User:TG4M/Whispers Like Thunder

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Whispers Like Thunder
Written byTrip Brooks
Luis Moro
Produced bySBK
Simone Sheffield
Valerie Hoffman
Luis Moro
StarringBen Kingsley
CountryUnited States

Whispers Like Thunder is an upcoming film based on the true story of the Conley sisters, three Native American sisters who fought the government with guns, axes and the law to protect their ancestors burial grounds, and won after 64 years.


In 1909 Eliza “Lyda” Burton Conley was the first Native American woman attorney, and the first Native American woman admitted to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Her and her two sisters, Helena “Lena” Conley, and Ida Conley gave punches, swung axes, fired guns, and used the law to fight off U.S. troops, police, construction workers, mob thugs, corrupt business men and crooked politicians for several decades to defend their Native American sacred burial ground. [1]

The sisters took up their vigil over the graves after learning the land was about to be sold. They built a 6 x 8 foot frame structure and placed a fence of iron spikes around it. Helena stood armed with their father's double barreled shotgun, an axe and the American Flag. She used them without fear. Instantly, their new home became known as "Fort Conley."

Vice President Charles Curtis Ben Kingsley, was the first and only Native American Vice President in the United States came to their rescue after many long years of the sisters turning to him for help. [2]

Interest from Native American communities[edit]

The screenplay was read and approved of by Principal Chief Jan English of The Wynadot Nation of Kansas. A quote from Producer Luis Moro about the timing of the film, "The Native American community's time has come," he said. "It's time has come." [3]

Cheif English announced the film at a ground breaking ceremony and the fact that British Actor Ben Kingsley will be Producing and starring in this Native American epic film, as the role of U.S Vice President Charles Curtis. English read a letter to a handful of people gathered at the Craigleith heritage centre from Kingsley, in which he indicates his intention to make a film about the struggle of the Wyandot to maintain a historical burial sight in Kansas. “. . . It is with this passion that I finally like to formally announce my intent to bring their story to life with a film project –Whispers Like Thunder - which will dramatize the cemetery and keep the memory of the Wyandot alive,” said the letter from Kingsley. [4] Many of the important facts and scenes in Whispers Like Thunder give light to the present day struggles that Native American still face and endure.

Sub Context: Women’s Freedoms and Rights[edit]

Due to the fact that the film’s screenplay and story is based on the struggle and victory of three Native American woman who fought for their burial land, and one sister Lyda Conley becoming the first Native American woman lawyer in history, and becoming the first Native American woman to represent herself in front of the US Supreme Court, and their 65-year legal battle to protect a sacred burial ground; this film gives validity to the struggles and accomplishments of woman. [5]

English-Native Iroquoian language[edit]

John Steckley is a scholar specializing in Native American Studies and the indigenous languages of the Americas, and is widely reported to be the last known speaker of the Wyandot (or Huron) Language, Iroquoian. He translated a majority of the screen play to be as authentic as possible to the Wynadot people.[6]

Only Part-Native American US Vice President[edit]

In a time in history when President Barack Obama became first mixed Black, Caucasian, Native American President in history, Sir Ben Kingsley will portray Senator Curtis, who introduced the bill which kept the land from being sold and converted it to a national monument. Then becoming Vice President of The United States and passed important legislature to protect Native Americans. Although amidst controversy, the film will depict that he too was subjected to prejudice as bills were passed with his signature falsely. [7]

History of Premise[edit]

In July of 1843, 664 members of the Wyandotte Nation were moved from Ohio to Kansas. While camped along the Missouri River, illness went through the camp and 50 to 100 of the Wyandots died. Their bodies were carried across the river to the Kansas Territory, to a ridge which overlooked the Kansas and Missouri Rivers and Kansas City's Huron Indian Cemetery was established.

Later that year, the Wyandots were granted the land (from the US) that included the ridge and it continued to by used as a cemetery. When the local members of the Wyandotte Nation were dissolved as a tribe and (some) of its members became American Citizens in 1855 (by choice), the cemetery continued to be used. Four years later, the Town of Wyandot was incorporated and the Huron Cemetery was within its boundaries. This community would become part of Kansas City in Wyandotte County.

That is the basis for the Conley sisters; defense of the Indian burial ground. Their mother was buried there (their sister Sarah) and, these, ancestors further back (actually many cousins, Uncles, and Aunts; and their Grandmother, Hannah Zane. The revolt of the three sisters, started in the summer of 1907 as a result of plans broached the previous year for purchase by the city of the Huron cemetery, Congress, having authorized its sale by the secretary of the Interior in 1905 (1906).

