Apaches Give Film 'High Marks' For Language Skills
The praise not only goes to Jones but to most characters in the film who spoke the Chiracahua dialect of Apache. Credit also goes to Director Howard and the film’s technical advisers, Mescalero councilman Berle Kanseah and Chiracahua linguist Elbys Hugar who had “accuracy” as their goal in the tale of 19th century frontier life starring Jones and Cate Blanchett.
Kanseah stated that there’s a generation gap that is growing suggesting that Apaches aren’t the only ones facing the problem “We need to enforce the home and not lose our way of life, our language.”
Hugar, a great-great granddaughter of Cochise addressed the cast before the film began. “The first thing Elbys said to me, stated Jay Tavere, a White Mountain Apache,“this is more than a movie, this is for the whole Apache nation.”
This is the first film that Apache was spoken well enough to be understood. “Usually Westerns, were dubbed in Navajo, a related language, said Steve Reevis, a Montana Blackfoot and supporting actor who never spoke Apache before the film was made.
The film is set in Southwestern New Mexico. Jones granddaughter, Blanchett’s daughter, is abducted by a renegade band of Indians and Whites who sell Indians into slavery – which is historically accurate. Travere and the Jones characters set out to keep the slavers from reaching Mexico. Eric Schweig, a Canadian Inuit, gives an outstanding performance, according to one reviewer, as the evil brujo – a medicine man gone bad - from another tribe who leads the slavers.
Modern Apaches appreciate the film for showing them as they were: the good and the bad, family oriented, generous, faithful to their religion and good humored.
Most of the Chiracahua were rounded up and sent to Florida in 1886, then shunted to Alabama, Oklahoma and finally to the Mescalero homeland in south central New Mexico in 1913.
According to Travere there are only about 300 people who are fluent in Chiracahua, today.
This story has been edited from an AP report, bylined Richard Benke, which appeared in December 21st edition of The Arizona Republic.