“The Other Side of Racism and Hate”


Southern Cheyenne Chief Laird (Whistling Eagle) Cometsevah


“The Other Side of Racism and Hate”


Donald L. Vasicek

So, there was this hot, windy day in Oklahoma City, May 25, 2017, which was the beginning of learning a lesson about racism and hate that parallels that of the hate groups in America today. I should’ve known better before I accepted an invitation to come here to speak at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Veterans Memorial Day Service and to screen my award-winning documentary film, “The Sand Creek Massacre”. I should have known better because since I wrote, directed and produced the film, I have looked intothe eyes of racism and hate over and over and over during screenings and appearances in every major city in the U. S.  It is a most chilling experience.

The Director of Cheyenne and Arapaho Veteran Services, a personable Cheyenne man with coal black, wavy hair, and smooth light brown skin with a dynamic personality, kindly drove me to each location where I was to be. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Complex in El Reno, Oklahoma was our first stop.  When we walked into this massive-sized hall, he left me to myself to attend to his job responsibilities. As I scanned the huge room, I saw numerous Cheyenne and Arapaho people milling around. I did not see 1 white person. It gave me a feeling of fear.

Suddenly, several Cheyenne and Arapaho people swarmed me.  They introduced themselves, said they were excited to meet me. They had made up flyers and posted them all over Oklahoma City, El Reno and Concho, Oklahoma, in anticipation of my appearance. Each person wanted something different from me. One man asked me to sign 7 different posters of me with my photo and Sand Creek Massacre film poster along with my bio on the posters. Another, Larry, a Cheyenne man wearing a fedora, sunglasses and a white patch of hair at the crease in his chin, wanted to talk with me about the Sand Creek Massacre and his ancestors who were there, and survived.  A Cheyenne woman print journalist asked to interview me after I gave my speech.  3 other Cheyenne woman asked me for copies of the film. A trim and handsome Cheyenne man who is a re-known forensic face expert, introduced himself to me. He creates “faces” from dead bodies so that it helps law enforcement identify dead bodies.  Meeting him was exciting because I read true crime books and watch true crime t.v. shows. He has been mentioned in some of the books and shows.

After several men and kids sitting in a circle around drums played and sang 3 songs in Cheyenne, a Cheyenne and Arapaho color guard presented its colors. There were 3 Cheyenne and Arapaho speakers, 1 of whom was the Lt. Governor of Oklahoma and a USMC member. When I spoke I commended the 6 Cheyenne and Arapaho men who told their story in “The Sand Creek Massacre” film, particularly those who served America in the military service. In an attempt to establish some common ground with the audience, possibly 1 to 200, all of whom were Cheyenne and Arapaho with the exception of a white camera person taping the service, I mentioned Trump by saying that there was a racist and bigot who lived in the White House.

When my speech was over, there were echoes of applause. I write, echoes, because they were few who applauded me. But those who did, their applause bounced off the walls of the massive-sized room. My film was turned on for everyone to watch (there were about 200 people there). While the film was playing, sitting alone, I started eating my box lunch, while a Cheyenne print journalist interviewed me for her newspaper. Then, 6 Cheyenne men came up to me.  They pulled out chairs.  The sat down and circled all the way around me.  I ended up sitting in the middle of them, you know, like I was being attacked like Indian’s attacked whites encroaching on their lands during the 18th & 19th centuries, who circled their wagon trains to protect themselves from the attacks.

The spokesman a burly, intimidating man with an angry look on his face, whom I’ll call Mr. X, told me with no blinking of eyes that I was exploiting their people by having made this film and distributing it.  He asked me who gave me permission to make the film. I told him I traveled to Clinton, Oklahoma, Lame Deer, Montana and Wind River, Wyoming Cheyenne and Arapaho reservations and appeared before Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal councils to get permission to make the film.  They approved it.  The angry man told me that a PBS t.v. station came down to Oklahoma to shoot footage for a Sand Creek Massacre story.  He said they promised his people and him that they would pay them, which they never did.

As I looked around the circle, and met each man head on in their eyes, and stone-cold faces, I saw that their pupils were black. Like the eyes of a snake, motionless, angry, maybe fearful, they stared right through me like laser beams burning holes in my very being. Fear drove me to attack.

