Representations of Native Americans in Dances with Wolves and The Searchers

Representations of Native Americans in Dances with Wolves and The Searchers

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“Film is more than the instrument of a representation; it is also the object of representation. It is not a reflection or a refraction of the ‘real’; instead, it is like a photograph of the mirrored reflection of a painted image.” (Kilpatrick) Although films have found a place in society for about a century, the labels they possess, such as stereotypes which Natives American are recognized for, have their roots from many centuries ago (Kilpatrick). The Searchers, a movie directed by John Ford and starred by John Wayne, tells the story of a veteran of the American Civil War and how after his return home he would go after the maligned Indians who killed his family and kidnapped his younger niece. After struggling for five years to recover his niece back, who is now a young woman, she is rescued by his own hands. Likewise, Dances with Wolves is a Western film directed and starred by Kevin Costner. It is also situated during the American Civil War and tells the story of a soldier named John Dunbar that after a suicide attempt; he involuntarily leads Union troops to a triumph. Then, by his request he is sent to a remote outpost in the Indian frontier “before it’s gone”. There, the contact with the natives is eminent and thus it shows how through those contacts this soldier is transformed into another Indian that belongs with the Sioux to tribe and who is now called Dances With Wolves. While both John Ford and Kevin Costner emphasize a desire to apologize to the indigenous people, they use similar themes such as stereotypes, miscegenation, and the way characters are depicted; conversely, these two movies are different by the way the themes are developed within each film.

John Ford’s The Searchers was giving the intention of ap...


... middle of paper ...


... due to the way their roles interact with the Amerind people in the film.

As a result, both films represent Natives Americans under the point of view of non-Native directors. Despite the fact that they made use of the fabricated stereotypes in their illustrations of the indigenous people, their portrayal was revolutionary in its own times. Each of the films add in their own way a new approach to the representation of indigenous people, their stories unfold partly unlike. These differences make one look at the indigenous not only as one dimensional beings but as multifaceted beings, as Dunbar say, “they are just like us.” This is finally a sense of fairness and respect by the non-native populations to the Native Indians.

Works Cited

Jacquelyin Kilpatrick , Celluloid Indians. Native Americans and Film. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1999

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