Bury My Heart with Tonawanda

DVD Release: March 14, 2014
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.

Dove Review

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+.

Content Description

Sex: Boy is dared to kiss girl and does.
Language: H-2 once as a place; idiot, stupid, fool, negro, My God, references to the Creator.
Violence: Boy accidentally starts fire in barn; man hits young boy in face and with a cane several times; man chains son in attic and feeds him on floor; man beats son for making noise; man throws pitch fork at young man; boys bullying another; story told about young boy locked in a cave; young boys taken from reservation and hair cut off.
Drugs: None
Nudity: Boy's bare back shown with scars.
Other: Making fun of others because they are different; woman dies in childbirth; man walks away from newborn; disrespectful attitudes toward others; man dies of heart attack.


Company: Indie Rights
Director: Gary Sundown
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 69 min.
Industry Rating: Not Rated
Reviewer: Donna Rolfe