The Revolution Will Be Filmed: American Indian Response to the Colonizer’s Rhetoric
When speaking of an American Indian revolution, one must understand that it cannot occur in the same fashion or form that the French, Russian, or Haitian Revolutions took place in. The armed taking of Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C., and the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee in North Dakota highlight both a rising political consciousness within American Indian communities as well as a rising consciousness of Indian presence within American society at large. However, as evidenced by the outcome of these armed entanglements between the United States government and the American Indian during the 1970s proved, the American Indian was simply far too outnumbered to reclaim their lands in the fashion in which it was taken from them. Instead, American Indian artists began reclaiming their cultural heritage via the arts by responding to the written and visual forms of rhetoric utilized by colonizing forces in claiming the land as their own, as well as offering a counter narrative to the decades of inauthentic and problematic portrayals of the Indian in film since the early days of cinema. Within the last thirty to forty years, a growing number of American Indian filmmakers have artistically responded to the rhetoric of colonizers and their Eurocentric descendants, effectively reclaiming land and historical presence from the colonizer working under the concept of Manifest Destiny.
In establishing the American Indian as the Other, European colonizers and settlers have a very long history of classifying and debasing the American Indian in an attempt to subjugate them. This tendency in the European settlement and colonization of America can be traced as far back as Columbus. “’So tractable, so peacable are these people,’ Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain, ‘that I swear to your Majesties there is not in the world a better nation…and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners and decorous and praiseworthy.’” Though Columbus indeed compliments the manners of the Taino, he also refers to them as tractable, later claiming that they should be “made to work, sow and do all that is necessary to adopt our ways.” David Spurr has written that, “the classification of indigenous peoples according to their relative complexity of social organization becomes more systematic and articulated as it directly serves the interests of colonial administration.” By classifying the Taino as peaceful and tractable peoples, they are portrayed as unlikely to rise in rebellion and fit for colonization and slavery. Hundreds of years later, debasement along the western frontier in the new country known as the United States of America served to further distance the colonizer from the American Indian Other and facilitate the concept of Manifest Destiny, in which it was God’s will for the Ango-Saxon races to spread across the face of America. At this point in history, the words “decorous” and “praiseworthy” stopped being used in reference to American Indians, and rhetoric such as Philip Sheridan’s statement, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead” became the normative. Spurr has also stated that, “when notions such as ‘civilization’ and ‘reason’ are in danger of being called into question, their definition, as well as their identification with a particular people, is established by pointing to their supposed opposites, to what can be designated as ‘savagery’ or ‘madness.’” American Indian stereotypes were created out of forms of debasement that took hold during this era. These stereotypes and tropes regarding the savage Indian were in face created by the concept of Manifest Destiny. If it is God’s will for the Anglo-Saxon race to spread across the American landscape, then surely any obstacle to this colonization must be evil, uncivilized, and savage. Hence, the savage Indian stereotype was created out the very real resistance performed by western American Indian tribes in the face of colonization.
 Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (New York: Henry Holt and Company LLC, 2000). P. 1.
 Spurr, David. The Rhetoric of Empire (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993). P. 68.
 Ibid. P. 76.
 Berger, John. Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin, 1977). P. 11.
 Kilpatrick, Jacquelyn. Celluloid Indians: Native Americans and Film (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1999). P. 54.
 Laderman, David. Driving Visions: Exploring the Road Movie (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002). P. 2.