A portrait of Sitting Bull by Caroline Weldon. Photo: Daniel Guggisberg
Arts & Entertainment | National

New film 'Woman Walks Ahead' explores final days of Sitting Bill at Standing Rock

A new film explores the final days of Sitting Bull in 1890 although the primary character is a non-Indian woman who faced criticism for associating with the revered Lakota leader.

Woman Walks Ahead stars Michael Greyeyes, who is Cree from Canada, as Sitting Bill. The film otherwise features only one other Native actor -- Chaske Spencer, who is a citizen of the Fort Peck Tribes -- in a significant role, according to a review by Variety.

The "Woman" in the title refers to Caroline Weldon, who is portrayed in the film by Jessica Chastain. Weldon was involved in Indian rights activism in the late 1800s and eventually traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where she was vilified by local non-Indians and federal officials for working with Sitting Bill as he resisted attempts to reduce the Sioux Nation's land base.

According to the book Woman Walking Ahead, Weldon became known on the reservation as Toka heya mani win, which means "Woman Walking Ahead" in Lakota. She painted four portraits of the famed leader, an action depicted in the film as the reason she went to Standing Rock.

Deadline on YouTube: Jessica Chastain and Michael Greyeyes discuss Woman Walking Ahead at the Toronto International Film Festival

Sitting Bill was killed on December 15, 1890, during a scuffle with police officers working for the federal government. The Wounded Knee massacre took place less than two weeks later on the Pine Ridge Reservation, an incident also explored in the film.

The film was shot in New Mexico and in North Dakota, at around the same time of the massive protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The cast and crew, including Chastain, took part in the protests, People.Com reported.

Woman Walks Ahead premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. A release date in the U.S. has not been reported.

Read More on the Story:
Watch: Jessica Chastain on How Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Affected the Making of Woman Walks Ahead (People.Com September 10, 2017)
Chastain's Sitting Bull film pays heed to indigenous voices (Reuters September 11, 2017)
Review: Woman Walks Ahead review – Jessica Chastain historical drama is a sturdily liberal portrait (The Guardian September 11, 2017)
Toronto Film Review: ‘Woman Walks Ahead’ (Variety September 11, 2017)
'Woman Walks Ahead': Toronto Review (Screen Daily September 11, 2017)