throws Simon Crow a hammer. “Kagi” means “crow” in
Now, we’re all witness to n***er-ness and
savagery. Five of the six are armed. Isaac is now holding a piece of
wood and Jumping Elk has a saw. Lewis is the only one with any damn
sense. Testosterone… Lewis reminds them of what’s at stake. “We are on
our honor not to fight.” Weapons are still raised. Lewis
addresses Waka Mani. “Your remark was offensive. That word is not
allowed at this school.” He musters up as much indignation as he can.
“Don’t ever say it again. Now put the hammer down.” Waka Mani makes a
threatening move towards Junius. Lewis orders him to put the hammer down
again. Waka Mani looks at his crew and then throws it to the ground.
Junius is equally angry when he throws down his piece of wood. Everyone
else lowers their weapons.
know what’s coming next. Waka Mani’s in the sitting room near the
window. Cleola barges in and lights into his very fine ass. “Did you say
it?!” He tries to explain.” I… I…did not mean you.” Cleola is this
close to smacking him. “My skin is black. If I said Indians were savages
and blanket heads, would you believe I didn’t mean you?” Not at all.
Waka Mani lowers his eyes in shame and shakes his head slowly. “No.” He
struggles with the words. “It was wrong.” Cleola is taken aback. She was
gearing up for a fight, not an act of contrition. He raises his head
and looks her in the eye. “I am sorry.” He walks towards the window.
Cleola whirls around, trying to catch her breath. She folds her arms.
Welcome to the world of interracial and intercultural relationships.
Shit just ain’t simple.
Their backs are to one
another. Waka Mani bangs on the window. He can’t take it anymore. “Every
day… we become like those we hate!” Cleola half-turns in shock. “You
hate us?” He rejoins her. His anger is a living breathing entity. “As
children, we were forced into the white man’s school. We were beaten…if
we spoke in the tongue of our people!” Cleola is horrified. He
continues. “The teachers cut off our hair (major fuckery)! Made us kneel
to their god!” There are tears in his eyes. “Many ran away. We returned
to the ways of our people…until we were defeated in battle again!” It
hurts him to admit it. Perhaps he is the actual chief of his nation.
not finished. “The white man teaches us to be like them! Why?!” Good
question, my brother. “Why?!” He has an answer. He lays it on the line
for Cleola, who is waging her own private war. “Because he’s clever and
knows that it will break our spirit.” He emphasizes his meaning with
sign language. Preach. “For you it is the same.” Cleola disagrees. “No,
it’s not.” It’s her turn to bring some history, truth and reality into
the conversation. “Slaves were not allowed to go to school and they were
killed or they were beaten if they learned to read or to right.” Her
expression implores him to understand. “That is why an education is so
important to us. It shows us that we are truly free.”
Mani isn’t sold. Again, he’s using his body to convey his message. “The
story is different, but the result is the same!” Cleola supports her
words with her body, too. “Learning is a victory. It doesn’t break our
spirit. We know we are Black. We’re not trying to be like the white
man!” She’s adamant that he understands. He rips off his tie. “Did you
ancestors dress for dinner?” Ah ,no! Poor Cleola is speechless. “This
room is a prison. I need to be out!” Cleola puts one hand on her hip and
covers her face with the other. He stomps out. She’s frustrated. Like I
said, shit ain’t simple. They have so much in common, yet in some ways,
they are universes apart.
follows him outside. He’s perched in a large tree, snapping a small
tree branch to pieces. Cleola eases around the trunk. He notices her.
Drained from fighting, he shakes his head. “I must go home soon.” She
tells him he can’t. “They’ll catch you.” She’s so worried. “But if you
make it, what would you do? Fight? Kill? Be killed?” He’s quiet for a
moment. Waka Mani shakes his head wearily. “No… the fighting is over.”
Cleola reaches out to comfort him, but quickly withdraws her hand when
he notices. When he turns towards her, more than willing to be
comforted, she remembers she’s a virgin intent on saving herself for
marriage. *sigh* “We should ah… we should head back soon.”
tries to walk away. He’s got a question. “Ah… how do you keep your hair
like this?” She feigns ignorance. Arm propped against the tree, he
inspects her closely. “The hair on your neck is different from the
rest.” Self-consciously, she fingers the hair on her neck and laughs.
He’s confused and wants to know what’s funny. She explains. “A Colored
man would know that.” He’s serious as hell. “Teach me.” She’s a little
embarrassed. “I use a hot iron. It straightens my hair. It makes it
easier to take care of.” He’s intrigued. “How many times do you do
this?” She trudges right along, all teeth. “When it gets wet or when
it’s hot or when my hair grows.” He’s into it. “And this is easy?” She
says, “Yes!” He wants to test this theory. There is water in the bark of
the tree. He wets her hair.
She “runs” away. He easily catches Cleola and nd eases up behind her to paw her virgin hair. “It’s beautiful.” Yes, it is.
very uncomfortable and not just because he’s fingering her “kitchen,”
but because he’s being entirely too intimate with her. He lowers his
hand to her shoulders .She turns towards him. Within seconds, World
Championship Tongue Wrestling ensues.
as the lips and tongues find their groove, Cleola puts an end to it.
Waka Mani doesn’t understand why. She tries to explain. “Richard and I…”
He touches her face. “You don’t love him.” She tries again. “We are
engaged.” He lowers his hand. “It would ruin me. I would be shamed.” He
gets mad. “Because I’m a savage?” He moves away from her. “No!” She’s
already said she’s engaged to Richard.
appears and ruins everything. “What are you teaching now, Miss Banks?
Richard could kill him for this.” She’s shamed. Junius doesn’t know when
to stop. “So could I.” Waka Mani steps towards Junius. “You could try,”
he says right in Junius’ face and then leaves. Cleola is left to deal
with Junius herself. He has advice for her. “Don’t be foolish, Cleola.”
He comes up along side her. “He’s an Indian.” Your point, Junius? That’s
neither here nor there. Cleola has a more pressing concern. “Will you
tell Richard?” He says no because Richard is his friend. After thanking
him, she tries to walk away. He grabs her by the arm. “Richard loves
you, Cleola. He might even forgive you. I could not forgive Anna.” On
that note, Cleola eyes where he’s holding her arm. He lets her go. She
rubs her arm.
To be continued.
Try purchasing your own copy of this amazing movie here ($40.00) or here ($20.00 plus shipping and handling). I don’t know which one works the best. I used the first link years ago.
Unbowed is the copyright and intellectual property of FILMANTHROPIC and
Mildred Lewis. No copyright infringement is intended, only thoughtful
discussion. Perhaps a few more people will secure a copy of this
marvelous film themselves.