Little Big Man

Question: In all honesty I have little (if any) anthropological knowledge of what life was like for Native Americans in the USA in the nineteenth century. But it seemed to me that, for much of the time, the Native Americans in the movie did not resemble the members of a 'hunter gatherer' society whose way of life was under threat from the onset of the modern industrial world. Instead the Native Americans seemed to live, act and behave much more like the members of a 1960's hippie commune. How accurate is that?

Rob Halliday

Answer: Some members of tribes like the Cheyenne joined in the 'modern' world to some extent, using guns and even putting on Western clothes and eating Western food. While nowhere near the technological nous of the white settlers, the natives were far from being hunter gatherers at this point.

Answer: Well observed sir! What you say is correct. I admit I probably was wrong in calling Native North Americans 'hunter gatherers' as I think some tribes had agriculture and permanent settlements well before Columbus ever reached the American Continent. I also think that the Cherokee consciously tried to adapt to modern life by building houses and becoming farmers. My point was more that it seemed to me that the portrayal of many Native Americans in Little Big Man did not seem historically accurate, but showed them as being more like 1960's hippies. But I am fully aware that this may have been intentional, since the film was giving a 1960's 'spin' on the legends of the 'Wild West'. But please, do not take my posts on this website too seriously. I am fully aware that this was a film made to entertain people, it was not meant to be a historical documentary. And it was the fictional recollections of a 121 year old man. And the film poster said 'Little Big Man was either the most neglected hero in history OR A liar of insane proportion', so you are invited to have your doubts about anything that happens in the film.

Rob Halliday

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