Jeremiah Johnson: The Mountain Man In this movie, one may observe the different attitudes that Americans had towards Indians. The Indians were those unconquered people to the west and the almighty brave, Mountain Man went there, “forgetting all the troubles he knew,” and away from civilization. The mountain man is going in search of adventure but as this “adventure” starts he finds that his survival skills are not helping him since he cant even fish and as he is seen by an Indian, who watches him at his attempt to fish, he start respecting them. The view that civilization had given him of the west changes and so does he. Civilization soon becomes just something that exists “down there.”
The movie starts by showing the Indians as “bad” when Johnson finds a note of another mountain man who has “savagely” been killed by the Indians. This view changes as the movie points out tribes instead of Indians as just one group. Some of the tribes are shown dangerous and not to be messed with while others are friendly, still each tribe treats Johnson as “outsider.” Indians are not portrayed as greater than “white men” yet white men respect their laws, rituals and specific beliefs. Johnson is at first very naïve and unaware of how the Indians work. Soon he learns from bear claw that there are different type of Indians some which you should never even think of fighting and some that had never hurt a white man before. More than to be respectful the mountain men submit to the Indians out of fear.
Johnson accommodates to the environment and learns to coexist with the Indians.
Jeremiah is “given” a wife forcefully and as much as he does not want it he soon realizes he has everything he needs to just settle. Like in every good movie, just when you have all it is take away. The real trouble with the tribes comes when white men intervene and intrude. The Indians expect that these “Americans” respect their territory and whatever rituals and beliefs they may have but just as Johnson was unaware of this when he first came so where the white men that came to save the Christian families. Civilization never would approve or respect many of the things that Jeremiah had learned to appreciate and even love. The view of all white men was best said by the bald guy when he referred to the Flathead leader, “He may speak well and read the bible but he is still an injun.”
The “Mountain Man” is very romanticized in the movie. The Actor that was chosen for the part for example was Robert Redford the typical American hero, Blond, handsome, strong and able to survive in the wild, what else can you ask for? What really does it is the song at the beginning of the movie, which is a sort of song to a hero, a song of praise to this brave man on his way to the “West.” The life of a “Mountain Man” is a hard and arduous job that involves even risking your own life like the first dead mountain man he finds with a 50 Caliber rifle or the men that were killed by Indians and left “crazy woman” alone. Another romantization of a “Mountain Man” is struggle. The bad fishing at the beginning of the movie was not to show that the Indian was better but instead to show how this mountain man can struggle, start at zero and climb to the top. This struggle is proof of “The Mountain Man’s” extraordinary ability to adapt.
Throughout the movie, the struggle with adapting to the environment and to the Indians and their beliefs plays a big role. The “Mountain Man” is able to do all or learn how to. This mountain man leaves civilization in search of adventure, forms a family and learns to live this life in the wilderness and coexisting with the Indians. The “Mountain Man” is the Good Samaritan who takes in a kid and a wife and helps those in trouble. He learns about tribes and how they are divided, which ones can be delt with and which ones you had better run from. The movie portrays the Indians as they are in tribes, their rituals and believes. The mountain man assimilates with the Indians and when he has lost it all he leaves, making peace with the crows, the enemy.