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LGHS hosts screening of ‘Yellowstone’ show, filmed on the Crow Reservation
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Photo by Andrew Turck

Crow Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid talks to community members at the Lodge Grass High School auditorium last Wednesday evening in preparation for a screening of the Paramount Network’s first scripted drama series, “Yellowstone.” The 10-part series was filmed in the Crow Reservation, Darby, Helena and the Bitterroot Mountains.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Michael Friedman, co-executive producer for “Yellowstone,” talks to Daryl Begay (right), the show’s Native American affairs coordinator, while meeting with members of the public.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Community members greet one another prior to the “Yellowstone” screening. More than 60 people participated in the event.

Two screens hung at opposite ends of the Lodge Grass High School auditorium last Wednesday evening as more than 60 people arrived to see the pilot episode of the Paramount Network’s first scripted drama series, “Yellowstone.”

The 10-episode television show – written, directed and produced by Taylor Sheridan – follows the Dutton family near Bozeman as they attempt to preserve their ranch (the largest in the nation) from land developers, an Indian reservation and the first U.S. national park. Headlining the series is actor Kevin Costner, who dons a cowboy hat as John Dutton, the patriarch of his family.

Political intrigue, shootings and the branding of humans ensue against the backdrop of hilly countryside and rolling plains that characterize Montana.

“It really displayed our lands well,” said Zackery Bird Faraway, a freelance artist in Lodge Grass who attended the screening. “It showed the openness and it was beautiful to see the buffalo run around.

“Some people see it as clichéd, but as clichéd as it is, it’s still beautiful to watch.”

Among its Montana settings, the show features locations on the Crow Reservation including a brief shot in Crow Agency of the sign for Apsaalooke Nights Casino. In addition to the reservation, the production crew also filmed scenes in Darby, Helena and the Bitterroot Mountains.

According to Crow Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid, who also was in attendance, Paramount has contributed more than $20,000 to tribal members for their involvement in the filming process. Lodge Grass Alderman BethYana Pease, a main organizer for the event, mentioned her son was one of the extras used for the show.

“He was riding a horse,” she said. “He got paid pretty well, too.”

Significant community collaboration was required to get the screening set up, she continued, adding that a “tech guy” from Pryor helped the Lodge Grass workers put it all together.

Before the show, Lodge Grass Mayor Quincy Dabney told the audience to give themselves a round of applause, as Paramount traveled to the reservation because of the Crow Tribe’s “culture, and the tradition and the language.”

“We don’t have our Cozy Corners, we don’t have our cafés, we don’t have our coffee shops like we used to,” he said, “but yet we have people from Paramount who are here.”

Pease intends to bring more films to Lodge Grass in the future, including a 2017 documentary on the life of the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief, Wilma Mankiller. After all, she said, “We have the system to do it.”

Paramount personnel at the screening were Michael Friedman, co-executive producer for “Yellowstone,” and Daryl Begay, a member of the Navajo tribe who serves as the show’s Native American affairs coordinator.

While helping to put together the show, Begay said, he made the roughly 400-mile trip from Darby in eastern Montana to Crow Agency in the west twice per week during the fall of 2017. Both he and Friedman agreed the hardest aspect of working in Montana was leaving the state once they were finished with their jobs.

“The most satisfying part is bringing it all to life here,” Friedman said. “Montana is stunningly beautiful.”

According to Not Afraid, shows such as “Yellowstone” that utilize reservation land and American Indian actors can serve as an “eye-opener” for Native youth regarding possibilities within the arts. As actors, Dabney added, “the Crows are fearless...they’re already stepping into a role and they’re comfortable in it.”

If the show gains a second season, Friedman said, “the world will grow” for the series, and “more new people” will be needed. This world, he confirmed, could be populated with some Crow or Northern Cheyenne actors.

While “Yellowstone” doesn’t show the full story of inter-racial dynamics, according to Not Afraid, “there is a lot of reality to it.” On a personal level, he continued, he relates to the character of Thomas Rainwater – a casino owner and chief in the show who is played by Gil Birmingham. According to Not Afraid, he identifies with Rainwater’s belief that his tribe can be self-sufficient and not rely on outside resources.

“It shows different positions depending on if you’re the cowboy, depending on if you’re the Indian, depending on if you’re the landowner, depending on if you’re the developer,” he said. “That’s what I love about it.”

At press time, the season premiere for “Yellowstone” drew five million viewers, which makes it the top summer debut for a drama series on cable or broadcast.

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