Neither Wolf Nor Dog Image

Neither Wolf Nor Dog

By Bradley Gibson | September 22, 2019

A Native American Lakota elder, known only as Dan (David Bald Eagle), asks a White writer from Minnesota to visit and help him write a book about his people. Based on Kent Nerburn’s novel of the same name, Neither Wolf Nor Dog is a solid gut punch to watch that starts slowly and builds to an emotional crescendo of cultural self-discovery and horror. 

The protagonist, played by Christoper Sweeney, is also named Kent Nerburn, which begs the question of how much of the story actually happened, and how much is fictionalized. Nerburn addressed this question in a MINNPOST article from 2014 when asked about his dramatized narratives of actual events:  “Is every part of it factual? No. True? Yes. Everything in there is based on actual physical experience and memory, but for the sake of storytelling, the narrative is reconstructed in places. I don’t want to be tarred by the James Frey brush — as a fabricator. I am writing truth as a person doing spiritual storytelling; these are teaching stories. In the Native tradition, you need to teach by story because stories lodge in the heart.”

“…asks a white writer from Minnesota to visit and help him write a book about his people.”

Nerburn is initially reluctant to answer Dan’s call, but his curiosity gets the better of him, and he drives 400 miles to the Lakota reservation. Once he’s earned the elder’s trust, he’s shown that life on the reservation in intimate detail and told of the journey that led to this modern Native American life. 

Embarrassing truths surface along the way. They encounter a young Lakota man who has become a desperate alcoholic, a roadside “Indian museum” where sacred artifacts and ceremonies are desecrated in tacky displays, Native American poor who nonetheless accept the White stranger into their homes the same as they would family. 

Neither Wolf Nor Dog (2019)

Directed: Steven Lewis Simpson

Written: Kent Nerburn

Starring: David Bald Eagle, Christoper Sweeney, Richard Ray Whitman, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Neither Wolf Nor Dog Image

"…once he’s earned the elder’s trust, he’s shown life on the reservation in intimate detail..."

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