I told them they were insulting my integrity and professionalism.  I told them that I made the film to provide a voice for their people. I said there was never any intention to make any money off of the film or to acquire fame because of it, something Cheyenne and Arapaho people on other reservations had confronted me with before. I went on to say I hadn’t made any money from sales of the film, that I was still paying for its production out of my own pocket, and that I would never make any money on the film.

We proceeded to have a stare down.  I wasn’t going to blink or move. I thought, “fuck them”.  They owe me an apology.  Finally, Mr. X stood up.  The other 5 men stood up.  He offered his hand to me, as well as each of the other men.  We shook hands. Each of the other men shook my hand. They smiled. They showed me respect. Mr. X thanked me and said that they no longer had a problem with me making the film.   The forensic face man asked me where he could get a copy of my film so that he could show it in classrooms for appearances he makes in schools.

That evening I screened the film at the Concho, Oklahoma Community Center.  There were 50 chairs, all of which were filled, with Cheyenne and Arapaho people.  I was the only white person there.  After my speech and the screening, 2 different people attacked me for making the film. A Cheyenne woman.  An Arapaho man.

The Cheyenne woman was right in front of me, feet away.  I have never, ever, faced anyone with such a hating look that she gave me.  It was chilling.  I really believed that she wanted to take me out.  She ranted about how white people treat the Jews by building monuments for them, giving them money, helping them out with training and jobs, but they do nothing for the Cheyenne and Arapaho people.  She asked me, “Why is that? Why are whites helping the Jews, but not us” as though it was my fault.

I told her that I made this film as a voice for her people. I told her that other white people have helped create organizations in colleges and universities for America’s indigenous people to further their education. I told that there are companies and corporations who have and are creating jobs for America’s indigenous people. I told her that there are many groups of white people who stand up for America’s indigenous people. I told her there are television and radio programs that have their doors open to America’s indigenous people. I said that there are a multitude of white people who donate money and time to help America’s indigenous people get places to live, food to eat and transportation.

She said, “That isn’t enough.”

I was unable to take my eyes off of her eyes. Her pupils were small and black, shaped like inverted almonds. The hate that emanated from her eyes terrified me. I was stunned by it. I was thinking that she was going to pull out a knife and stab me. She showed so much hate towards me. I was about to step back from her when I was suddenly able to look through the hate in her eyes. On the other side of the hate, I saw the look of betrayal, of sadness, of a loving woman who was devastated by the trust by her ancestors that was broken by white people many years ago and continues to exist today, even to the point of genocide. It was at that point that I saw her vulnerability.

I asked her, “What is enough?” She blinked her eyes then. Tears filled them. Mine were on the brink of tears. She smiled. She reached out her hand to me. She thanked me for making the film. I wanted to open my arms up to her, to hug her, but the fear was still there even though, for the first time in my long odyssey with “The Sand Creek Massacre” film, which has taken me to nearly every state in the country for screenings, speaking appearances, questions and answer sessions on radio and television, traveling to schools, colleges, universities, organizations, corporations, film festivals, etc., I felt as though I had finally found some common ground with racism and hate.

I will always remember the little 4th grade girl who watched the film with 73 parents, faculty and students at Walnut Hills Elementary School in Centennial, Colorado. She asked me, “Why do people hate Indians?” I was speechless. Now, I could answer her question better than I did then. And what do any of us have, if we do not have love in our hearts for human beings?






















“Notes from Dachau and Anne Frank’s House”

June 18, 2008 – Centennial, CO – Donald L. Vasicek, award-winning writer/
filmmaker for the Sand Creek Massacre documentary film recently traveled to
Europe.  Amongst his stops was Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp about nine
miles or fifteen kilometers northwest of Munich.  Vasicek, known for his campaign
to educate others about American native people, nevertheless, was stunned by
what he saw and experienced at Dachau and in Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam.
Part of his notes are as follows:


“To escape from Dachau, one had to sprint across an eight-foot wide
strip of grass.  The grass was nurtured there for prisoners.  It encircled
the interior of the camp.  If one stepped on the grass, they were shot.  If
one made it past  the grass to a v-shaped cement moat that also surrounded
the interior of the camp, they had to scamper down into the moat, up the other
side of it to barbed wire that was spread on up-sloping ground.  An, at least
ten-foot high electric fence with barbed wire curled on top of it like large circles
drawn with barbed spikes on it, was the last barrier to escape from a place
where an estimated 50,000 human beings were murdered.

