One of the parts of American history that I am least familiar with is the history of the Indians. Until I started studying the Colonial Era, I did not realize just how many nations and tribes existed in North America.
Reel Injun, filmed and produced by Neil Diamond in 2009, is an intriguing look at Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans over the decades. The strength of the film is it is told from a non-White perspective, which I think, gives one a better understanding of how the stereotypes, created by films, impacted generations of children and adults.
One interview that stood out for me was of a middle-aged Indian explaining how he and his brother would watch Westerns at the local theater on Saturdays. But when the finale of the movie began — the scene where the Calvary or other white men pursued and killed all the Indians — his brother would put his head down and refuse to watch. Having watched plenty of Westerns myself, I never once thought about the type of message the films delivered to impressionable kids.
The movie is filled with old familiar clips, includes an interview with Clint Eastwood, and has a couple surprises — like famous actors billed as Native Americans in real life who were not Indian.
The documentary is currently available on Netflix.