TLO Film Review: Savage Land (2021)

In 2013, the ironically named Custer County police not only brutally murdered 18-year-old Mah-hi-vist Red Bird Goodblanket—a Cheyenne Arapaho living in Oklahoma—but actually received medals for the senseless slaying a few days later. It makes you disgusted to be an Oklahoman, if you weren’t already.


I remember interviewing his mother Melissa a short time after the killing and, hearing the absolute pain in her voice as she described the traumatic events, I began crying too, unable to speak. Her story of what happened that night has always haunted me and, quite frankly, always will; no mother should experience what she has.


Almost a decade later however, her living pain has been replaced with a deeper love for her son, as she has actively tried to keep the intense memory—and, of course, wavering investigation—of Mah-hi-vist’s death alive. It’s chronicled in the startling new documentary Savage Land, which played recently at the Rodeo Cinema.


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