After Billy is bitten by the snake – and (spoiler alert) lives – he comes back to pass along the message he received in the vision following the bite. Billy talks of reaching through the ‘thin veil’ that separates the material world from the spirit world. What Tom didn’t know when he created and scripted ‘Billy Jack’ were the incredible connections between his fictional script and the Ghost religion that played a huge role in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Tom did not know of the Paiute medicine man, Wovoka, the creator and leader of the Ghost religion, nor the Ghost Dance, that is loosely emulated in the film. Much of this came to light during the break in shooting between Prescott, Arizona, in the fall of 1969 and the final shooting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the spring of 1970 (see previous post for more).
Below are pictures from the filming of the dance sequence that are a bit less glamorous than the ideas or finished product. It was blazingly hot midday that day, and everyone was standing around in a pit. (It felt a bit like being on the wrong end of one of those old time sun reflectors people used to hold up to their faces before we knew there was such a thing as skin cancer.) But we started filming in the morning, when it was really cold, so everyone got fooled by the temp change and were stuck with the wardrobe they started with. I felt the worst for the Indians in their full outfits and Tom in the head-to-toe leather sauna. But as midday turned to early afternoon, the temp dropped fast and people began grabbing for coats between setups.