Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When Indians meet "Indians."

This is a story idea for a movie in which a South Asian person has contact with Native Americans. The point of the story is to set up a theoreticaly possible, if fictional, framework in which two different kinds of "Indians" could meet. To my knowledge, no suich meeting of historic import has ever occurred.


This story begins in India in the late 1850's, shortly after the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The British army in India is in the process of being restructured. Our main character is a loyal Sikh, under the command of a young British officer.

We need a reason for this officer to leave India in 1862, and for this Sikh to go with him, but once they depart, the head to North America to observe the Civil War, much in the style of Colonel Freemantle, who obnserved the Battle of Gettysburg, esentially as a "war tourist."

Our british officer and Sikh soldier land in Texas and work their way north to find the front lines. In the course of their adventures, they become separated, and our Sikh winds up wandering through Indian country.

He is found in the desert by a native tribe, who nurses him back to health. He proves his valor in a skirmish with another native tribe. In time, he goes through a vision quest and becomes a valued member of the tribe, much in the style of "A Man Called Horse" or "Little Big Man." His bond with the tribe even goes as far as getting a wife and becoming blood-brother with her brother.

Meanwhile, our British officer had fallen in with some Missouri bushwackers, much like Quantrill's Raiders. At the end of the war, the raiders head west to escape the pursuing US cavalry. In their flight, their leader is wounded. As he lays dying, he passes leadership on to the Britisher, for he has shown his battle skill and leadership qualities, and the men support him.

The raiders head into Indian territory with a notion to go to Mexico. Starvation and thirst dog them until they wind up getting ambushed by the tribe of which the Sikh is now a member. In the course of the ambush, the two men reunite. The Sikh convinces the cheif to let the raiders live and reover with them until they are ready to go on their way. One of the raiders tries to steal from the tribe, but the Britisher kills him, proving his sense of courtesy to the tribe to which his old friend now belongs.

Meanwhile the US cavalry is till on the trail of the raiders. They are better equipped for the desert than the raiders were, so they are hearty when they find the tribe. The ensuing massacre kills the Sikh's wife and child, and reminds both the Sikh and the Britisher of incidents in the Indian Mutiny that they committed, and are repulsed.

The cavalry manages to capture the Britisher and the Sikh alive. The go to the Britisher and inform him tha the is a sort of hero in England, where they have been reading reports of his gallant adventures in fighting for such a lost cause. Personally, the cavallry officer would be happy to execute him along with the rest of the readers for treason and insurrection, but Queen Victoria has sent a direct messsage to the president to bring him back alive. The Sikh, however, is "just another Indian."

The Sikh's blood brother/brother in law had been out hunting when the massacre/attack occurs, so he is able to help him escae. The Sikh won't go without the Britisher, but there is a moment of hesitation as the Britisher considers his loyalty to the queen. That hesitation proves fatal, however. The escape attempt is discovered. The Britisher decides to sacrifice himself so the two "Indians" can escape.

The blood brothers get away and locate the rest of the tribe's warriors, who had all been out hunting and missed the massacre. The blood brothers form a war party of these braves, and forge a legend of indomitable fighting spirit against the US cavalry.


I need to research which Native American tribe would fit best into this story. I also need to do a little more research into the life of a mid-19th century British officer to get him out of India and to america with a Sikh soldier in 1862.

My main question is, however, is this an appropriate use of NAtive American and Sikh culture for the purpose of narrative entertainment, or and I selfishly appropriating the cultures at the roiskl of misrepresenting or offending them? The concept of "Indians" meeting Indians intrigues me. Folks have been confusing one for the other ever since Columbus' error centuries ago. Why not put them together and see what happens.

In my research so far, I found that a series of wars and rebellions in India in the mid 19th century had several parallels with the Indain Wars in th American West. These include massacres, the playing off of one group of natives agains the other, natives loyal to the colonial forces, a heavy dose of racism ans romanticism, etc. Perhaps by telling this fictional story I can bring up issues of colonailism, "white man's burden" issues, loyalty, honor, fairness, and justice.

What do you think?