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Indigenous Reaction to Hollywood Films

A couple weeks ago, a movie came out called the Battle of Los Angeles. In the movie, the Earth is being invaded by space aliens who begin by attacking off the coast of Los Angeles. They come in as meteors striking the coast and shortly into the movie many people begin dying. The reason I bring this up is because of the obvious parallel to the Europeans invading the coast here several centuries ago. It is a parallel coast in the movie, but notice it is not right in the heart of America, the Midwest, they strike, like I said, right on the coast. Also, I distinctly remember something in the preview with the guy doing the voiceover talking about the Indigenous species being eradicated. That is ironic for two reasons. One, because the people living there were not Indigenous in the sense we have talked about in class and also because as I mentioned, that statement is directly paralleling what the Europeans brought to the Indigenous population here: eradication.

I never saw the movie because my favorite critic tore it apart, but I was wondering what American Indian scholars thought of movies like this and Avatar. I found a couple of critics disputing how James Cameron was trying to misconstrue American Indian identity, but neither of these critics themselves were American Indian. I found another who claimed to be a Yukon who had no problem with the film saying that these types of film set up how “the Persecuted group TEACHES the Outsider something valuable, until the Outsider stops thinking of the other race as “other” and thinks of it as “Self” and as just as worthy of his admiration.” I agree with that logic. But, all of these critics tie these movies back to Dances with Wolves.

I’ve never seen Dances with Wolves so I’m not about to pretend that I know what it is about. However, I found an excerpt from Vine Deloria Jr. who talks about how not only does that movie show Sioux culture, but it also shows the Black Hill Plains. The movie apparently raised awareness of the struggle over that area and America’s concept of the Sioux Indians. I wish I could talk more precisely about the movie, but until I watch it I cannot. I do, however plan to follow up on this blog post. So, it seems as though from the sampling of responses I’ve seen, there are no real objections to these types of movies from the American Indian standpoint. I will have to do more research into this before I definitively claim that. But, we watch Avatar in our American Indian studies class soon and I’m interested to see our professor’s commentary and how the other American Indian scholars at the University reacted to this and other movies.

Courtesy of: Spirit and Reason, by Vine Deloria

and Yukon Science Fiction Writer Jerome Stuart’s blog


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