As a production crew carried lights, cameras and generators into a thicket of pine trees at Busch Memorial Conservation Area on a recent morning, Jeremy Turner stood on the bed of his pickup and surveyed the small group of friends and acquaintances he'd recruited to join him on set.
Turner is an Indianapolis firefighter and enrolled member of the Shawnee tribe. He also crafted the outfits for the actors after he signed on help create a short video of historical re-enactments that will greet visitors to the renovated Gateway Arch museum next year. Now, he searched containers in his truck for the right finishing touches.
He handed out bows and arrows and a small ax. A couple of re-enactors got faux septum rings. And then they were ready for their scene — a portrayal of late 18th century Native American Indian hunters.
"I'm kind of glad to have a part in this," said John Sumpter, a retired veteran and member of the Delaware tribe who also has Chickasaw and Choctaw heritage. "It's just important to me that people see us as we really are — not as what Hollywood has portrayed us to be."
The video, which is being produced by Los Angeles-based Aperture Films, is part of CityArchRiver's $380 million Arch grounds upgrade and will feature the hunters moving quietly through the woods. It will play on large vertical screens in a renovated entryway, along with a video re-enactment of Lewis and Clark expeditioners traveling on the Missouri River in a replica keel boat.
All of the Native American re-enactors in the film are enrolled tribal members — a point of pride for Turner, who said many American Indian re-enactors are non-native.
"It's important for us to give a true picture of what we looked like," he said.
He hopes that providing accurate and truthful imagery will help break stereotypes that many people have about natives. Historical accuracy also gives re-enactors a chance to learn more about their history.
You're not born knowing how your ancestors dressed, he pointed out, but research gives you that knowledge.
"This is a way for us to kind of reclaim our culture."