In this piece created for Independent Lens by filmmaker Mat Hames, we get to know more about Eastern Shoshone tribal elder Philbert McLeod, one of the stars of Hames’ Independent Lens documentary What Was Ours. Philbert had an incredible breadth of knowledge about his tribe’s history, and fought for America in Vietnam, for which he received the Purple Heart. He believed an old beaded charm passed down by an elder helped protect him when he was in combat. (An excellent piece about Philbert’s military experiences was posted in the Casper Star-Tribune last year.)

Sadly, Philbert recently passed away at the age of 71. We were fortunate enough to share some of his wisdom in this Independent Lens video.

This short video first appeared on The Nation.

Mikala SunRhodes and Jordan Dresser, Philbert’s young compadres in the film, also shared with us some warm thoughts in his memory.

From Mikala SunRhodes: 

Philbert Mcleod was a very knowledgeable Shoshone Elder. He was not only knowledgeable in the culture but also the life of the reservation. He was and will continue to be an inspiration to many by the remembrance of his stories, humor, and humble manner. All throughout the film, Philbert had a big voice for making a home for the items that are stored away in museums. The views that Philbert had were very unique but in a sense a voice for all of us on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

From Jordan Dresser:

Wind River is a very small place. You either know someone or know of them.

Growing up in Fort Washakie, I didn’t know Philbert. I first met him when the group of Shoshone elders met to discuss the trip to Chicago. He seemed very hesitant but open. It wasn’t until we went to Chicago that I truly got to know him. Having some down time, we went to lunch at a local Italian restaurant. He asked me who my parents were and proceeded to tell me that he used to take photos of my dad at local rodeos. He was very kind, warm and funny. He talked about his love of photography and all the photos he had in his collection. When we got back from Chicago, I told my dad what Philbert said and he replied with a big smile, “Photo Phil,” which was his nickname. This goes to show that I actually did know Philbert. I just didn’t know it yet.


Rest in peace, Philbert.