Indianz.Com > News > Osage Nation celebrates historic Oscar nominations
96th Academy Awards – Nominations for Best Actress in Leading Role
Osage Nation celebrates historic Oscar nominations
Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Osage Nation is celebrating a major milestone for a film that shares an otherwise difficult time in the tribe’s history.

Killers of the Flower Moon has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards — including prestigious nods for Best Picture and for Best Actress in a Leading Role. In the latter category, Lily Gladstone is making history as the first Native American to be recognized for her achievements in film.

But the Osage Nation is also celebrating one of its own. Scott George, a tribal citizen, has been nominated for Best Original Song for composing “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People),” which appears in the pivotal closing scene of the film.

“Congratulations to all Oscar nominees for Killers of the Flower Moon; we are overjoyed that the hard work put into making this film is being celebrated,” Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said in a statement on Tuesday following the announcement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“Osage Nation is especially proud that Osage Composer Scott George, consultants Kenny and Vann Bighorse, and all our tribal singers are receiving this extraordinary recognition for ‘Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People),’” Standing Bear said of the composer and of consultants Kenny Bighorse, a tribal elder, and his son, Vann, who serves as Secretary of Language, Culture and Education for the tribe.

“For us, there’s nothing better than hearing our singers around the drum,” Standing Bear continued. “We are pleased that the Academy members recognize the strength and beauty behind this song.”

Killers of the Flower Moon tells the story of the Osage people during a genocidal era in their history. Having been forced out of their homelands in Kansas just a couple of decades prior, the discovery of oil on their territory in present-day Oklahoma in the early 1900s led to unprecedented economic and social opportunities for the tribe.

The newfound wealth also brought in outsiders who targeted the Osage people for their land and their mineral rights. The film in particular focuses on Mollie Kyle, whose family was murdered by non-Indians in the 1920s in a criminal scheme for which her then-husband was convicted.

Gladstone, who is Blackfeet and Nez Perce, portrayed Mollie in the film. With her nomination for Best Actress in Leading Role, she becomes the first Native person to land an acting nod at the Oscars.

Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Ernest Burkhart, who was Mollie’s husband. He did not receive any Academy Award nominations for the film, for which he also served as an executive producer.

Apple TV: Killers of the Flower Moon — Official Teaser Trailer

But with 10 nominations total, Killers of the Flower Moon is one of the leading films for the 2024 Academy Awards. Only Oppenheimer, with 13 nods, and Poor Things, with 11, secured more nominations.

In the Best Picture category, Killers of the Flower Moon is going up against Oppenheimer and Poor Things. The three films are facing off in several other categories as well.

For Best Original Score, Killers of the Flower Moon earned a posthumous nomination for the work of the legendary Robbie Robertson. The late musician, who passed away on August 9, 2023, at the age of 80, was Mohawk and Cayuga, with his family hailing from the Six Nations of the Grand River, based in the province of Ontario in Canada.

The selections of Gladstone, George and Robertson represent another historic achievement in film. The 96th Academy Awards mark the first time that Native people from the United States and Canada have been recognized as nominees for their works.

Killers of the Flower Moon
“Killers of the Flower Moon.” Photo courtesy Apple Studios

In 2019, Cherokee actor Wes Studi received an honorary Oscar in light of his decades-long career in film. A year prior, he spoke the Cherokee language as a presenter during the televised ceremony for the 90th Academy Awards.

Also in 2019, Yalitza Aparicio, who is Mixtec and Trique, became the first Indigenous person from Mexico to be nominated for an Academy Award. She was recognized for her role in Roma, in which she portrayed an Indigenous domestic worker.

The Academy Awards otherwise have a checkered history when it comes to Native and Indigenous representation. Buffy Sainte-Marie was widely considered to be the first Native person to win an Oscar for “Up Where We Belong,” which won Best Original Song in 1983 for its appearance in An Officer and a Gentleman.

But an explosive documentary that aired on CBC News in October showed that Sainte-Marie was born Beverly Jean Santamaria in Massachusetts to non-Native parents. She has long claimed to be Cree from Canada but acknowledged that her origin story lacks a factual basis in a video statement she shared on social media at the time.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, which is owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, describes Sainte-Marie as the “first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award.” The 82-year-old musician sent another statement to Indianz.Com a month after the airing of the CBC documentary that again acknowledged discrepancies in her claims of Native identity.

In 2022, the Academy presented an apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, describing her as “Apache/Yaqui” from Arizona and holding a public event that called attention to her treatment at the 1973 Oscars ceremony. The Academy invited Indianz.Com to the ceremony but declined to answer questions after being presented with a list of detailed inquiries about discrepancies in her Native identity claims. Littlefeather, who was born Marie Louise Cruz in Arizona to non-Native parents, passed away on October 2, 2022, at the age of 75.

The film and television industry overall has always lacked Native representation. According to the most recent Hollywood Diversity Report from the UCLA Entertainment and Media Research Initiative, 0 percent of leading roles in film went to Native talent in 2022.

Killers of the Flower Moon, which debuted in theaters last October and is now streaming on Apple TV, was filmed on Osage territory in northeastern Oklahoma in 2021. The screenplay is based on a book titled Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, a non-Native author.

The film is currently ranked number one on Apple TV. list of nominations for Killers of the Flower Moon follows:

  • Best Picture: Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Martin Scorsese and Daniel Lupi, Producers
  • Best Actress in Leading Role: Lily Gladstone
  • Best Original Song: “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” — Music and Lyric by Scott George
  • Best Original Score: Robbie Robertson
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert De Niro
  • Best Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Best Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
  • Best Costume Design: Jacqueline West
  • Best Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Best Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Adam Willis

The 96th Academy Awards will be broadcast live from Los Angeles on ABC on Sunday, March 10.

Apple TV: Killers of the Flower Moon — The Song “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)”

Related Stories
Jim Gray: Who will play an Osage woman in a film about the Osage people? (August 13, 2020)
Filed Under
More Headlines