The Weinstein Company on YouTube: Wind River Trailer
Arts & Entertainment | Opinion

Charles Kader: 'Wind River' film trafficks in marginalized death in Indian Country





Wind River, a film set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, has won critical acclaim and praise for a largely Native cast. But Charles Kader, a citizen of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, sees it as part of a long tradition in Hollywood of marginalizing Native peoples:
As the summer of 2017 rockets by, popular media portrayals of Native American subjects and themes have begun to pile up, and the outcome is not looking good. From mass media studies we know that pop culture tells us the film portrayal is more about the time it was made instead of what the story is actually saying. The question remains, is it better to be seen as a culture frozen in time or remain locked out of the wheelhouse of defining our own identity, one rating season at a time?

I am a far from the hopeful star-gawker that normally comments about these enduring subjects like Hollywood is doing Natives a favor by allowing Native actors to be employed in the entertainment industry. The historical exploitation of dead Natives was seen as entertainment in some frontier communities during the era of Manifest Destiny. When the surly saloon keeper Al Swearengen kept the deceased Native chief’s head in a wooden box after he paid a bounty on him in the fictional HBO series Deadwood, the plot device presumably kept us from having to watch the weekly onslaught the Black Hills went thru during that gold rush period. There are no fair trade-offs between the entertainment factor and the genocide implicit in such drama. The rating censors are not keeping score for “our side,” they are just looking to minimize fines from the Federal Communications Commission. If sweat was red, then North American Indians have paid the dues in full already to allow us to tell our own stories.

Instead, we are greeted with outlandish commercials for movies like Wind River, starring Graham Greene, where he says that (in Indian country) ”there is no backup,” like a bookend to his other starring role in the 1993 movie Thunderheart, where he portrayed another isolated Native cop. Wind River, like Thunderheart, is a film about marginalized death on Native lands, passing for entertainment for middle-class voyeurs often amazed that any Natives are still alive. That description seems to define the concept of kill media as a genre built on hopelessness and despair amidst American riches and advancement.

Read More on the Story:
Charles Kader: Amusing Others Through Kill Media: Native Cultural Depiction (Indian Country Media Network August 16, 2017)

Related Stories:
Film set on Wind River Reservation boasts Native cast and tribal financing (August 3, 2017)