Nothing has done more to perpetuate liberal myths about the Plains Indians than Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves, the beautifully done and ever politically correct film that was the Academy Awards 1991 “Best Picture”. The historical inaccuracies of this film were so gross as to be amusing. (My wife hates to go to films like this with me; I either gripe about the propaganda or giggle at its silliness.
)My favorite was the scene where the old medicine man asked Kevin Costner why he was going to start a family so soon instead of waiting. “Sure!”, I told my wife, “I bet they have a Planned Parenthood set up in one of those tepees!” The Indians not only lacked modern birth control technology, but, because of continual warfare, the uncertainties of their nomadic lifestyle, and the dangers of buffalo hunting, faced the serious threat of underpopulation. Hence their willingness to steal and adopt outsiders. Added to show the enlightened nature and progressive spirit of the Indians, this ridiculous scene only demonstrates the director’s desire to manufacture a politically correct film.
That desire is repeatedly shown in the film’s representation of women. Indian women possessed the morals of Hollywood starlets, as in the case of the widowed squaw, still in mourning for her husband, who fell in love with and became promiscuous with Costner. Indian women were amazingly liberated, according to the film, and were honored and affirmed by their sensitive and gentle husbands. Yet the romantic tradition of Europe never flourished among the polygamist Indians, who secured wives by purchase.
When 19th century artist George Catlin suggested painting a few pictures of Sioux women, he was heartily jeered at by the whole village, and someone explained that women were good for nothing, since they “never took scalps, nor did anything better than dress skins and make fire”. In the film’s depiction of both women’s sexuality and their place in society…