The five-hour miniseries The Mystic Warrior began life in 1979 when producer David L. Wolper announced plans for a ten-hour adaptation of Hanta Yo, an epic historical novel by Ruth Beebe Hill. Using as her main source a full-blooded Sioux named Chunksa Yuha, Hill fashioned what amounted to a Native American version of Roots, chronicling the history of the Matho tribe of the Ogala Dakota Sioux. Although Hill was briefly the darling of the literary cognoscenti, her book was ultimately attacked and discredited by a veritable army of Indian historians, teachers, and activists, who accused her of distorting and falsifying truths in order to promote her own (and Yuha's) sociopolitical agenda. Suddenly, all of the Native American support that had been promised to the miniseries version of Hanta Yo evaporated; even the filming location had to be changed from New Mexico to Thousand Oaks, CA, so as not to offend the Indian tribes in the former state. When the project finally aired on May 20 through 21, 1984, its running time (and budget) had been cut in half, and the producer was obliged to qualify the credits by noting that the teleplay was based partially on Hill's book, but mostly on "other sources." Judging by the results, those sources would seem to have been such Hollywood fictional films as Cheyenne Autumn and A Man Called Horse. Set in the years 1802 to 1808, the finished film focused on a young brave named Ahbleza (Robert Beltran), the son of a Matho chief. Blessed with supernatural visionary powers by the ancient Mahto seer Wanagi (Ron Soble), Ahbleza set about to save his people from the devastations of the future, among them the invasion of the white man. After a lengthy, truth-seeking odyssey fraught with tragedy and sacrifice, Ahbleza assumed his rightful place as spiritual leader of his tribe. Mystic Warrior was entertaining enough, but failed to draw viewers away from such formidable competition as The Jeffersons, Alice, and One Day at a Time.
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