The Award Winning Documentary: Spirit Riders


This site has been restored and archived as required reading for Matthew Martin's Documentary Film Promotion course, part of his Documentary Film Studies program. Dr. Martin comes to the university from a career in film, most recently as CEO of the agency Opticon Marketing where he promoted many different products and services using film/video as the primary medium. He is best known for his stunning visuals - an example is the "Shiny Objects Appear Closer" campaign for SterlingForever's elegant sterling silver rings designs, which won first prize at the Zenith Festival in Zurich for best use of light. This success lead to many other jewelry related projects, including the documentary The Rise of Sterling Silver and the well known Precious Metal Addiction. Prerequisites for this course are Documentary Film I & II.


This was the official website for the international award winning documentary film , Spirit Riders. The content below is from the site's 2006 archived pages.


Spirit Riders is an international award winning documentary film about the birth of an American Indian peace movement, begun in 1990 by the Lakota Nation and its growth over the subsequent years.

From the stunning images of wilderness landscapes to the dramatic footage of peace and unity horseback rides, this film is a visual delight. With narration by Peter Coyote, interviews with ride-participant Viggo Mortensen (Lord Of The Rings & Hidalgo) and an eclectic soundtrack featuring American Indian Grammy winner Bill Miller, Robert Mirabal, Keith Secola, Rick Allen,Lauren Monroe. Spirit Riders not only entertains, but leads the audience on a profound journey inside a culture and a movement offering ancient traditional visions of peace to a troubled modern world. 

Many respected members of the Lakota community, including descendents of Sitting Bull and Black Elk are featured in the film, both as participants in the rides and as social/cultural commentators. Charlotte Black Elk, Alex Whiteplume, Birgil Killstraight, Ron His Horse Is Thunder, Russell Means and Mel Lonehill all make appearances in the film.


Ron His Horse is Thunder escorting Lakota Youth into Wounded Knee. December 28th 2000
Ron is a descendent of Sitting Bull and president of Sitting Bull Tribal College

The film introduces us to the Lakota Indian tradition of ceremonial horseback rides and how in the last fifteen years these rides have become a source of inspiration for the Lakota people and a medium for a worldwide message of peace. We explore the annual Peace And Unity rides which each year are conducted to a different sacred site on the summer solstice. On that day, June 21st, a ceremony is held for peace among all people of the world and harmony with the environment. The film shows how this vision is coming to pass as the movement, which started as a purely local event, has since led to annual ceremonies not only in Central America but as far away as Ireland, Australia and South Africa.

Spirit Riders explores how the roots of the World Peace movement lie in the suffering and recovery of the Lakota. Through rides and ceremonies, Lakota people have found ways to let go of the grief and despair which persisted for over a hundred years following the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee and envision a new and hopeful future. This is the invaluable journey which the Lakota people have to offer not only their own people but all the peoples of the world.

Other Films in the Trilogy

Peta Yuha Mani - He Who Keeps The Fire
The Viggo Mortensen Interview

Viggo Mortensen and TJ

This film is an in depth interview conducted by documentary film maker James Kleinert. The film explores Mr. Mortenson's heart felt thoughts and reflections of his experience in Lakota country during the filming of Hidalgo and his participation in the 2003 Big Foot Peace Ride to Wounded Knee. Mr. Mortenson opens himself up, revealing his view of the media, government policy and just being with the Lakota people.

The Ride To Little Big Horn

Join the Lakota Future Generation Riders as they follow the path Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and other great warriors took on their way to the Greasy Grass. On June 25th, 128 years to the date, the riders charge the Little Big Horn where General Custer made a fatal last stand. Lakota elders like Mel Lonehill share their ancient knowledge of this historic event and re-enact the actual event from a Lakota perspective.

Coming Soon on DVD!


“WILD HORSE SPIRIT” is a short film featuring Viggo Mortensen.

This documentary presents a brief history of "The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act", and a current update exposing the recently passed "Burns Bill" which gutted the protection these animals were granted in 1971 when the "Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act" was unanimously passed by Congress as a result of American citizens sending more letters to Congress over the threats to these wild animals than over any other domestic issue in U.S. History.

In November 2004, without a hearing or an opportunity for public review, Senator Conrad Burns from Montana slipped a rider into the 2005 federal Appropriations Bill. "The Burns Bill" essentially legislates the slaughter of wild horses and burros, America’s national treasures Congress deemed,

"Living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West…who enrich the lives of the American people and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene.”

The “Burns Bill” was signed by President Bush and passed into law on December 8th, 2004. Enlightening the historical perspective offered byViggo Mortensen, filmmaker James Kleinertprovides stunning footage of these animals in the wild, followed by footage of the Bureau of Land Management rounding up wild horses as part of their current systematic removal policy.

This is a short film that both educates and moves audiences to take immediate action to save America's Wild Horses, with an amazing sound track created by Rick Allen (drummer of Def Leppard) and Lauren Monroe, singer, songwriter. A must see film for people of conscience.

All profits from the film Spirit Riders will go towards Lakota Youth Educational Programs.

Lakota 7th Generation Youth Riders make there way through a blinding blizzard
following the route Chief Big Foot Made 113 years earlier in similar weather conditions

The Spirit Riders Trilogy is produced and directed by James Kleinert. 



