Lost silent film with all-Native American cast found

The Daughter of Dawn, an 80-minute feature film, was shot in July of 1920 in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, southwest Oklahoma. It was unique in the annals of silent film (or talkies, for that matter) for having a cast of 300 Comanches and Kiowas who brought their own clothes, horses, tipis, everyday props and who told their story without a single reference to the United States Cavalry. It was a love story, a four-person star-crossed romance that ends with the two main characters together happily ever after. There are two buffalo hunt sequences with actual herds of buffalo being chased down by hunters on bareback just as they had done on the Plains 50 years earlier.

The male lead was played by White Parker; another featured female role was played by Wanada Parker. They were the son and daughter of the powerful Comanche chief Quanah Parker, the last of the free Plains Quahadi Comanche warriors. He never lost a battle to United States forces, but, his people sick and starving, he surrendered at Fort Sill in 1875. Quanah was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, the daughter of Euro-American settlers who had grown up in the tribe after she was kidnapped as a child by the Comanches who killed her parents. She was the model for Stands With a Fist in Dances with Wolves.

You can watch the first ten minutes of the film here. It is over 90 years old, and was produced by, directed by, and stars only Native American people.


and my heart turns to stone

buried in the ashes of New Echota that remained ashes

the ashes of The Cherokee Phoenix that remained ashes

The ashes of Sequoyah who said “we are as civilized as you”

And Andrew Jackson laughed and said


Have a Trail of Tears instead.

the ashes of John Ridge who ate whiteness and died of it

the ashes of John Ross who eschewed but died anyway with broken treaties in his hands.

I am not Cherokee

But I know the Cherokee

the same way we were all a bit Haudenosaunee

When our people took the center and the center did hold.

Pocahontas means “Spoiled Child" in Powhatan

And the Cherokee never had princesses.