HBO's 'Bury My Heart' exhumes a painful history

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When he first read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dick Wolf says "it shook me to my core."

"I had been watching cowboy and Indian movies growing up, and this was a completely different view of history -- the first point of view from Indians," says Wolf, executive producer of NBC's Law & Order franchise and spinoffs.

So when Wolf was approached by HBO to produce historian Dee Brown's seminal 1970 work about the displacement and slaughter of the late-19th-century American Indian for the screen, he says he jumped at the opportunity. Six years in the making, the film airs Sunday (9 ET/PT).

Brown's book was not easy to adapt to the screen, and Sunday's premiere is vastly cut back from the big-budget, six-hour miniseries originally envisioned. Wounded Knee cost "well south" of $20 million, Wolf says, and took 39 days to shoot. The story starts in 1876, after the Sioux annihilated Gen. George Custer's troops in the legendary battle at Little Big Horn.

Wounded Knee is the story many historians and anthropologists say represents the American Indian's holocaust, an interpretation not lost on Wolf. "If it wasn't physical genocide, it's certainly cultural genocide," Wolf says.

"Hopefully, this will become a real document of record of what we did to an entire race of people," he says. "I've seen it 12 times, and I still tear up at certain points."

Wounded Knee draws parallels over past and present U.S. policies concerning sovereign foreign nations. "The thing that resonates with me over what happened then and what's happening now (in Iraq) is that we seem to be duplicating our previous mistakes -- trying to impose our cultural values on people who not only don't share them, but don't want them."

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