The Revenant, Native Americans and the Oscars

This Sunday, many Americans will tune into the 88th Annual Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars. This year’s awards, in particular, have drawn more criticism and social commentary than before, with the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag, calling attention to the noticeable lack of diversity in nominees.

So why should we watch, when many have already decided to boycott the awards? Because “The Revenant,” nominated for 12 Oscars — including Best Picture — brings Native Americans and Native lands to the forefront of the conversation in America. The filmmakers cast Native American and Canadian aboriginal actors, allowing Native Americans to finally have a chance to represent themselves onscreen, without the often offensive and stereotypical portrayals so often seen in mainstream films.

The Revenant movie trailer

“The Revenant” is based on the book of the same name, outlining the true story of Hugh Glass, a trapper whose companions leave him for dead after he’s attacked by a bear. Taking place in the 1820s, the movie also illuminates the horrific truth that Native Americans faced in a time when westward expansion was the American government’s goal, no matter the cost. Gripping and brutally honest, moviegoers will see how “The Revenant” teaches us what many school books leave out: genocide and the depletion of resources Native Americans needed for survival.

Shortly after “The Revenant” was released in theaters, 20th Century Fox released a documentary titled, “A World Unseen,” that captured director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s reactions to the parallels of the movie’s era and its relevance to present day. In it, Iñárritu astutely observed, “The amount of hours and passion and trying to get the very best and trying to figure out how to make this experience palpable for people in a different way than they have seen this period of time, was scary.”

When Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, he said he wanted “to share this award with all of the First Nations people represented in this film and all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands… It is time that we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.”

The work we do at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) impacts current and future generations through our vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities. We’re inspired by Mr. DiCaprio and hope his words have resonated with the American public, as we work toward our mission of serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions.

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  1. jessie spillane
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for a chance to win, as I don’t get out to see many movies. I am especially interested in this film after reading your fascinating description.

  2. Brad Miller
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Such a great film, I saw it in a theatre opening weekend. Now I want to see “A World Unseen” , I’m sure it is fascinating. I would recommend everyone to watch Leo’s documentary ” Before The Flood”, we must make changes to save Mother Earth!

  3. Shasta Richardson
    Posted November 15, 2016 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    I want to be happy about this movie but with all of the destruction to our people, saved sites and sacred ceremonial items just as far as DAPL alone – my heart still weeps for my relatives.

  4. Deborah Yasmine
    Posted July 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    This is an awesome movie!! A must see for anyone who loves History involving the Native Americans! Leonardo is amazing, and the bear scene will have you on the edge of your seat! So well done!

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