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Re-discovered Oklahoma movie offers rare, moving glimpse to Kiowa and Comanche past

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The views of history most people get from museums consist of artifacts from another time, pictures if they're lucky, but largely shed of their humanity.

Jeff Moore and other historians work with the materials they have to try to fill in the gaps.

Then, once in a while, an artifact comes along that completes the picture, that brings a period fully to life.

"This is the first of its kind," he says referring to a rare Oklahoma film recently restored. "It really is a rare piece of film, piece of art, and expression."

In 1920 a Texas film company came to the Kiowa and Comanche reservations in Oklahoma. They had an idea for a movie, an Indian love story called, 'Daughter of Dawn'.

They made their movie over three months.

All the props, the tepees, the horses, the eagle feather head dresses didn't come from a warehouse but from the actors' personal possessions.

For historians the story told on film didn't matter nearly as much as the action, motion pictures of Southern Plains tribes doing what they'd done for hundreds of years.

"It's the right buckskin. It's the right bead work," he says. "It's eagle feathers. It's not chicken feathers like Hollywood movies used a few years later.

'Daughter of Dawn' gave historians moving portraits of famous artists like Silverhorn.

He painted some of the images on this teepee which historian Matt Reed identified in the OK History Center archives.

"It remained here sitting on a shelf this entire time," says Reed who did the research connecting them.

Both movie and canvas are now on display together at the OK History Museum.

Moore says, "This is very pure and true to the culture."

It is a rare artifact, not trapped behind a piece of protective glass or lengthy caption, but bursting with life, and told by the same people who actually lived it.

'Daughter of Dawn' is set for a second showing in Tulsa. The first was in 1921. The Circle Cinema will hold screenings for a week beginning Friday, November 6th.

Selected scenes are screening daily as part of a Kiowa exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

DVD's of the entire 80 minute film will be offered for sale in coming weeks.

For showtimes in Tulsa, click here.