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Indian Relay

The hope and determination of modern-day American Indian life is revealed in this film about what it takes to win one of the most exciting and perilous forms of horseracing practiced anywhere in the world today. Featuring remarkable high-speed cinematography, INDIAN RELAY follows three teams from different American Indian communities as they prepare for and compete in a grueling Indian Relay season -- all hearts set on the glory and honor of winning an Indian Relay National Championship. (First Aired Thursday, October 31, 2013)

Watch Indian Relay:

Credit: Dawson Dunning camera placement

About the Film:

From the bitter cold of winter on the Rocky Mountain front to the heat and mayhem of the summer's championship races in Montana and Idaho, Indian Relay follows three teams from different American Indian communities as they prepare for and compete in a grueling Indian Relay season. A mix of high-speed daring and exquisite horsemanship, Indian Relay is a sport widely enjoyed and practiced by men and women from tribal nations across the Rocky Mountain West. Each race begins with up to eight Indian athletes riding a horse bareback around a track at full gallop. After one lap, barely slowing down, the riders leap from their speeding horses to a second set of horses. Each team's "mugger" must then catch the first horse or the team will be disqualified, creating a chaotic melee of up to 32 people and 24 thoroughbreds in front of the grandstands. Another top-speed lap, another daring horse change, and the teams race for the finish line, at speeds topping 40 miles an hour.

Nationwide broadcasts of We Shall Remain and Before There Were Parks offered public television audiences vital historical indigenous perspectives, but throughout America there remains a wide array of misunderstanding about tribal citizens ranging from strong anti-Indian sentiments to over-romanticized notions of the noble savage. Along with the erroneous belief that all American Indians now receive free checks from the government, there's often considerable guilt about the hardships American Indians had to face after Europeans arrived in the Americas. Indian Relay helps overturn these stagnate stereotypes via a watchable, present-day story full of excitement, humor, knowledge and self-determination.


Andy Whiteman, riding for the Murray Team, crosses the finish line during a heat of the Indian Relay National Championships at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, Idaho
Credit: Rick Smith video

Featuring remarkable high-speed cinematography, the thread of the film is the lead-up to the Indian Relay National Championships at The Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, Idaho. Along the way, the film presents viewers with questions fundamental to American Indian life today. For example-as with the Kendall Old Horn family from the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation-how can one keep alive an ancient relationship-based culture when it has been nearly completely overrun by a modern, commodity-based one? Ultimately, Indian Relay tells the story of what every championship-winning Indian Relay team must have: great horses, amazing horsemanship, guts, incredible determination-and most importantly-family.

A broadcast-hour for public TV audiences, Indian Relay opens with footage from the Indian Relay National Championships. Then it cuts back in time, nine-months earlier, to the bitterly cold off-season. Near Browning, Montana, we see first-time Relayer Myles Murray trying to keep his new horses alive when it's 20-degrees below zero. In Crow Agency, Montana, we watch Zack Rock and Kendall Old Horn steadily work through the cold towards their ultimate goal. Near Ft. Hall, Idaho we travel with Lance Tissisimit and Alonzo "Punkin" Coby to buy a retiring flat-track race horse-next season's rookie Relay horse. The season begins and soon enough there are unexpected turns and even tragedies, but each day brings us closer to the end of the film at the Indian Relay National Championships in Blackfoot, Idaho.


Zack Rock and Luke Rock head into the home stretch during a Relay race at Crow Native Days in Crow Agency, Montana.
Credit: Dawson Dunning video

Fully and enthusiastically supported by the Indian Relay racing community, Indian Relay is a unique opportunity to share with public television audiences an accurate and authentic view of this exciting aspect of modern American Indian culture. Directed and produced by 2010 NW Regional Emmy-award winner, Charles Dye and MontanaPBS, Indian Relay was written by Montana educator and poet M.L. Smoker, and features beautiful vérité and high-speed cinematography by Emmy-award winning cinematographers Daniel Schmidt, Dawson Dunning and Rick Smith. Katie Lose Gilbertson was the film's editor and it was executive produced by Aaron Pruitt of MontanaPBS.

Indian Relay on Independent Lens:
Airing weekly on PBS, the five-time Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens is a film festival in your living room. Independent Lens will premiere Indian Relay on November 18. Visit Indian Relay on Independent Lens website

Official ITVS website for Indian Relay:
Visit Indian Relay on the ITVS website | ITVS Press & Photo Kit

About Dye Works Film:
Dye Works Film produces films for public television fostering multi-cultural understanding, individual empowerment and the manifestation of a healthy, peaceful future. Other documentaries include double Emmy Award-winning Before There Were Parks: Yellowstone and Glacier Through Native Eyes (2010), along with A Cat Called Elvis (2007).

Charles Dye, Dye Works Film

For high resolution promotional images visit the PRESSROOM.


Film Credits

Indian Relay is a product of collaboration between many talented western Montana artists and professionals, including:

Director and producer Charles Dye of Dye Works Film has over 15 years experience working in the development and production of independent documentaries. He is Producer, Director, Editor and Writer for the double Emmy Award-winning documentary Before There Were Parks: Yellowstone & Glacier Through Native Eyes (PBS Primetime 2010). He is Co-Producer, Cinematographer and Writer for Last of the Gum Men (PBS NETA 2002). He is Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Writer and Editor for A Cat Called Elvis (MontanaPBS 2007 & He was an Artist-in-Residence at Islandwood (Bainbridge, WA) in 2003 and led Documentary On-Assignment Teams for National Geographic Student Expeditions to Iceland, Australia and Tanzania from 2008-2010.

Executive Producer
Aaron Pruitt
Producer & Director
Charles Dye
Darren Kipp
Advisory Board Chair
John Murray
Humanities Advisor
Dr. Walter Fleming
Field Producers/Sound
Jaime Jelenchick & Mike Suarez
Sound Recordists
Parker Brown, Devon Ritter

Derrick Littlelight

Editors/Post-Production Management
Distill Productions
Katie Gilbertson, Andy Adkins
M.L. Smoker
POV Cams
Loren Croff
Anskii Deroche
Kalen Hammond
JonMarc Skunkcap
Additional Cameras
Marty Hall
Shaw Momberg
Sam Pannoni
Devon Riter
Sarah Smith
Original Music
Lissette Haugestuen


Danny Schmidt, Dawson Dunning, Rick Smith, Russell Hawkins, Christi Cooper, Ian Johnson, Scott Sterling & Randy Wimberg

Associate Producer
Wayne Smith Jr.

Funding for Indian Relay has been has been provided by:

The Friends of MontanaPBS Montana Office of Tourism
The Greater Montana Foundation The Gilhousen Foundation

Humanities Montana
Native American Public Telecommunications Inc
The Pacific Mountain Network Television's Independent Voice
Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Web Links:

Indian Relay on Facebook

License Plate
An old license plate of the Kirkaldie Relay team, nailed to their barn near Hayes, Montana
Credit: Charles Dye video

Promotional materials available in the PRESSROOM.