One of the most controversial aspects of the Western genre has been the ways in which American Indians are portrayed in print and on screen. Over the course of the last 150 years, native peoples have been variously portrayed as barbarians, enemies, noble savages, and mystics, and are often not mentioned at all. But one of the constants through most of that time is that American Indians have been given few opportunities to tell their own stories, and that most depictions of indigenous people are made by whites.
That was certainly true in 1990. One hundred years after the official end of the frontier and just four months after the centennial anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre, Hollywood congratulated itself on its progress and forward-thinking when it granted Dances with Wolves seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Yet Russell Means criticized the film, calling it Lawrence of the Plains, in reference to Lawrence of Arabia, and others have referred to it as a white savior film.
What do you think? Using Fools Crow (published in 1986), Dances with Wolves, and the readings, assess how much progress writers and film producers made between 1890 and 1990. What American Indian stereotypes died away by the 1990s, and which ones persisted? Do you think we’ve made any progress since 1990, now that Dances with Wolves is over a quarter century old? Why or why not?
Papers must be double-spaced, and formatted with 12 point Times New Roman font. One inch margins on all sides. All sources must be cited in MLA. You must cite some sources.
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