As soon as the Conley sisters realized that the sale was pending they announced that they would protect the graves of their ancestors, if necessary, with shotguns. Forthwith, they marched to the cemetery and threw up a 6 by 8 one room frame shack hard by the ancestral resting place and moved in. H.B. Durante, Indian commissioner commented that it was a unique situation and washed his hands of it, suggesting that it was up to the Department of Justice and Federal troops.

Troops never were called to eject the sisters, who defended their cemetery fort through 1907, 1908, 1909, and through the summer of 1910. Throughout this period, Lyda prepared herself for legal action by an assiduous study of law books, the better to contest the government order. When the battle began the new Carnegie library stood in the center of the square, the new Brund hotel stood at one corner, and on another preparations were being made for the reconstruction of the Masonic Temple, destroyed by fire.

It was William Rodekepf, paving contractor, who won the distinction of the first actual encounter with the sisters by tearing down a fence which the Conley's with help from their tribal brothers and sisters erected between the cemetery and the temple site. The sisters rebuilt the fence, and the contractor's men tore it down again. Again Lyda (and her sisters) rebuilt it in defiance of an injunction obtained by the Masonic bodies, and it was again laid low. The writer took a pencil and tried to figure the number of times the fence was destroyed and rebuilt during a fortnight in the winter of 1907, but gave it up. On one occasion the sisters defended their fence with sticks and stones.(It was rumored the towns people would come in the middle of the night, to help rebuild the fence).

Through this early period, the rightful ownership of the cemetery remained in doubt--unless it could be said that the Conley's owned it by right of possession. There was a federal order to remove the bodies to Quindaro cemetery, but it was qualified in such a way as to leave grounds for suits in the federal courts, and Lyda Conley took full advantage of this opportunity, supported by women's clubs and others with whom sentiment outweighed commercialism and twentieth century progress.

"You Trespass at Your Own Peril"[edit]

And while Lyda fought her battle in the courts, her sister Helena "Lena" Conley, who prefers the name Helene (or Lena Conley), guarded the fort, keeping things trim in the burial ground, felling dead trees with an ax while awed bystanders admired the play of her muscles, resenting intrusion by roaming holiday makers. Because of the intrusions, the sisters finally wired the cemetery gates together and put up a sign: "You Trespass at Your Own Peril." None disregarded it.

They maintained a vigil for over 2 years and in 1909 Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley became the first Native American woman admitted to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the court was sympathetic it didn't not rule in her favor.[2] Lyda Conley was admitted to the Kansas bar in 1910 (long before the battle) and in the course of her fight against removal of the Indian graves, made several trips to Washington DC. She is said to have been the first woman lawyer (more accurately Native American Woman Lawyer) to plead before the United States Supreme Court.(* Note the language, 'Indian' used in this 1946 newsletter)On July 29, while Lyda and her sisters were in Wyandotte County District Court hearing arguments in the last legal step they took to hold the cemetery, the United States marshal and his deputies entered the cemetery and destroyed the "fort" and an injunction was issued forbidding the sisters to rebuild it. [8]

Producing Team[edit]

Sir Ben Kingsley announced SBK-Pictures with producing partners Simone Sheffield and Valerie Hoffman are bringing the story of the Native American Conley Sisters to be the big screen with producer Luis Moro and in association with his production company; Moro Films and it's partner Bobbi Miller-Moro in Whispers Like Thunder. Sir Ben Kingsley will be playing the role of Charles Curtis, the first and only Native American to become vice-president of the United States. The screenplay was written by Trip Brooks and Luis Moro.[9]

External links[edit]

Reference List[edit]

  1. ^ Moro, Luis (2008-11-18). "[[Whispers Like Thunder]]-the movie". website. official site. Retrieved 2008-11-18. {{cite journal}}: Check date values in: |date= (help); URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  2. ^ [1]Variety by Tatiana Siegel
  3. ^ [2] RezNet reporting from Native America by Kevin Abourezk
  4. ^ [3] The Sun Times by Don Crosby
  5. ^ [4] Female First
  6. ^ [5] John Steckley-Wikipedia
  7. ^ [6]
  8. ^ [ Lyda Conley Wiki]
  9. ^ Ben Kingsley's SBK announces slate-Variety Nov 17, 2008