Representation in Dances with Wolves

The beginning of the film Dances with Wolves affirms the Native American stereotypes that have been running through the foundations of our societies. In the first appearance of Native characters arrive ominous intimidating music loudens, and all the white characters are struck with fear. The Native Americans killed a white settler very brutally and called them savages. This is not an accurate depiction of them. Throughout the rest of the movie the image of the Native Americans gets better, but then we are introduced with another problem.

Kevin Costner’s character John Dunbar is seen as the hero and savior of the Lakota Sioux. This is problematic because it puts the white characters of the film on a pedestal. It shows the viewer that the band of Lakotas is unable to defend and protect themselves from colonizers’ invasion. An underlying theme in the movie is that the white man must save the Indians from extinction. Not only does this film favor the white characters but it shows the enemy Native characters (the Pawnees) as unwilling to make peace and as unintelligent. When this movie was released it was praised for showing a positive representation of Natives, but today there are issues with their representation.


Dunbar and the Sioux People Leave Their Village, Dances with Wolves Press Kit, Nabb Research Center, James Welsh Press Kits, SUA-003