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” 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.