Journey Through Rosebud

1h 33m 1972

Brief Synopsis

A group of young Native Americans stage a protest against the United States government on the Sioux Indian Reservation. They rally at the site of the massacre of Wounded Knee to focus attention on the years of deception regarding their people and eventually the event comes to a violent end.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Mar 1972
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
GSF Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
GSF Productions, Inc.
United States
Rosebud, South Dakota, United States; Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, South Dakota, United States

Technical Specs

1h 33m


Young hitchhiker Danny wanders by a South Dakota cemetery where, upon seeing a marker for a Sioux tribal chieftain, he imagines the ghosts of the tribe guarding the small community below. Curious, Danny enters the town of Rosebud and its Tribal Office. In one corner, a park ranger complains to a white couple that Native Americans legally hold title to the barren land in which they are interested, while there are homeless blacks and whites. Later in the council room, a young native woman, Shirley, leads a discussion among several Sioux who are concerned by the town council's efforts to force tribal members off their land and into a housing project. An older woman, Mrs. Blackwing, asks Shirley to pass her concerns about the move on to Frank, the tribal spokesman. Later, Danny stops at a bar as a drunken Frank staggers outside. Sitting at the bar next to three young Sioux, Danny asks if they can recommend a place for him to board. The men offer no suggestions, and when Danny finishes his beer and departs, they laugh, calling him a "goddamned hippie." A few blocks from the bar, Danny comes upon Frank stumbling about in the gathering dusk. After helping him retrieve his spectacles, Danny insists on driving Frank's car to the small house that he shares with his mother. The next morning, Frank awakens Danny, who has slept in the car, as the sheriff drives up. The sheriff takes Frank aside to warn him not to create a scene over the day's scheduled hearing for native Stanley Pike, who has been charged with hunting out of season. Noting Danny's nervousness at the arrival of the sheriff, Frank later asks Danny if he is running from the law, and Danny admits that he fled his California home after being drafted by the army. Taken aback, Frank reveals that he is a Vietnam war veteran, having served eighteen months. Despite his disappointment over Danny's revelation, Frank offers him breakfast. Later that morning, Frank rounds up several tribal members to drive to Pike's hearing. Under questioning, Pike points out that natives have government-sanctioned, year-round hunting rights, while Frank and the others, carrying shotguns, surround the building. When the ranger confronts Frank, he insists with dignity that the group is there to defend native hunting rights. Watching nearby with Shirley, Danny has an impression of ghostly native riders watching the proceedings. Uneasy over the presence of the tribal members, the town council leader orders an indefinite postponement of Pike's hearing. In celebration, Frank and several of the young men drive out to an open area and chase some cattle. Initially delighted by the men's antics, Danny follows them, only to be horrified when the men corner and slaughter a steer, which they then offer to the "Great Spirit" in thanks. That evening as the tribal members gather to dine on the steer and join the festivities, Frank admits to Danny that the steer was private property, but if the animals wander onto native territory, they can take advantage of the situation. When Danny looks uneasy, Frank adds that these rare occasions often supply many tribal members with the only meat they eat for weeks. While Frank goes to speak with the tribal elders, Danny learns from Shirley that she was once married to Frank, but his abrupt departure to Vietnam without telling her broke up their relationship. Watching several women perform a ceremonial dance, Danny smokes some hashish and joins in. The next morning, Danny awakens in the car to overhear Shirley fretting that Mrs. Blackwing is being bullied off her land and has requested Frank's assistance. When Frank is evasive, Shirley presses him to help the older woman. Uncomfortable, Danny goes for a swim in the nearby river as the town sheriff drives up to chastise Frank for leading the display at the hearing. After the sheriff departs, Shirley asks Frank about Danny, who joins them. Although Frank disparagingly describes Danny as a draft dodger, Shirley expresses admiration that Danny acted on his beliefs. Miffed, Frank declares it is not his country. Puzzled, Danny asks Frank why he served and Shirley angrily replies that Frank had to prove his masculinity. Later that afternoon at a demolition derby, Frank leaves Shirley and Danny in the stands to meet the track manager to ask for a driving job. After the manager insults Frank by asking if he is allowed off the reservation, he offers him three dollars to clean up the stands after the races. Later at the bar, an embittered Frank sits in the men's bathroom drinking. When Danny approaches him, Frank relates a violent confrontation in Vietnam where he witnessed civilian deaths. Hoping to encourage Frank, Danny confesses that Frank's unwavering stance at the hearing and his demeanor at the tribal celebration was impressive and indicates that Frank is a legitimate presence in his community. Ignoring Danny, Frank stumbles out to the bar where an angry Shirley demands he fulfill his promise to see Mrs. Blackwing. Going to the Blackwings' new residence in the project, a belligerent Frank tells Mrs. Blackwing she can simply return to her land, but the elderly woman admits she has sold her truck and so has no means to do so. Outside, Frank carelessly confesses his helplessness to Shirley, then collapses retching in the dirt. Danny and Shirley drive the unconscious Frank to Shirley's home, but leave him in the car. Shirley invites Danny inside and eventually the couple kisses and retires to Shirley's bedroom to have sex. The next morning, Frank awakens and, peering in the window, is stunned to see Danny asleep with Shirley. Thoroughly disheartened, he races off, losing control of the car, which flips off the road several times, killing him. Walking into Rosebud later, Danny learns of Frank's death from the sheriff. Stunned, Danny runs to Frank's mother's home, but the police have already informed her. Retrieving his backpack, Danny offers his condolences but is ignored. Returning to town, Danny goes to the Tribal Office, where many Sioux have gathered to console Shirley. When Shirley makes no move toward Danny, he leaves the building, but is followed by several of the men. As the men attack the unresisting Danny, a white tourist couple inside asks about a picture of an elderly native man. Pike explains that the man was a victim of the confrontation at Wounded Knee, which the government refuses to acknowledge as a massacre, instead applying the term to the all-white slaughter at Little Big Horn. When the couple expresses bewilderment, Pike explains that at Wounded Knee the natives were unarmed, in comparison to Little Big Horn, where the men who died were fully armed soldiers. Battered and bruised, but unwilling to make any protest, Danny staggers alone out of Rosebud.


