Dances With Wolves

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Dances With Wolves

Dances with Wolves offers a cinematic portrayal of Native Americans that is quite contrary to the stereotypical norm. In this film, John Dunbar, goes out to the west where he meets and becomes friends with the Sioux Indians. He is drawn more and more into their community and eventually chooses to side with the humane Indians over his fellow cruel white Americans. In an attempt to change stereotypical views, director Kevin Costner through Dunbar, presents to the audience a different perspective of Indian removal. The film allows viewers to identify and sympathize with the Indians and thus causes a shift of perception towards the Indian problem. Movie critic Ariztlan, in a review of the film, states that Dances with Wolves "showed the Indians as human beings with a culture and way of life that had the full breadth of human dignity, humor, spirituality and family values (http://www.ariztlan.org/mov/wolves)." The stereotypical view of Indians as savage inhumane beings is strategically dwindled in this movie.

This film was set around the time of the Civil War which took place from 1861-1865. It was during this time that acts of Indian removal were common. The prevalent attitude of Americans at the time was that of expansion into the west. The primitive Indian inhabitants of the western territory proposed a problem for the Americans. To settle into the west, they had to remove the Indians to other places. In a lecture on the place of the west in American history, Dr. April Summitt addressed the historical framework of Indian removal. The first major Indian removal took place in 1830. They were further removed to smaller reservations in the 1870's and 1880's. With this knowledge of the historical setting, we c...

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...m. Dunbar was named Dances with Wolves because he was literally caught prancing around with a wolf. Beyond this literal interpretation is the symbolic one of Dunbar's dance with the Indians. The gist of the film is encapsulated in this one metaphorical story line.

The film, Dances with Wolves, is masterfully produced to change the stereotypical view of Native Americans as brutal savages to a fixed view of them as normal human beings. Shift in perception is achieved by first grabbing the audience attention with an initial matched stereotype of cruel Indians. The audience is carried to a new frame of thought through the trustworthy character of Dunbar and his developing relationship with the Indians. In the end, Dunbar's dance with the wolves becomes a great learning experience for him in his life, as well as an eye-opening tool for the humbled American audience.

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