Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Potawatomi people and The End of Eden

About a year ago, I finished a screenplay called THE END OF EDEN based on a Potawatomi chief named Wahbememe or “White Pigeon”. A monument to Chief White Pigeon is located just outside of the Michigan city that bears his name and tells part of what is his story. “In memory of Wahbememe, Chief White Pigeon who about 1830 gave his life to save the settlement at this place”. Then along the base of the monument, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. Chief White Pigeon gave his life by running 150 miles from Detroit to a small settlement that most likely was called Millville to warn the settlers there and then passed away from exhaustion.

Screenplay available as a pdf file at: http://www.mediafire.com/?rnmjimon25h

Chief White Pigeon’s grave sits near the intersection of two former Indian trails that would become US-131 and US-12. I still remember the day that my mother let us skip a day from elementary school for a trip to visit relatives. On that day, we stopped on our trip to visit Chief White Pigeon’s grave. Being about 6 or 7 years old, I distinctly remember staring at the granite monument on that warm spring day and questioning what had motivated this man to run so far that he died. It made enough of an impression on me that I could have told you the basic story of Chief White Pigeon at any time after that day. I’ve passed through that intersection several hundred times and stopped at Chief White Pigeon’s grave at least a dozen times since that motherly inspired day of truancy almost 40 years ago.

More from accident than intention, I became an aspiring screenwriter several years ago. If you want the story of how or why that happened, it’s covered partially in my blog. I can fill you in on the details for anyone wanting to know more. The idea for using Chief White Pigeon's heroic action and his death as the subject matter for a screenplay also came mostly by accident. While searching for some genealogical information on the internet, Wahbememe’s monument kept coming up in searches. Wahbememe popped up often enough to finally get my attention. There it was, a great concept for a movie.

It was in the wee hours of the morning, when I should have been working on a still half-finished screenplay, that my journey into writing The End of Eden began. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to research and learn about Wahbememe, Potawatomi history, Michigan history and the history of the first settlers to southwestern Michigan. Yet nothing that I learned provided the answer to the question I’d asked myself 40 years earlier. I exhausted every historical resource and will most likely never find the answer to the motivation for Wahbememe's heroic trek. What I did find was something much better, the history of the Potawatomi people.

If you read or even skim my screenplay, it’s very important to realize that the basis for the basic story must center on settlers and the local Potawatomi people near what is now called White Pigeon, Michigan. Even without a complete answer to why Wahbememe heroically sacrificed his life 180 years ago, I knew there was more than enough for a screenplay after only a couple hours of research into the Potawatomi people, government officials and Michigan settlers. The best possible motivation for a screenwriter occurred during those first few hours of research. I became angry, offended and really pissed off. One of the most crushing lessons that I’ve had to learn from my life is this: that people in positions of power are far too often corrupt, criminal, unethical, venal, self-serving and duplicitous. And here I was again finding the same bad guys jumping off the pages of history books. Every great movie needs those bad guys(antagonists) and the good guys (protagonists), and it didn’t take long to find amazing examples of both.

More to come tomorrow...

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