Robert Forster


Kristoffer Tabori


Victoria Racimo


Roy Jenson

Park ranger

Wright King

Indian agent

Larry Pennell


Robert Cornthwaite

Hearing officer

Steve Shemayme


Beau Little Sky


Lynn Burnette


Diane Running

Mrs. Blackwing

Olive Mccloskey

Mrs. Graham

Pat Iyotte

Police officer

Les Folkers

Sam White Horse

Nancy White Horse

Robert Wagner

Monte Bechtold

Joyce King

Byrd Holland

Jim Cordrey

Anthony Blue Thunder

Joe Prue Jr.

Ben White Horse

David Martin

Arlo Horst

Tom Hogan

Don Freeman

Tucker Colombe

Ike Bordeaux

Richard Smith

Dolores Blue Horse

Lydia Burnett

Tina Snow Fly

Blanche Snow Fly

George Whirlwind Soldier

Sid Ear

Robert Many Horses

William Mccloskey

Ernest Mccloskey

Ernest Running

Lemoyne Lapointe

Louis Schmidt

Robert Penn

Kenneth Iron Shooter

William Menard

Carrie Moran

Dawn Little Sky

Jay Burnett

Bob Burnett Jr.

Evelyn Staub

Olive Pretty Bird

Darwin Spotted Tail

Michael Crow Eagle

Al Running

Jim Burnett

Regina One Star

Ted Lunderman

Francis Menard

Jim Clairmont

Dave Clairmont

Dave Walking Bull

Ben Black Bear


Irene Clairmont

Tiny Williamson

Farrel Dillon

People Of The Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation

Betty Spotted Elk

Richard Leader Charge

Tim Medicine Eagle

Doyle Medicine Eagle

Henry Crow Dog

John Lame Deer

Andrew Brings Three White Horses

Mary Minnie Never Miss A Shot

Barbara Shot With Two Arrows

Victor Makes Room For Them

Tom Walking Eagle

Benny Little Horse

Charles Kills In Water

Wallace Charging Whirlwind

Richard Full Bull

Ida Grace One Star

Mrs. Little Sky

Chief Webster Two Hawk

Eddie Little

Stanley Pike

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Mar 1972
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
GSF Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
GSF Productions, Inc.
United States
Rosebud, South Dakota, United States; Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, South Dakota, United States

Technical Specs

1h 33m




The following written acknowledgment appears in the closing credits: "The makers of this film express their deep appreciation to the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council and to Tribal President Webster Two Hawk... To Governor Richard Kneip of the state of South Dakota, to the South Dakota State Highway Patrol, and to William Gipp of the South Dakota Industrial Development and Expansion Agency...without whose help the film could not have been made." The film was shot on location in South Dakota at the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.
       Reviews list the film's running time as 93 minutes. The print viewed, cut for television broadcast, was 87 minutes and did not include the final scene, described by Filmfacts and WSJ, in which "Danny" is beaten up by numerous Sioux tribe members just before he leaves Rosebud. Journey Through Rosebud was the first release of GSF Productions, Inc., a production and distribution company established by David Gil, Paul Frankenberg and Robert S. Sinn.
       The story of Journey Through Rosebud makes reference to the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn. For additional information on the Battle of Little Big Horn and films about it, please see the entry below for the 1942 Warner Bros. release They Died With Their Boots On. Journey Through Rosebud also makes reference to the Battle of Wounded Knee, a December 1890 battle that took place in South Dakota, and is considered by historians as the final battle in "the Indian Wars." The massacre of 300 Lakota Sioux was the subject of the bestselling 1970 book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, as well as a 2007 television movie adaptation of the same title broadcast on the HBO network. "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" was also the title of a song by Native-American folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States 1972