BEHIND THE SCENES with Taki Telonidis and Hal Cannon

What was your main motivation for making this story

Taki Telonidis (TT) and Hal Cannon (HC): We wanted to tell a story that exposed listeners to the cultural side of Native American life. Usually reporters ignore the richness of Indian life and only see the burning issues such as gambling, poverty, alcoholism, etc. As students of folklife and traditional culture, we wanted to explore how the painful history of Wounded Knee shapes the modern identity of the Lakota people

How did the Lakota Indian community first react to your ideas about making a radio story out of the Wounded Knee history? Was there any initial caution or doubt on its/their part

TT: We knew that the repatriation of Chief Big Foot's lock of hair would be a very emotional and potentially painful event for the Lakota people. We slowly earned the trust of Leonard Little Finger over the course of several extensive telephone conversations. Once he felt comfortable with us, Little Finger was actually pleased that we wanted to tell this story. He felt that our piece would serve as a document of what he knew was a seminal event for his people. He also thought it was important for a national audience to hear a story that conveyed the power of Native culture and spirituality. HC: Interestingly, Little Finger was strategic about who he allowed into the inner circle of documentation. He asked a couple of documentarians from Germany to videotape and he asked Taki and I to record. Taki and the Germans were selected because they are "first peoples" in their respective countries, Germany and Greece. He felt they would bring less bias to their portrayal. I guess he agreed to let me come along, from a long line of colonials, because I showed up with Taki

How did the community feel about the story after hearing it

TT: Reaction to our report was overwhelmingly positive. Little Finger is trying to raise funds for a cultural center and library on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and has played our piece to potential supporters. We have stayed in touch with him and his family, and expect to travel to Pine Ridge again in the future

What were your feelings when you first saw Chief Big Foot's lock of hair

HC: When the lock of hair came out during the repatriation ceremony, it was gray and seemed lifeless. The next time it was brought into view a few hours later at a peace pipe ceremony on a four-acre reservation in the suburbs of Worchester, the hair had transformed. It was a rich, dark chestnut color and looked like it was freshly cut. Granted, the first time I saw it was under florescent lights in an old New England library, the next time under sunlight on native ground. How did I feel? I didn't feel like someone had done a switcheroo. I had the profound feeling that a person, a spirit, had been rescued from a hundred years of imprisonment. By the way, we recorded other people who saw more visionary things than me

What was your most memorable experience in making this radio piece

TT: Simply being alone in the teepee with the lock of hair and the other treasured artifacts that belonged to Chief Big Foot. Gazing at this object was like coming face-to-face with the entire history of the struggle between America and the Indians. It was a humbling experience that was both uplifting and unsettling. HC: For me it was feeling the personal responsibility for the legacy of conquest in America and what it has meant to Native people today. From this experience I have made my own personal vows.