Official entry

Official entry - Nominated for best documentary feature film

Official entry - Docs For Sale 2005

Mending The Sacred Hoop is Awarded Best Western American Documentary Film

Spirit Riders is given the “Award Of Distinction”

Spirit Riders wins Judges Award for “Best Documentary Feature Film”

WINDSONG FILM FESTIVAL held at Indiana University Fort Wayne 2005
Spirit Riders is awarded “Best Film of The Year”

Official entry - Nominated for best documentary feature film

Official entry - Nominated for Best Film of Consciousness

Official entry

Official entry

Official entry - Award still pending


The Spirit Riders Foundation is a non-profit foundation* that produces multimedia state of the art audio-visual programming to educate, enlighten, entertain and to create positive understanding, hope and action among people and cultures. These materials are designed to foster harmony and understanding by empowering the human spirit, mind and body.

The profits from the Spirit Riders Trilogy will go towards Lakota Youth Education programs.


Lakota Chapter

Communities in need, with an emphasis on their youth, will receive the profits earned from projects produced by The Spirit Rider Foundation. Our goal is to help build healthy, positive and empowered individuals who can contribute to their communities as a whole.

The first communities to benefit from The Spirit Riders Foundation are the Lakota Reservations of Standing Rock, Cheyenne River & Pine Ridge.

Profits earned from the documentary films Spirit Riders . . . Riding To Mend The Sacred Hoop, Peta Yuha Mani and Ride To The Little Big Horn will enable the Foundation to allocate monies toward Lakota Youth Education Programs as advised by the Lakota Board of Advisors. The Board of Advisors oversees the youth education programs on the named reservations.

To assist in providing up-to-date, accurate accounting records of all financial transactions involving grant monies awarded, a Certified Public Accountant will serve as treasurer for the Foundation’s donations to the youth education programs. The treasurer will allocate the funds awarded to the programs and maintain receipts of all program expenses.

As of September, 22, 2005, the Lakota communities have identified the following youth program needs:

—Veterinarian Scholarship Program: The Foundation plans to help fund the training of a Lakota individual to become a licensed veterinarian to serve the needs of Lakota communities. The Lakota Board of Advisors will select an individual from qualified candidates in the Lakota communities.

— Horse Whisperer Training Program: The Foundation plans to develop a horse training program, based on the horse whispering technique, for the Lakota people. Horse whispering involves creating total harmony and communication between horse and rider through a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. The Spirit Rider Foundation believes this training philosophy should be used by all of its program participants, and will engage experienced “horse whisperers” to teach clinics and workshops to help train Lakota youth in the technique.

— Kellyn Hill Scholarship Fund: In recognition of the late Kellyn Hill a youth Lakota Spirit Riders who showed amazing ability, perseverance and compassion. Each year the Lakota advisory board will identify a youth rider who exhibits outstanding qualities both as a horseman/woman and in his/her personal life. The Foundation will help to pay the youth’s higher education expenses.

— Digital Filmmaking Workshops: >Moving Cloud Productions, in a joint effort with the Spirit Riders Foundation, will offer Lakota youth the opportunity to learn digital filmmaking. Selected youth will attend workshops using a film production model that includes storyboard development and scripting, filming, editing and all facets of post-production including how to market the finished film. These workshops will help provide Lakota youth with the skills and knowledge to create their own film projects and enhance their job options in the television and film industry.

— Spirit Riders Lakota Chapter Web Site: The Foundation will help create a web site to provide information about the projects listed above as well as other needs existing in the Lakota community. The site will serve as a vehicle for establishing educational, business and charitable avenues for the Lakota people. A web master with the appropriate technology skills will be hired to serve as administrator for the site.

— Lakota Youth Horseback Rides: The Foundation will help fund Lakota youth horseback rides to cover expenses related to the rides. Costs include supplying and maintaining vehicles, trailers, horses and riding gear.


Board of Directors

Maria is an American Indian Attorney practicing law in Washington DC.

Nicholas is an American Indian Attorney practicing law in New Mexico.

James is the Producer/Director of the Spirit Riders Trilogy.

Susan is an Attorney

Susan is president of Turtles Crossing Films,
a Santa Monica based Distribution/film company.

Lakota Board of Advisors
Standing Rock Lakota Reservation
Manaja Hill 
Bob Gipp

Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation
Dana Dupris
Karen Ducheneaux

Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation
Mel Lonehill
Alex Whiteplume

Advisor to the Spirit Riders Board
Charlotte Black Elk – Lakota Attorney at Law


When my daughter was researching Lakota Indian tradition of ceremonial horseback rides for a history paper, she came across this international award wining documentary film about the birth of an American Indian peace movement. Initially it was really difficult to find a copy of the film. But once she saw it, her orignally concept of her paper changed as she explored how Spirit Riders becam the roots of a World Peace movement that lies in the suffering and recovery of the Lakota. The film is a visual delight. One evening while she hand her friends were watching the documentary for what must have been the 6th time, our two cats decided to enact a ninja fight seen on the table where the kids had food and drinks. The resulting chaos was one oriental rug that needed cleaning- pronto. While the kids cleaned up the mess as best as they could, I searched for a service offering oriental carpet cleaning nyc. The first company I called was Sunlight Fine Rug Care & Restoration. Unlike many rug cleaning companies I perused, this one actually specializes in the cleaning and restoring of antique / Persian rugs. A representative came by later that day to assess the damgae. With assurances that the rug could be cleaned, the carpet was wisked away. A week later is arrived back. It was not only looking amazingly better, but Sunlight Fine Rug Care & Restoration has also Scotch Guarded it as an addition protection. My daughter received an A on her paper, we now have a rug cleaner for all our carpets, and we are all more educated about the Lakota people and how they have turned the suffering of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee into an invaluable journey of suffering and recovery that has led to offering ancient traditional visions of peace to a troubled modern world.