Powwow Highway

Depicts the struggles of reservation-dwelling Native Americans in the North Central United States.



Genre: Drama
Rating: 15
Directed By: Jonathan Wacks
Written By: David Seals (based on the novel), Janet Heaney (screenplay) and Jean Stawarz
Released: 1989
Runtime: 88 minutes


A Martinez as Buddy Red Bow
Gary Farmer as Philbert Bono
Joanelle Romero as Bonnie Red Bow
Amanda Wyss as Rabbit Layton


A member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe of Lame Deer, Montana Buddy Red Bow (Martinez), a quick-tempered activist, is battling greedy developers. On the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation he tries to persuade the council to vote against a strip-mining contract. 

Philbert Bono (Farmer) is a hulk of a man guided by sacred visions. He wants to find his medicine, tokens from the spirits. He trades some marijuana, booze, and a few bucks for his ‘war pony’ – a rusted out, beat up 1964 Buick Wildcat he names ‘Protector.’Meanwhile, Buddy’s estranged sister, Bonnie, is arrested in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Buddy is the only family member who can help her and her children, Jane and Sky Red Bow.

Buddy does not own a car, so he makes the journey with Philbert. They set out on their road trip, and Philbert’s easygoing ways and insistence on frequent stops to pray and eat prove irritating at first to Buddy, but the men reach an understanding as the trip wears on. Along the way, they visit the Black Hills in South Dakota and Philbert reverently leaves a giant Hershey’s Chocolate bar as an offering to his ancestors.

When they finally reach Santa Fe, they meet up with Bonnie’s friend Rabbit. Using inspiration from an old western he sees on TV, Philbert breaks Bonnie out of jail. Their escape almost ends in tragedy, but with a little help they make their way back to Montana.

Based on the best selling book The Powwow Highway by acclaimed author David Seals and reportedly George Harrison’s favourite Handmade produced film.

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