“As I toured the camp and listened to the tour guide’s description of the camp,
what was there, and what is presently there and why, I felt like I had stepped
into the past.  All of the books I had read,  all of the movies and documentary films
I had seen, all of what I had learned about that horrific time, came to the surface there.  I got a
dose of reality.  I could feel the terror, the pain, and the sorrow.  I constantly
asked myself, how could anyone create such a horrifying place?  I was stunned
to realize how real Dachau had been, how much hate had been generated to mask
the reality of breathing human beings.

“When I walked up to the crematorium, I traced the steps of prisoners who could
no longer work or work, like women, children, elders, the sick, prisoners who were gay,
prisoners who were gypsies and other “throwaways”, as Nazis often called them.

“The first room was the room where prisoners had to strip themselves naked.  Then, they
walked to the next room, which had a lower ceiling than the rooms in the rest of the building
and no windows.  They were told they were going to take showers, but instead, poison
pellets were dropped into the room in two hinged box-like containers in one wall that
were filled with the pellets from outside of the building.”

Think about that.  Just think about that.

“The next room was the crematorium.  I stood in front of the ovens as the tour guide
explained that towards the end of the war (World War II), the Nazis escalated the job, or
as they called, the final solution.  They backlogged at Dachau.  The tour guide showed us
how bodies were piled up, both inside and outside of the crematorium waiting to be
burned.  Pictures taken at the time were prominent there.

I stepped back from the photos.  I realized that anywhere I stepped, I stepped where
Nazis and people condemned to death by ignorance had either once stood, or lay.  I
know I am unique, different, because there is no one else who is me.  I just don’t like
the idea that killing is a solution to solving problems.  Genocide is ignorance based on
fear.  And according to some, fear is the second most powerful human emotion next to love.

The tour guide mentioned that the German people, as recent as 1999, had decided to
“come out” with their horrific past.  German children are now required to study World War II
Nazism and come to the camps to learn.  The tour guide said the reason the German people
had waited so long to “come out” was because of their shame for the
terror  and devastation the Nazis had perpetuated on millions of others.”

It is time, now, for the American people to do the same thing.  We must come out
of our shame and stop genocide in America.  That is the very least we can
do for the native people of America.  Our children must learn about native people,
their cultures, their history, and who they are as human beings so that they can relate
to them as human beings.

No one is better than anyone else regardless of achievements, social standing, religion ,
culture, race and/or material wealth. We are one because  we are human.  We are a collectiveness
consciousness.  When we hurt someone, we  damage that consciousness.  This, in turn, causes
all human beings to lose some of the positive energy this kind of
consciousness brings to each one of us. 

If one isn’t convinced, walk in the hidden recesses of a building next to Princes Gracht Canal
in Amsterdam where thirteen year-old Anne Frank hid from the Nazis with her family for three
years until they were betrayed and sent to camps. Walk in the rooms.
I did.  Guess what?  Anne Frank was a talented girl, a writer, a young person with
dreams and goals.  A Jewish girl who loved her family more than anything else
in her world.  A human being.

Princes Gracht Canal - Amsterdam
Princes Gracht Canal - Amsterdam

Feel her there.  Feel the terror.  Anne Frank, at age sixteen, died from typhoid in a concentration
camp because of ignorance fueled by fear.  Genocide in its finest form.

Then, there is the Sand Creek Massacre.  I’ve been at the site several times.  Sat in the grass
by Sand Creek, camera in hand, alone, recording sounds, the sun warm on my back.  I felt like
others were there.  You know, invisible, but there.  Perhaps apparitions, if I looked hard enough.
On November 29, 1964, there were over five-hundred Cheyenne lodges there, perhaps a thousand
or so Cheyenne people, seven-hundred soldiers, their horses, their equipment, their canons,
their guns, their sabers, and Indian dogs and horses.  Their ignorance.  Their fear.  Their  hate.
And there was murder there.  Rape. Mutilations.  Carnage.

There is a prominent person who has done work at the Sand Creek Massacre Site.  I asked
her if she ever “felt” anything while she was there doing her work.  She said, “No, not really, but I’ll
never go out to the site at night.”  I asked her why.  She said, “I don’t know why, I just won’t go.”

You might want to check it out, see how it makes you feel.  Perhaps it can remove you,
even for a moment, from your reality and plunge you in the depths of losing sight of who
human beings, all human beings really are, human beings, just like you and me.



Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC