Osage Indians: Mohongo, Washingsabba (or Black Bird), and Big Soldier, Louis Leopold Boilly More: Original public domain image from Smithsonian

Killers of the Flower Moon and the Emergence of New Native American Stories

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Lily Gladstone, the lead actress in Martin Scorsese’s 2023 film Killers of the Flower Moon, recently became the first Native American to win Best Female Actress in a Drama Motion Picture at the Golden Globes.

Gladstone plays Mollie Burkhart, who combats a series of murders of members of her tribe in the Osage Nation after oil was discovered on tribal land. It is a true story that showcases indigenous resilience and history as a major motion picture.

In recent years, indigenous art has gained traction in mainstream media, from art installations to fashion, after decades of exclusion and a lack of representation. The extensive work of activists and producers alike has increased the visibility of indigenous voices and culture in mainstream media.

Gladstone, a member of the Blackfoot tribe, has fought to revitalize Blackfoot culture in mainstream media. In her Golden Globes acceptance speech, she paid homage to her mother, who is not Blackfoot, but “worked so hard to bring the Blackfoot language to the classroom.” 

To many, the speech was reminiscent of Sacheen Littlefeather’s 1973 Oscar speech, in which she spoke on behalf of Marlon Brando regarding land rights and reservation encroachment. Gladstone said, “In this business, Native actors used to speak their lines in English, and then the sound mixers would run them backward to accomplish native languages on camera.” 

In both of these speeches, Indigenous women used award shows to bring a new narrative to the standard plots of Western thrillers that often leave out the uncomfortable history of abuse and genocide against Indigenous people.

Furthermore, Marvel’s new movie, Echo, received praise for its portrayal of a Native American protagonist reconnecting to her familial ancestry, which inspired many Indigenous viewers to explore their own identities.

But indigenous achievement has not been limited to the silver screen. In recent years, indigenous communities have done pivotal work to diversify the fashion industry. Quannah Chasinghorse, a model who has frequently graced the covers of Allure, Vogue, and Elle, has been credited with reshaping the “cover-girl” beauty standard by proudly showcasing her cultural roots with traditional lined tattoos and beaded accessories. 

Wendy Red Star, an artist based in Portland, Oregon was raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana. Red Star works to preserve Native American stories and reclaim those forgotten by creating art that doubles as political commentary, offering insight into indigenous perspectives on sports hunting, land rights, and casinos. Among many other Indigenous artists, Red Star utilizes art and creative expression to cope with trauma related to indigenous experiences. 

Audiences are seeing more refreshing portrayals of Indigenous culture in industries where they have been historically underrepresented, and artists and activists continue to contest previous narratives to explore the depth and vibrance of Native American stories.

Niklas is a sophomore at M-A. This is his first year in journalism. He hopes to write about local events and politics. In his free time, Niklas enjoys exercising and going to Coffeebar!

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