Image from D. W. Griffith’s film The Squaw’s Love, 1911
At the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, a young Abanaki Native American woman named Margaret “Soaring Dove” “Dark Eyes” Tahamont moved from her home in the Adirondacks across the country to Los Angeles to play in the moving pictures. She was born in Indian Lake, New York, where her extended family—a mixed group of Abanaki, Oneida, and Anglo ancestry—had been well established since the town’s founding, owning substantial land, running an inn for visitors to the region from New York City, and employing many town residents as laborers.
Margaret, born Camp, judging from all photographs of her Indian Lake family, was raised in the costume of any white northerner. Her cousin Emma, near Margaret’s age, can be seen wearing a high loose bun, plush woven hats, and carefully tailored dresses covering from the high neck to the wrist, puffed at the sleeves, pintucked across the bodice, and lightly trimmed with lace.
But Margaret moved to Los Angeles to perform as an Indian in plays, Indian hobby societies, and early silent films. She now wore long braids, leather, beaded headbands, moccasins, and performed under the name Dove Eye. Her husband Elijah Tahamont, or Dark Cloud (also Abanaki, from Quebec), had been acting in silent films made in the Adirondack region—what would later be known as the “eastern Westerns”—including at least a few with soon-to-be famed director D. W. Griffith, and when eastern production companies began to move west to join nascent Hollywood corporations, the Tahamonts went along. Elijah, as Dark Cloud, played in over thirty titles; Margaret in at least five silent shorts, and likely more—the idea of preserving film and film records still lying a bit ahead on the horizon. Read More