Leonardo DiCaprio: Elevating Our Voice

Last night, at the 2016 Golden Globes, we witnessed two things: Morgan Freeman wearing a beautiful turquoise necklace that was gifted to him at the Shiprock Flea Market earlier this year and Leonardo DiCaprio’s shout out to First Nations and Indigenous Peoples.

Freeman really rocked the hell out of that authentic, non-knock off necklace, which the lover of all things turquoise in me, was jealous of! It was also very respectable of him to give credit as to where and whom he received this necklace from as well when asked by reporters.

morganfreeman

But the bigger story here is Leonardo DiCaprio’s mention of First Nation’s and Indigenous Peoples. He also won Best Actor in Drama for the film. I can happily admit that I love Leo, and have always been a fan of his movies: The Great Gatsby, Titanic, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Departed, Wolf on Wall Street, Inception, Blood Diamond, The Beach, and many more! But the movie that everyone is talking about, and has received remarkable feedback from a rather large percentage of the Native communities is, The Revenant.

The Revenant, taking place in 1823 in the Montana/South Dakota area, highlights Hugh Glass, an explorer and who settled with the Pawnee First Nations in the early 1800’s with his wife and son. He lost his wife and had his son to protect in a world where different was bad and where Natives were considered savages and not human (still similar in 2016… sad isn’t it?). The movie starts with a hunting party of trappers and hunters looking for pelts where they find themselves ambushed and fleeing the Arikara Tribe. Not many make it, but Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) leads them away from danger in hopes to making it to the outpost. While journeying back, Glass finds himself in a fight with a Bear, and sustains serious injuries. The group tries to bring him back and the remaining few that were tasked with watching over him left him for dead (led by John Fitzgerald—played by Tom Hardy). Glass’s son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck, member of the Dine, Mandan, Hidatsa, Tshimshian Tribes, Albuquerque, NM), was murdered in front of him and seeks to avenge his death. Throughout the movie you see his family (wife and son, Grace Dove, member of Canim Lake Indian Band in northern British Columbia, and Forrest Goodluck) speaking to him which motivates him more to find the strength to keep moving forward. But you’ll just have to see the movie to really understand and visually see what I am talking about!

Describe the movie in one word: INCREDIBLE. The imagery was fantastic. The story was real. And DiCaprio didn’t exploit our culture. He immersed himself in it. He learned about it. He learned the language. He treated the Native actors with respect and consulted with them to make sure everything was portrayed accurately. Aside from this movie, DiCaprio has made remarkable efforts to raise awareness on protecting our environment and spoke at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 , urging world leaders of the United Nations to push for local action on climate change and that we are fundamentally running out of time. He, along with many other A-List stars walked stride for stride with our Indigenous peoples at the Peoples Climate March in NYC in 2014. He wasn’t there for appearances sake; he was there in normal clothes, sunglasses and a beard. He was there to be a voice and stand in solidarity with our Native communities but also with all other people who care about what is happening to our earth, our Unci Maka.

Last night, at the 2016 Golden Globes, in ending his speech while the music started to play to usher him off the stage, he gave thanks to our First Nation’s and Indigenous Peoples around the world. He understood our fight and has used his social platform to help bring awareness to our cause and what we continue to fight for. While this speech won’t fix anything, It makes many Natives happy to see that credit was given and acknowledged. He isn’t all talk, he has proven with his efforts and relationships he has built with Indigenous communities that he is a voice with ours, and he is a formidable ally. He’s not exploiting us in a negative way but rather, he’s helping us to gain notice in our fight by those who seek to harm our land for corporate interests. He is elevating our fight to the next level. With momentum building in Indian Country already with our efforts to demand protection of our lands, to honor the treaties and to see us as a people, makes our fight a little easier by having some help to put pressure on those who disregard us and our rights.

 

With that said, and with the recognition of our people, more needs to be done.  It’s great to be excited that he gave credit, because sadly, no one really does, but our fight doesn’t stop there.  Action is needed.  So for me, I would like to say Lila Pilamaya, Leonardo DiCaprio! (Thank you very much!) You’ve talked the talk, and you’ve marched the March. Keep up the advocacy! You’re always welcome to Lakota Country!

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