The Long Riders' Guild


Dr. Vine DeLoria Jr. calls on Viggo Mortensen
to produce his Lakota witness


The star of “Hidalgo,” Viggo Mortensen, has been telling the press that he has had conversations with several native Lakota who cannot speak English.  He says they  verify Frank Hopkins’ assorted absurd claims, including that he was half Lakota.


Mr. Mortensen seems to overlooked the fact that in 1910 Frank Hopkins told the US census taker that he had been born in Texas and that his parents were "unknown." It would appear that Mr. Mortensen is instead eager to accept Hopkins' baseless later claim that he was born in Wyoming and that his mother had been Lakota.


Mortensen is apparently ignoring the stark facts which plainly state that not a single one of Hopkins’ claims can be verified. Here are a few examples of the Hollywood star's comments:


Star Viggo Mortensen said he spoke with Native Americans whose family personally verified Hopkins' story.


"To have many families on reservations to talk about Frank Hopkins specifically, and his horsemanship and his connection to their tribes with stories that have been handed down through generations, why would that not be true? In my experience and the stories I've heard, these people, some of them don't even speak English and certainly could [care less] about Hollywood movies. But [they] say, 'Yeah, my mother told me that and this guy, this and that, a painted horse...' and it speaks for itself.


Another example:


"I found that people, older people, still talk about him and about Hidalgo. There was one woman who was 94, 95, and she talked about being a little girl and meeting Frank Hopkins," Mortensen says, obviously harboring a respect for the story and those who keep the tradition alive. "There's a tradition of speaking about him and his experiences with horses and his connection to the people, beyond what you can find written."

Mention DeLoria's criticisms to Mortensen and anger flashes through his normally mellow mantle. He's read all of DeLoria's books, he says, admires the man's scholarship, but with all due respect, the man hasn't seen the movie. There's an oral history that supports Hopkins's story, he argues. (The film's writer, John Fusco, took 12 years to research the story. And while filming the movie, Mortensen says, he met a 96-year-old Lakota woman who told him about meeting Hopkins when she was a young girl.) 


This is what Dr. DeLoria has to say in response to Mortensen’s public claims:


It's utter nonsense that Viggo Mortensen talked with Lakotas who couldn't speak English - how old would they have to be? If you had just talked with an 94 year old elder you would have to take into account that he or she was born in 1910, schools on the reservations began around the 1880s and children who did not attend school were denied rations - so the chances are any 94 year old elder was in a government or church school between the ages of 6-18 and they were forbidden to speak their native language in schools. So how did they grow up only speaking Lakota?


I am 71 years old and can recall but a few elders in my early childhood who could not speak English - but that was over 60 years ago and those people were rare and in their 80s and 90s at that time. I would like to have Viggo Mortensen give me the names of those families who only speak Lakota that he can converse with - he has uncovered people overlooked by the several educational programs that teach and analyze the Lakota language?


Not hardly.


My Aunt - Ella Deloria - was the foremost scholar of the three dialects used by the Sioux people - "D", "L" and "N" - and she bemoaned the fact that she could not find anyone on any of the reservations who could speak fluently in any of the dialects because there had already been substantial erosion of the language. She said she missed talking with elders who would create words to express certain ideas. Now, suddenly a Hollywood star is able to go to a Sioux reservation and immediately find families who don't speak English?


I don't think so.


I would like Viggo Mortensen to tell me the name of the 94-year-old woman, where she lives, and how he was lucky enough to locate her.

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