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Clara Caufield: 'Reel Injun' takes closer look at Hollywood Indians

A scene from Reel Injun> Still image by Rezolution Pictures

Reel Injun – ‘On the trail of the Hollywood Indian’
By Clara Caufield
A Cheyenne Voice

Recently, one of my faithful readers, Dr. Richard Belgrad, a non-Indian from Bozeman, Mont., sent me a DVD, titled “Reel Injun” produced in 2009 in Canada. This DVD is a must see for all tribal people. In my opinion, it should be required viewing for students and all Natives.

As summarized on the jacket, it is “an entertaining and provocative look at Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans. The DVD journey through a century of cinema to set the record straight. Traveling through the heartland of the U.S., to the Black Hills and Monument Valley, Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond examines how the myth of the move “Injun” has influenced the world’s understanding – and misunderstanding – of Natives.

With clips from hundreds of classic and recent films, it is a remarkable feat of historical research, documenting the shift from nuanced silent-era heroes to the Western’s “noble savage” stereotype, leading up to the burgeoning Native independent scene of Smoke Signals and The Fast Runner.

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(Clara Caufield can be reached at

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