Pete Standing Alone
November 9, 2011 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Pete Standing Alone has come full-circle in his dedication to preserving the traditional ways of his people on the Blood reserve in Southern Alberta. His 50 year journey from cultural alienation to pride and belonging has been uniquely captured by the NFB in the Pete Standing Alone Trilogy.

Beginning with Colin Low's iconic 1960 film Circle of the Sun (1960) audiences are introduced to Pete as a young man, disinterested in the traditional ways of his people and predicting the imminent death of the sacred Sundance.

When Colin returns to film Standing Alone in 1982, Pete has transformed into a man determined to sustain to his people's sense of identity and knowledge of ceremony.

In Round Up (2010) director Narcisse Blood follows Pete – now an elder, teacher and community leader – in his efforts to teach youth the traditional ways and rebuild the cultural and spiritual decimation wrought by residential schools. Over the span of his lifetime, Pete has witnessed First Nations people take back their sense of identity, pride and self-determination. In his own words: "It is our duty and responsibility as Blood Indians to keep our ways going."
posted by Devils Rancher (11 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Ironically, the Boards of Canada song "Pete Standing Alone" just came on my music stream. Never knew where the name came from, so thanks for the post!
posted by asterix at 9:45 PM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

Wow. Flagged as fantastic. Thanks for this.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:47 PM on November 9, 2011

"It is our duty and responsibility as Blood Indians to keep our ways going."

"our ways" he says with no sense of irony. In Round Up one sees a lot of horses. The horse is a colonial invention. The Spanish re-introduced it to North America after the horse become extinct on the continent following the last ice age. Unless the history of these people begins much later than it actually began, how can the horse be part of "traditional" Native American culture?
posted by three blind mice at 2:10 AM on November 10, 2011

Well, if 500 years of something isn't long enough to make it part of traditional culture, I don't know what is.
posted by hippybear at 3:44 AM on November 10, 2011

I spent a couple of days on that reserve about 18 years ago. I had never seen visible swarms of mosquitoes in person before. We had to sprint from the car to the house to avoid being eaten alive. How they survived there before cars and houses baffles me.
posted by srboisvert at 5:51 AM on November 10, 2011

The horse is a colonial invention.

Horses are natural animals. They, like the Indians, were colonized and, like most colonials, put into the service of "the masters". They were weaponized. In the last film, you see liberated colonials, living in the only natural state that remains after "the masters", as always, took what they could use and then left.
posted by Twang at 7:31 AM on November 10, 2011

how can the horse be part of "traditional" Native American culture?

The same way any Redneck-American would consider Nascar or a college football bowl game a tradition, I suppose. Is there a natural time limit on what we can call traditions? The nomadic horse culture is what exists in Blackfoot cultural memory, as passed down through oral tradition. There's some cultural memory of the time before horses, but it's pretty distant.

I'm not sure what you'd have them regard as their heritage instead.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:11 AM on November 10, 2011

*Unless the history of these people begins much later than it actually began, how can the horse be part of "traditional" Native American culture?*

For obvious reasons, it does. I don't just attempt to connect to my heritage by dressing up in scratchy wool and painting myself blue, or dressing up in a linen tunic and attempting to drive a crude iron plow, or taking a job as a maid and then refusing benefits and modern work protection- I do it via (for example) making mince tarts at Christmas in an electric oven, using modern species of apple, grape, Canadian suet, lemons and a number of other things which the original people that thought mince tarts were a good idea wouldn't recognize. And we do it in little foil rounds, even though the patty pans and tart plates of a hundred years ago were not crinkle cut, mass produced mini-pie pans.

Nobody tells me that it's not a "tradition", even if the first mince tarts of my ancestors are so many removes from the now that they might as well be different food. Nobody demands I start making mince tarts by arguing with the miller over the quality of the flour and pick the weevils out, make the butter myself from a cow with ulcers on her udders, render the lard myself (after a similar haggling with the butcher for the meat that also goes in, but is left out of the modern version), call the produce seller horrible names because these weren't big raisins, they were mouldy prunes, etc... The fact that I use a hand crank meat grinder is the most primitive step in the whole process and I could even step that back to using a chopping knife or a pestle.

Furthermore, to ignore the role of the colonial period as part of First Peoples tradition and adaption would be absurd because of how much adoption and interbreeding and cultural exchange is an integral part of the story. That's like trying to leave it out of say, Canadian history for the colonials and only take whatever was the customs of their land of original settlement.

Of course there's some issues with re-writing things with rose coloured glasses, as the "wiser steward of the land praying to the Great Spirit and peacefully living in conical dwellings using every part of the animal out of respect for the spirit, with feathers on everything" idea of a First Person is probably the cousin to the "noble pioneer who built a country with his bare hands and good Christian wife in their quest for tolerance, who used every part of the animal and had self sufficiency on everything". However traditions are not inherently bad things, and very soothing.
posted by Phalene at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

how can the horse be part of "traditional" Native American culture?

The same way corned beef and cabbage or green beer can be "traditional Irish fare" served every March 17.

Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-immigrant adaptation of the Irish dish of bacon and cabbage. And as for green beer, that's just plain tackiness.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:17 AM on November 10, 2011

Great post! It's a little strange and pretty awesome to see my little corner of the world on the blue (I'm not from the Blood Reserve, but very nearby - my org has an office there which I work with quite closely). The Blood Reserve of the Kainai Nation is the largest reserve in Canada and faces many challenges but has also (or more probably, because of this has) produced some amazing leaders (like Dr. Esther Tail Feathers, who took a medical team to Haiti to assist after the earthquake). This reserve has been in the news a lot lately due to the fracking controversy, and the three Blood women who were arrested for protesting/blockading.

I can't wait to have a chance to dig into these films.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:04 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, if you want to get technical, horses did roam North America but became extinct at some point until they were re-introduced.

I can't wait to watch the other films. The first one seems oddly manipulated in a way that I can't quite put my finger on.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:09 PM on November 10, 2011

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