Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/families/education/articles/1216learnapache-ON.html
Apaches praise 'The Missing,' send students to learn about
Dec. 16, 2003
SANTA FE, N.M. - Word swept through the Mescalero reservation
like an early winter wind that characters in the film "The Missing" spoke a
dialect of Apache.
Most adult Apaches in the audiences have said they could understand every word
of the Chiricahua dialect - and the children suddenly wished they could, too.
That's what Mescalero councilman Berle Kanseah and Chiricahua linguist Elbys
Hugar intended as technical advisers for the Ron Howard film, a tough tale of
19th century frontier life starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett that has
been in theaters for about three weeks.
Television and popular culture are killing minority cultures, starting with
language, Kanseah said.
"There's a generation gap that's growing," he said, suggesting Apaches aren't
the only ones facing it. "We need to enforce the home and not lose our way of
life, which is our language."
It was the first film that any of them could remember in which Apache was spoken
well enough on screen to be understood. Usually, Westerns were dubbed in Navajo,
a related language, said supporting actor Steve Reevis, a Montana Blackfoot who
has worked several films but never spoke Apache before "The Missing."
The film is set in southwestern New Mexico in 1885, just as the last of the
Apache conflict was ending. The Jones character's granddaughter, Blanchett's
daughter, is abducted by a ragged band of American Indians and whites who sell
women into slavery in Mexico. Jones and co-star Jay Tavere set out to keep the
slavers from reaching Mexico.
The slavers are led by a "brujo," a medicine man gone bad, played by Eric
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. The
brujo played by Schweig is not intended to be Apache, though he speaks Apache,
the producers say.
Many Apaches have gone back two and three times to see "The Missing," Kanseah
said. The producers gave a screening for 500 Mescalero students in Alamogordo
last month, and the tribe has been busing students to theaters in nearby
Ruidoso. Two more screenings were held here Sunday for hundreds more students
from several tribes who attend Santa Fe Indian School and other tribal schools
in the surrounding area.
"It made me feel proud," said Megan Crespin, 8, a third-grader from Santo
Domingo School. Her tribal name is Moonlight.
Kevin Aspaas, 8, a Navajo student said he liked the hawk that led Jones back to
his family. He is learning Navajo and said a few words in his native tongue.
There aren't that many Chiricahuas left. They were rounded up and sent to
Florida in 1886, shunted back to Alabama, Oklahoma and finally to the Mescalero
homeland in south-central New Mexico in 1913.
"There are only about 300 people who are fluent in Chiricahua today," Tavere
told the audience Sunday.