"I’d never known a people so eager to laugh, so devoted to family, so dedicated to each other. And the only word that came to mind was harmony." [Who says this? What is it from?]

Summary

Set in 1863, the film portrays a fictional event during the Plains Indian Wars of the 1860s with a general overview of the Sioux Wars of 1854-1891 and a direct focus on the Dakota War, also known as the Sioux Uprising of 1862. The film begins with the two sides fighting in the civil war: the Confederate army and the Union army, the focus of the film are the Sioux Nation. The only direct non-Indigenous participant is John Dunbar, a lieutenant serving in the Union army who befriends the Lakota Sioux and becomes trapped between two ‘worlds’, the brutal, broken alliance of other Civil War soldiers such as himself, and the honorable, tolerant Sioux tribe living in Dakota territory. [Civil War should be capitalized, also called the US Civil War]

The Plains Indian Wars (1854-1891)

The Sioux Indians, part of the Lakota Nation, [are] a very large Indigenous group composed of several tribal groups all spoke the native language of Siouan. The Sioux tribes who lived west of the Missouri River are known as the Lakota, sometimes referred to as the Teton Sioux. Set in 1863, the film portrays a fictional event during the Plains Indian Wars of the 1860s with a general overview of the Sioux Wars of 1854-1891 and a direct focus on the Dakota War, also known as the Sioux Uprising of 1862. [The Plains Indian War, the Sioux Uprising, and the Dakota War have been mentioned as being the same event. Choose one term and carry it though the entire page.]

Timeline of the Lakota Nation

Interpretations of History

The popular culture film [Dances with Wolves], directed by Kevin Costner, is one of the more prominently accurate depictions of the Sioux in the way that it functions as a bridge for the audience to realize the truth being depicted rather than an exact realistic representation. In paying such deliberate attention to the culture and ways of the Sioux natives, the representation of other tribes (the Pawnee for example) is not as purposeful. The depiction of other such tribes as uncivilized and savage. We, as an audience, are encouraged by these depictions to hold the thought that not all Indians are as “kind” and “civilized” as the Sioux natives and that Dunbar was fortunate to have found a tribe that eventually accepted him.

Some vocab

  • Tatanka - Lakota word for buffalo, first word Dances with Wolves learns in Siouan, brings him and the Sioux closer together as he uses it to help them scout buffalo[.]

 

  • Counting Coup - Winning of prestige against an enemy by the Plains Indians of North America. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories[.]

 

  • “White savior complex” - comes from British writer Rudyard Kipling and his poem “The White Man's Burden” (1899, referring to bringing civilization to savage peoples). Even though Dances with wolves seems to really respect Lakota culture, he stills brings some “white” elements to the Indian tribes (fire weapons for example). However, whether these elements are part of the “white savior complex” is debatable[.]

 

  • Lakota - part of the Sioux, currently live in North and South Dakota[.]

 

  • “Contesting the Master Narrative” (Jeffrey Cox, Shelton Stromquist) - deconstructing the traditional way of seeing history by adopting a different perspective than the people in [power's].

Discussion questions

  • Many of the names were visions of white authors or television writers. If they were able to do extensive research on the accurate portrayal of the Lakota in terms of location and tribal history, why can filmmakers not follow through with names in the same informed manner?

 

  • In 2007, Dances with Wolves was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Given what we now know about the film, do you think this award is appropriate?

 

  • “Dances with wolves made it cool to be Indian.” (Dr Leslie D.Hannah, Cherokee, in a 2007 podcast recorded at Kansas State University ) Why do you think so?

 

  • “But we're still waiting for Hollywood to show us Indians as doctors, lawyers, teachers - as modern day people” (Dr Leslie D.Hannah, Cherokee, in a 2007 podcast recorded at Kansas State University). Is there any film you watched that breaks this traditional narrative?

 

  • Some of the critics on Dances with wolves were about the fact that Lakota language was often misused in the film. Indeed, the actors had to learn it before the film was shot. Do you think that the director should have chosen actors who already knew how to speak Lakota? Why or why not?

Modern Day Outcomes of the Lakota

As a result of assimilation, Lakota families and children must stand face-to-face with the society that discouraged them from thriving. Living with the trauma that came from the West, many Lakota people battle issues of substance and drug abuse. What doesn't change is the hope for a better future for their children.

Meet the Authors

Eleanor LaRussa. Hometown: Rochester NY. St. Lawrence University - First Year

 

Parker Hotchkiss. Hometown: Rochester NY. St. Lawrence University - First Year

 

Mathilde Perrault. Hometown: Bordeaux France. St. Lawrence University - Exchange Student

 

Sam Ashforth. Hometown: Greenwich Connecticut. St. Lawrence University - Sophomore

Bibliography

Dances With Wolves. Directed by Kevin Costner. United States: Orion Pictures, 1990. DVD. October 2018. Accessed April 15, 2019. https://www.netflix.com/watch/60028940?trackId=13752289&tctx=0,0,4b9cde…,,.

Richardson, Michael. "“KEEP ’EM MOVING”: THE ROLE OF ASSESSMENT IN US CAVALRY OPERATIONS AGAINST THE PLAINS INDIANS." In Assessing War: The Challenge of Measuring Success and Failure, edited by Blanken Leo J., Rothstein Hy, and Lepore Jason J., by Casey George W., 96-110. Georgetown University Press, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19qgffn.11.

Rose, Christina. “Native History: ‘Dances With Wolves’ Premieres”. Indian Country Today. Last modified November 4, 2013. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/native-history-dances-w….

Smith, Amanda, and Thomas Loe. "Mythic Descent in "Dances with Wolves"." Literature/Film Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1992): 199-204. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43796550.

"The Pawnee and the Lakota Sioux." Nebraska Studies. Accessed April 17, 2019. http://nebraskastudies.org/1500-1799/emergence-of-historic-tribes/the-p….

Richardson, Michael. "“KEEP ’EM MOVING”: THE ROLE OF ASSESSMENT IN US CAVALRY OPERATIONS AGAINST THE PLAINS INDIANS." In Assessing War: The Challenge of Measuring Success and Failure, edited by Blanken Leo J., Rothstein Hy, and Lepore Jason J., by Casey George W., 96-110. Georgetown University Press, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19qgffn.11.

[Where is the podcast you reference?]