‘Thick Dark Fog’ director shares story of native identity

Jennifer Manalili

“It
touched my heart. You showed me the story of my grandfather and I’ll
never forget it,” said an audience member after watching “The Thick Dark
Fog” at Saville Theatre.


Director Randy Vasquez was there for the screening of his documentary which attracted a large audience on Nov. 5.

“Fog”
explores the history between the U.S. Government and Native Americans and follows Walter
Littlemoon, a Lakota man born and raised in Wounded Knee, S.D., who at
58 found himself estranged from his children.


“I couldn’t figure out how to be a father much less a human being,” he said.

Littlemoon
alleviated the situation by reaching out through penning what would
become his autobiography “They Called Me Uncivilized.”


“Fog”
follows him as he revisits his past, notably his time spent at a
government boarding school who’s mission, like others of its kind, was
to “kill the Indian and save the man.”


“(They
meant to) kill of the Indian inside the children. They’ll still be
alive and breathing…but don’t let them speak their language or
pray…Separate them from their parents and turn them into English
speaking Christians. Kill them and save them at the same time.” said
Vasquez.


Vasquez
said parents were corralled, forced to allow their children to be taken
away from them while the threat of arrest and having their rations (of
food, etc.) taken away from them hung over their heads.


Expressing
their Native identities was not allowed at these schools. Children were
beaten and humiliated. Like many attending, Littlemoon was traumatized
by his experience and forced to assimilate.


“Sometimes
what we said, how we looked at people, small things like that that
never made sense. You got beat for it, emotionally, physically, you
never knew what was coming from you,” said Littlemoon.


Walter
was the youngest of ten children. By the time he was three, his siblings
had all left home and in 1947, when he was just five, he was taken away and
brought to a government run boarding school.


Upon arriving his hair was cut and he was stripped naked, his skin rubbed raw.

Lakotas are taught not to cut their until they lose a loved one.

“All I could think was ‘Did my mom die?’” said one woman. “Did she die? Who died because they’re cutting my hair?”

The
connection between Walter and his mother was severed, the impact so
deep that when she visited him three months later he couldn’t recall who she
was.


As a teenager he repeatedly ran away from the school, trekking the seventeen miles back home alone.

“The
quicker I can get home, I thought the better off I would be,” he said.
“They would catch me and take me back but being in that house for a few
minutes would be good enough.”


As
an adult, Littlemoon was haunted by his past. Like many of the friends
he’d gone to school with, he turned to alcohol. He later sought help from
the VA after serving in Vietnam and found that reconnecting with Lakota
history and his past gave him strength to move on.


“My
mind is clear…The dark fog has finally faded,” he said at the end of
the film. “Because of my ancestors and elders, I have dignity, honor and
pride. I’ll have these things until I can come join them. I can finally
say I am Lakota. I am a human being.”


“Walter’s
experience is mild compared to others. We all know about the
experiences in the Catholic church and the sexual abuse,” said Vasquez.
“These schools were in a lot of remote areas and a lot of kids were
taken advantage of. Some of the things these kids went through, I can’t
even speak about.”


Vasquez,
who works in the film industry in Los Angeles, said he was lucky to
have money saved up for the film which cost him $50,000 out of his own
pocket. He spent seven years researching the film and later received a grant
from PBS which helped him finish the film within a year. It has held a
recurring slot in the network’s schedule since June.


“I
was interested in the stereotype of the drunk Indian,” he said.
“…History repeats itself. We have a habit of not dealing with
genocide, black culture or denying it. Let’s deal with it. Once we deal
with it we can move on.”


For more information visit www.nativetelecom.com or www.thickdarkfog.com.