Steven Lewis Simpson

The Long and Winding road – Bringing Native American Novel Neither Wolf Nor Dog to the Big Screen – Part Two

So Kent and I were on the same page with the tone of the script and film. Significantly around this point he also saw the work in progress cut of the feature docmentary, A Thunder-Being Nation that I had been making over about twelve years on the history and contemporary life of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was impressed by the tone again of the doc. That it did all it could to avoid imposing an external voice on the narrative but was one hundred percent articulated by a broad cross section of folks on Pine Ridge. As obvious as it sounds, it is sadly uncommon. The external narrator or stepping away to accademics for validation is so sadly common in most Native documentaries. It reassured Kent that I was a listener in Indian Country, which was key to understanding the role of Nerburn in the book and subsequent film.

By this point Kent and I had two of the briefest face to face meetings. The quick chat after the Rez Bomb screening and also at Big Bats the next day on Pine Ridge. Bats is a large gas station/cafe/convenience store that is the hub of social life in the town of Pine Ridge. Kent bumped into me hanging out with local friends, which means I was having a blast as I always do on the rez. Kent was struck by how at home I was there. All good omens he said. But now we had to take things to the next stage.

So we planned a road trip following the journey of the story give or take. I headed the long way round from South East Asia to Bemidji via the UK and Toronto. As it turned out, as in all good stories, the trip was put in jeopordy by an overzelous Immigration official on the border into Buffalo, New York. What should have taken a minute turned into a three hour interogation including a search of my stuff. “Why was I in the USA so often” was the suspiscion.

She had an “ah ha” moment when she was searching my wallet and pulled a card out. “If you’re not working in the US then why do you have a union card?” she said with immence satisfaction at having caught me out through her investigative skills. The card she produced sure did have my name on it and it started with the world American and ended with the work Union. The only problem was that this less than worldly official didn’t understand that the middle two words, Civil Liberties meant that it was not a work union but that I supported the great A.C.L.U..

“There’s a five percent chance we’ll let you in today, and there’s a good chance we’ll ban you from the U.S.A. for five years” she said That was until her colleague indicated to her that she didn’t understand the rules when someone had a VISA like mine. She then phoned Kent to see if my story of visiting him was real. Goodness knows what he thought but he confirmed the story and I was stamped in for six weeks not the usual six month. I then had to make a mad dash with a rather expensive taxi ride from the border to the airport as my bus was long gone.

Kent picked me up at Bemidji airport and took me to the wonderful home he and his wife Louise had on a lake there. For those of you in the know, it was late May so rather beautiful. I hear the winters can be brutal there. We spent a couple of days getting to know each other and prepping for our road trip into Lakota Country. It would be a memorable drive.


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