Bury My Heart with Tonawanda
Shunned by 19th-century society, a man with a disability finds love and acceptance with the Seneca Nation. “Bury My Heart with Tonawanda” tells the story of John Harrison, a developmentally disabled boy with Down syndrome, who is rejected by his own family but accepted and nurtured by the Tonawanda Seneca Nation.
The film teaches us about Seneca culture, beliefs and myths. Above all, the story reveals the positive effects of love and respect, and challenges our historical stereotypes about Native Americans. The film is endorsed by and stars many from the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, including their tribal elders. For this reason, the film becomes a piece of living history—a testament to the past but also depicting a nation intent on preserving its culture, traditions, and language for the future.
This is a historical story of one young man’s life of rejection by his own father but acceptance from the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. John Harrison was born with Down syndrome during a time when being different was not accepted well. It did not matter whether that difference was from a birth disability or just that you were from a different culture other than white.John was treated poorly by his father who wanted to ship him off to an “idiot asylum” as they were called back then. But due to a caring servant, John was able to escape the wagon and find his way to an accepting culture that taught him it is okay to be different because the Creator is connected to all with love. This is a true story of forgiveness, love and being accepted no matter who you are or how you look. “Bury My Heart with Tonawanda” also shows the culture and true caring nature of the Native Americans that is sometimes forgotten or misunderstood. We are proud to award this film with the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for ages 12+.