Celia Xavier has produced and directed a new documentary, Playground of The Native Son, about the Hominy Indians, the Oklahoma-based professional football team (1925-1936), made up of Native Americans, who defeated the World Champion New York Giants in 1927. Xavier is currently exhibiting the film around the country; the next showing will be November 20th at Lincoln Center in New York City, but ultimately it will be released on DVD in time for the holiday season. Plans for a feature film (with the working title “War Paint”) based on the real life events of the team are also in the works.
Xavier was working on her earlier film, Osage Tribal Murders (2012), when she was given the only known black and white footage of the Hominy Indians in action, and some photographs of the players. She jokingly refers to Playground of the Native Son as a 3 minute story that she expanded to 54 minutes.
“I felt the story was incredible and nobody knew about it; it had to be told,” Xavier said. “I had no money and there was no story. There really wasn’t anything available, so I had to go out and get funding and grants and I did more research, and found there wasn’t that much information on it. We had to go out and find the people who had information and sometimes I couldn’t find those people, or they weren’t available.”
The film, which is narrated by Adam Beach, focuses on the details that brought the team together, mainly the oil boom on the Osage Nation, which is where the funding came from, and it is filled with recollections and stories passed down about the players and the team from their decedents, along with historical analysis, reenactments, and the photographs and documents that have survived. Unfortunately there was no documentation of the game with the Giants, which was played the day after Christmas in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, except for the statistics.
Including the most important stat, the score: Hominy Indians 13, New York Giants 6.
“Our original intention was to shoot the reenactments and then degrade it to look like old football footage, but when we saw how gorgeous it looked, we couldn’t do that,” Xavier said. “That was the big challenge: how do you mix all this media together without it jarring the senses?”
Mark Carpowich brought up the film in his blog on The Huffington Post in reference to the name controversy plaguing Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins. “A large-scale celebration of Native Americans’ place in the history of the NFL would be the perfect time for Snyder to re-brand his team,” Carpowich wrote.
“The Hominy Indians had a bunch of different names, and one of their names was the ‘Osage Redskins,’” Xavier said. “I left that out because times have changed and we’re in a different place with this. The Huffington Post did a nice article about Redskins and getting it to Mr. Snyder. We have sent the film to the Snyder group, but we haven’t heard anything back. I’m more about a peaceful revolution; I make films and let people make their own decisions, I’m not telling people what to do. He’s definitely invited to come and see this film.”