The Long Riders' Guild

Academics call for historical accuracy in Disney film.

Professor David Dary is emeritus professor and former head of what is now the Gaylord College of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma and a specialist in the history of the American West.  Professor Dary has more than a dozen books to his name, including The Buffalo Book, Cowboy Culture, Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West, and The Santa Fe Trail.  His forthcoming book on The Oregon Trail will be published in 2004.

“Yes, the Hopkins story is exciting. It has all of the ingredients that make a good story and in turn a good motion picture,” Dary has said. “But to misrepresent to the motion picture viewing public that the upcoming film is a "true story" is not only misleading but it raises a serious question about the credibility of the Disney organization. Disney should simply tell the public Frank Hopkins' story is just a story and not the truth.

Hopkins so-called 'true story' may be the first major hoax of the 21st century perpetuated on the US public and motion picture public. For the scriptwriter and Disney to call it "true" is not only inaccurate but misleading," says Dary, who added, "The Disney company has been built on public trust. To claim that something is true when it is not breaks that trust. So long as they ignore the truth, it is irresponsible. The company is not performing in a responsible manner.”

Dr. Vine Deloria, Jr. is a leading Native American scholar, whose research, writings, and teaching have encompassed history, law, religious studies, and political science.  He is a retired professor emeritus of history at the University of Colorado and the author of many acclaimed books, including God is Red, Red Earth, White Lies, and Custer Died for Your Sins

"Hopkins' claims are so outrageously false that one wonders why the Disney people were attracted to this material at all - except of course the constant propensity to make money under any conditions available. One need only peruse the mass of material purporting to deal with the Oglala Sioux and Hopkins' claims regarding them to see that almost anything can be acceptable to the money-mad titans of Hollywood. ...

At any rate, Hopkins should have been awarded the World's Greatest Liar award. The problem is that these distortions of the Indian history, the slandering of famous chiefs and leaders, and the presentation of these lies as history cannot be easily erased once they are promulgated as fact. Further word has reached me that some Indian actors know the falsity of this project but to be working as actors they are not saying anything. If this situation is true, they also have been swept up in the rush for riches. I am also told that several Lakota scholars were told about these distortions of their history and leaders but refused to comment on the materials. For shame. I hope this cowardice is only another smear against our people although I have seen some Indian academics that will sell anyone down the drain to maintain their status...

Each generation faces these kinds of frauds and each generation should get up and howl and scream until this appropriation of Indian culture and history stops. What kind of authenticity Hopkins' writings had were derived from other books or just plain speculation and fantasy. But Hollywood in all its fictional ventures of the past has never treated history with just such a dismissive attitude. Disney must need the money to take such a bold step."

Professor Henry Giroux is Waterbury Chair Professor of Education at Penn State University and author of dozens of books including The Mouse that Roared - Disney and the End of Innocence, in which he explores the many ways in which Disney strives to dominate global media and influence the future of children.

"Actually, this scandalous behavior on the part of the Disney corporation does not surprise me at all. Truth telling is not one of their signature characteristics. Ironically, CEO Michael Eisner constantly claims that the Disney corporation just entertains the public and in doing so, he hides behind this deceptive mantle of innocence, and yet, he knows full well as the "Hidalgo" travesty suggests that the Disney Corporation doesn't simply entertain, they often misrepresent and distort and in doing so miseducate. I hope this issue raises enough public attention to both reveal their misrepresentation of history and to educate the public to that side of Disney which undercuts history as it simultaneously misrepresents it. It is a shame that something your organization is both knowledgeable about and believes in [equestrian travel] has to be treated so trivially by Disney executives."

Mark Greene, Director of the American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming

"It is a source of constant amazement and discouragement to all of us in the historical professions how casually many US businesses treat historical 'truth'."

Gregory Michno - Author of Lakota Noon:  the Indian narrative of Custer's Defeat (1997) and The Mystery of E Troop:  Custer's Gray Horse Company at the Little Bighorn (1994) and Encyclopedia of Indian wars :  western battles and skirmishes, 1850-1890

"I am currently working on a book that discusses Hollywood vs. history in western movies. These are some of the very points that will be examined, such as whether or not it is Hollywood's duty to tell accurate history, or simply entertain us with a good story. The latter may be the case, but it should not give us falsehoods under the guise of truth."

 Dr. Juti Winchester, Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center  

"Frank and Gertrude [Frank's wife] Hopkins are only two of a legion of early twentieth century pretenders that used Cody's name and reputation to bolster their own.  I hope researchers will no longer continue to allow the Hopkins' work to muddy the historical waters any more than has already been done."

Dr. Donald Worcester, an Ida and Cecil Green Distinguished Emeritus at Texas Christian University and author of many books, including The Spanish Mustang. His work has also appeared in The Historian, American Anthropologist, and Journal of Inter-American Studies. 

"If the Walt Disney studio does not admit that the movie "Hidalgo" is fiction, then years from now people will be misled into believing that it is a true story. I think that if these people don't admit they were misled, then I wouldn't trust them on anything else!  Hopkins was not an embellisher. He was the creator of these stories. He did it on purpose, for some reason."
When asked if Frank Hopkins should be credited with having created the largest hoax in the Old West, Dr. Worcester was clear.  "I wouldn't say Frank Hopkins should be "credited" with these stories but rather "discredited" by them. I certainly can't think of any bigger hoax! "

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