Photo: ‘Saints & Strangers’ Airs on NatGeo, Stars Native-Studded Cast

Photo: ‘Saints & Strangers’ Airs on NatGeo, Stars Native-Studded Cast



The National Geographic Channel aired a new film earlier this week featuring a Native-studded cast speaking in Western Abenaki.

“Saints & Strangers” was a four-hour, two-night movie event billed as the “real true story of the Mayflower passengers, the founding of Plymouth and their relationship with the Native Americans.”

“So many people celebrate Thanksgiving every year, but I think most people have no idea what the story is behind it,” said Kalani Queypo, a Blackfeet and Native Hawaiian actor who plays Squanto in the film. “Even people who are indigenous, we’re not taught that.”

Instead, Americans learn a dumbed-down version of the story, which often portrays Natives as one-dimensional. For example, most people recognize Squanto’s name, Queypo said, but they don’t know the details of his life.

A member of the Patuxet Tribe, Squanto was kidnapped in 1614 and sold into slavery. When he returned to New England in 1619 and found his tribe obliterated, he joined the Wampanoag and served as an interpreter and guide for the pilgrims.

“People think of Squanto as the man who taught the pilgrims how to grow corn,” Queypo said. “This project was an opportunity for me to humanize him.”

The film’s Native cast also includes Raul Trujillo as Massasoit, the leader of the Pokanoket tribe; and Tatanka Means as Hobbamock, one of Massasoit’s men and an elite warrior believed to be indestructible in battle.

Actors worked with Jesse Bowman Bruchac, a Western Abenaki language coach who helped them learn their lines in a dialect similar to what was spoken in New England 400 years ago. Bruchac estimated about 30 percent of the script was in Western Abenaki, with subtitles, a touch he believes added authenticity to the film.

“Every line in the movie, whether from pilgrims or Native Americans, has a real, true connection to what was happening in that period,” he said. “There is an attention to detail in this movie that has never before been brought forward.”

RELATED: ‘Saints & Strangers’: The Real Story of That First Thanksgiving?

This image was featured in this week’s Indian Country Today Media Network newsletter.

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Interesting, and I only wish it would gain more attention than it will. It's time to get people to QUIT dressing like Natives on Halloween and Thanksgiving!


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