Nonverbal language is used when Dunbar first encounters the Sioux, since neither the Indians nor Dunbar know each other’s language. There is a scene near the beginning of the film when Dunbar tries to pantomime a buffalo. One of the Sioux, Wind In His Hair, looks at the spectacle and says “His mind is gone.” However, another Sioux, Kicking Bird, is a holy man who thinks he knows what the white stranger is trying to communicate. Finally, they exchange the word “buffalo” in each other’s languages.
The status of the Sioux are elevated in this film to an almost sentimental romanticism that borders on corny. Few whites in this era, the dominant culture, were curious, insightful or non-racist when it came to what they considered a thieving, ignorant bunch of savages. However, Costner portrays Dunbar as a white man who wants to live with the Indians in order to learn their culture first hand. When Dunbar tells the Indians, who fear the white man is here to stay, that there are “As many as stars in the sky” coming, the words fall like a death knell, the beginning of the end of the Native American race. Many rituals, like the buffalo hunt, provide status for the Native Americans and these scenes are shot with little dialogue and lots of great visual images that demonstrate the grandeur and magnificence of the Buffalo hunt for the Sioux. This and other rituals give status to different members of the tribe and also connect Dunbar to the tribe spiritually. Ma