Circle of the Sun

Colin Low
Canada 1960 | 30 Min.

CIRCLE OF THE SUN first cap­tures the sun dance ritual of the Kainai Nation or Blood Tribe in South­ern Alber­ta. Wor­ried that the tra­di­tion­al cer­e­mo­ny might be dying out, the tribal lead­ers had per­mit­ted film­ing as a visual record. The direc­tor Colin Low was from the area and had known people of the tribe since child­hood. In the begin­ning young indige­nous “easy riders” on their bikes are shown racing on a high­way. The con­flict between modern ori­en­ta­tion and the old tra­di­tions is obvi­ous as a main con­cern. Every year there are less tipis erect­ed at the site of the cer­e­mo­ny.

The film fea­tures the per­son­al nar­ra­tion of Pete Stand­ing Alone, a young indige­nous man who worked on oil rigs. His exten­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion was extra­or­di­nary at a time when gen­uine indige­nous voices were not often heard on screen. The NFB later released a Stand­ing Alone tril­o­gy which doc­u­ments 50 years in the life of the Kainai Nation, as well as the protagonist’s devel­op­ment from a youth to a tribal elder.