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. Mary McDonnell, who plays Stands With A Fist, an English woman whose Indian husband has recently been killed, commented on the making of the film concerning the ways in which these rituals leant a profound understanding of the significant moments of Sioux life “The spiritual life of the Sioux emerged in a very subtle and unordained way. When it occurred you could feel around you a kind of genetic understanding of the importance of that moment for the tribe. It was a moment that appealed to something higher, and to the awareness of its loss at the same time. I found that both very sad and uplifting” (Keith 135).
We see in this film that the racist views of whites toward the Indians is something that has been nurtured in them, not something that is inherent in their nature. We see this in the way Kicking Bird, Wind In His Hair, and Ten Bears have a strong personality and know exactly who they are through the rituals and cust