Dark Cloud (actor)

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Dark Cloud
Dark Cloud - Elijah Tahamont.jpg
Dark Cloud, before 1918
Born Elijah Tahamont
20 September 1855
Odanak, Quebec, Canada
Died 17 September 1918
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Actor, model
Years active 1910-1918
Spouse(s) Margaret Camp (actress, Dove Eye)

Dark Cloud (1855—1918) was a Native American silent film actor, born Elijah Tahamont on September 20, 1855 at Odanak, Quebec, Canada.[1] He was a chief of the Abenaki, a First Nations people belonging to the Algonquian peoples of northeastern North America.[2]

Tahamont's father, also named Elijah Tahamont, had studied at Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College, where Native American education had been funded by a gift of £12,000 in 1767 from a Native American, Presbyterian Rev. Samson Occom.[3] Moor's School had been established for "civilizing the wild, wandering Tribes of Indians in North America, and ... for promoting religion, virtue, and literature among people of all denominations."[4]

Tahamont became known first as a popular lecturer, and as a model for artist Frederic Remington, the most successful Western illustrator in the “Golden Age” of illustration at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Remington wrote and illustrated a novel, John Ermine of Yellowstone.

Acting career[edit]

Dark Cloud began working for American Mutoscope and Biograph in New York in 1910, making his first screen appearances in the era of "eastern Westerns" under the direction of D. W. Griffith and with cinematography by Billy Bitzer. Unlike the later Westerns, featuring dramatic conflicts and indolent Natives, these early films showed Native Americans with respect: in serene, nearly still-life profile against a wide landscape, as though in calm reflection on their lives before the treaties were broken.[5] The Song of the Wildwood Flute, with Mary Pickford and Mack Sennett, was filmed near Fishkill, New York. Dark Cloud's first movie, The Broken Doll was made in 1910 in Coytesville, near Fort Lee, New Jersey, where Griffith also filmed Call of the Wild.

Dark Cloud appeared in many Westerns and other films during the 1910s. He moved with Griffith's company to the West Coast in 1912, eventually appearing in at least 34 silent movies in a brief film career of only 8 years, cut short by the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.[6] He was sometimes billed as Chief Dark Cloud or as William Dark Cloud.[6] After Remington's death, Dark Cloud collaborated on making a 1917 Francis Ford movie, based on John Ermine of Yellowstone, in which "John Darkcloud" appeared as Fire Bear.

Personal life[edit]

Tahamont married Margaret Camp, who became an actress billed as Dove Eye of the silent film era.[7] The Tahamonts' children, Beulah and Bessie, reportedly were "the first Indian children to attend a New York public school".[8] Beulah appeared in early films and on stage. Their granddaughter, Bertha Parker, was an archaeologist and ethnologist. As an ethnologist, she wrote about the lore, mythology, and early history of Native Americans in California and Nevada.[9][10] Her third marriage was to the actor "Iron Eyes" Cody, who played the Indian who sheds a single tear for a blighted American environment in "Keep America Beautiful" ads that ran from 1971 into the 1980s.

Tahamont's death, in Los Angeles, California on October 17, 1918, was from bronchopneumonia, officially attributed to the Spanish influenza pandemic.[11] Rumors that he was murdered by a jealous husband, that he died from accidental drowning, or that he was still alive were never substantiated. Several of his films were released after his death.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allan Ellenberger, "Chief Dark Cloud, aka Elijah Tahamont", Hollywood Forever Cemetery (June 14, 2008)
  2. ^ Alexander F. Chamberlain, "Algonkian Words in American English: A Study in the Contact of the White Man and the Indian." The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 61 (Apr. - Jun., 1903), pp. 128-129
  3. ^ Tahamont and Wionitamente, Ne-Do-Ba, Androscoggin Valley Community Network
  4. ^ Transcription of Recommendations, Dartmouth Library Bulletin, (November, 1990)
  5. ^ Scott Simmon, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half-century, Cambridge University Press (2003), p. 17. ISBN 0-521-55581-7
  6. ^ a b "Dark Cloud" filmography on IMDb
  7. ^ IMDb filmography of Dove Eye
  8. ^ Los Angeles Times (April 10, 1904)
  9. ^ "Beulah Dark Cloud", Find a Grave
  10. ^ Coyote Named This Place Pakonapanti, Corn Creek National Register Archaeological District, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Clark County, Nevada (2007) p. 17
  11. ^ Allan Ellenberger, "Chief Dark Cloud, aka Elijah Tahamont", Hollywood Forever Cemetery (June 14, 2008)

External links[edit]