In Sándor’s Oregon Trail, one adventurer follows the journey of half a million lifetimes across the Old West before it was old to America. For Native people, it was the only home they had ever known, hunting its prairies and fishing its rivers long before there ever was an Oregon Trail.
Long before school children of the 1980s and 1990s squealed with delight every time they died of dysentery on the Apple Computer green screen video game, hundreds of thousands of Americans and foreign immigrants traveled thousands of miles, leaving the United States in Missouri and traveling across the lands President Jefferson acquired in the Louisiana Purchase from France when Napoleon Bonaparte was strapped for cash. They traveled in wool and linen clothing with no Gore-Tex, sunscreen, or Instagram, to a place they’d never seen a photo of. They may as well have been going to the moon.
Early promoters advised travelers that in Oregon it only ever rained at night, wild hogs roamed the sunny fields fully cooked so all you had to do was slice off the tender meat, and you could not bait your hook near the river or fish would jump out to catch themselves on it. They said in California, if you wanted to become rich, you had only to coat your naked body in oil, roll down a hill, and gold dust would stick to you. Mormon pioneers also followed the Oregon trail from Iowa to their promised land in the Salt Lake Valley.
Early emigrants promised Native Americans they would take no more room than the width of their wagon wheels, and many early encounters were mutually beneficial opportunities for trade. Despite what the movies tell you, historian John D. Unruh counts a total of only 362 emigrants killed by Indians from 1840 from 1860 in his book The Plains Across. During the same period, Unruh counts 426 Indians killed by white settlers. Sándor’s Oregon Trail will cover lesser-known aspects of history such as the largest massacre in the history of the American West, of hundreds of Shoshone Indians at the Bear River Massacre in Idaho; and the largest massacre of whites, when every grown man and woman in the Baker-Francher Wagon Train was murdered in Mountain Meadows, Utah by the Mormon Utah Territorial Militia – some of whom were disguised as Southern Paiute Indians whom they enticed to also participate.
In the show and book, Sándor Lau walks every inch of the journey, learning and experiencing history from reenactors and Native Americans continuing their cultures and traditions. This living history documentary explores the land and wildlife that witnessed these extraordinary events.
This work is inspired by films like The West by Stephen Ives, the HBO series Deadwood, TNT’s Into the West, and A&E show Longmire. Books informing the show include Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Lakota author Joseph Marshall’s On Behalf of the Wolf and the First Peoples and The Lakota Way, and Kent Nerburn’s Neither Wolf nor Dog.
We are looking for the right broadcaster, publisher, participants, and patrons to make this vision real for the world.
The target audience is the US and global fan base inspired by the land, people, and history of the American West, aficionados of one of the most enduring genres of film, literature, and art.