Impoverishing the People

Published on January 31st, 2016 | by Rick Robison




This past weekend I went to see the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Revenant. I’ve been on the scout for this one for some time. In so many ways it did not disappoint.

On the other hand, as I sat back to enjoy the ride a familiar feeling swept me. “It was déjà vu all over again,” in the words of baseball great Yogi Berra. Yes, we’ve been down this road before.

Back in 1970 I was there. We were up to our eyeballs in destructive hippie nonsense—sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To many it was cool then to be seen protesting America and the Viet Nam War. The Left’s radical tradition—which had been mostly dead and buried with the rise of the bloody, hyper-leftist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics following World War II and the launching of the Cold War—had suddenly found new life in the drug-crazed 60s and 70s.

I remember as a young man, about 19, sitting in a theater and watching the highly acclaimed movie Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman. That same year I’d seen Soldier Blue, another “Western,” but with unmistakably modern, liberal creds. Billy Jack came along about the same time, and an assortment of Hollywood offerings that insisted on showing us how “evil” America was.


Thinking of my youth in the 70s, my mind began to recall that a generation after these anti-war, Leftist-inspired propaganda pieces from the Viet Nam Era, came Hollywood’s next return to square-one with Dances With Wolves (1990) screened nearly 20 years to the day after Little Big Man. I’ll bet you do remember Dances With Wolves, right? (This flick should put us into familiar territory for most modern readers.) Kevin Costner’s directing debut was a huge hit. The cinematography was magical, and the music to die for. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Still, in reality, Kevin Costner offered nothing new. The Hollywood Icon Dustin Hoffman (Little Big Man) had done it all before in 1970, along with Candice Bergen (Soldier Blue), and a host of others. In reality, Hollywood, since the 1960s, like much of our cultural, educational, and political institutions, had been hijacked by the Viet Nam protest generation. The Leftist tradition in America and Europe has become in very fact a religion, of sorts, its latest offering found today in The Revenant.


Now, don’t misunderstand my sincerity, or misinterpret my passion for The Revenant. I loved it. In fact, I’ve enjoyed all of the above mentioned works of art over a relatively long lifetime. It’s just interesting to me to see once more that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” As well, observing these creative offerings I always approach them as I would approach any work of art. If I didn’t, their historical inaccuracies and philosophical gobbledygook, with obvious ties to modern Leftist political thought and agenda would drive me crazy.

In truth this topic has much more to offer. So let’s expose the fallacies for what they are and separate the good from the bad.


To fully understand the insidious message you must see the documentary accompanying The Revenant. The producers of the movie crafted a companion documentary piece showing some of the challenges facing directors, producers, and the actors who made the film. It goes without saying that this history, to me, is one of the truly great untold American legacies. America just didn’t appear out of nothing. It was built over time and at great personal sacrifice. America as a nation was pried from the claws of a hostile, even deadly, wilderness—massive and trackless, where all life was dirt-cheap, where “life was nasty, brutish, and short,” in the words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbs.


The movie producers’ companion documentary (to a lesser extent), and the movie (perhaps more so) successfully imparted the truly impossible challenges of opening the West. Still, the mountain men and American Indians were much less vulnerable than the relatively civilized American pioneer families who would follow these first trailblazers. In fact without them, the case could be made that the history of the American West would not be recognizable today. Such men as Hugh Glass, and a relative handful of others, including key American Indians like Sacajawea, Chief Washakie, and Sally of the Shoshonis, and untold others, are in fact essential American founders, even mentors, who trained and stood by those Western heroes we honor today. The Revenant’s Hugh Glass (played by Leo DiCaprio) was one such hero. Like any story from history, some people were good, some bad, and some it’s hard to put a handle on.

Yet, the overarching theme from our beloved Hollywood elites has not changed significantly from The Revenant to Dances With Wolves and back to Little Big Man and Soldier Blue. Hollywood still insists on convincing the world that white, ignorant, unwashed American “invaders” were mostly the bad guys, and the pristine, innocent, generally peaceable “Native Americans” were the “exploited minorities” of the day. For primarily political reasons they want the world force-fed the theme of America’s “genocide” carried out upon its native inhabitants.


The accompanying Revenant documentary (available on Youtube) persisted in abruptly jump-cutting back and forth from the 1820s to the modern day, showing a modern version of the “exploited” Native American watching the “evil oil companies” raping the earth while his people “received pennies on the dollar” for their “stolen” resources, “just as in the past.” As the camera zoomed into the Indian’s face, I expected to see the lone, single tear coursing his cheek, just as we had once seen (in the 1970s) in the government’s TV classic anti-littering ad campaign featuring an Indian standing on the shore of a river as disrespectful whites throw garbage at his feet (also available on Youtube). Again, as it so often does, Hollywood (and our government) returns to what they considered tried and true. To me, however, (as in The Revenant Documentary) it smacked of the tawdry and inauthentic.

Here’s why:

I’ve spent much of my life living with, and studying, the American Indian. I use the term “American Indian” because all of my friends who are from several American tribes have told me that’s the correct term they prefer (or more often, they prefer being called by their affiliated tribal name, of which they are most proud).


Oh, you’ll find the obnoxious, loudmouth activist “Native American” who insists on this exclusionist and imprecise moniker. We see them occasionally, usually in the media, city-Indians who wouldn’t know a bison from a Buick. And the last thing they’d know is how to clean, skin, and cook the beast in the ways of their ancestors, or identify the best cuts of meat their ancestors preferred. I’ve known too many of these phonies, buying and selling their past as modern day “professional Indians.” Tell me, except in the entertainment industry, where does a “professional Indian” find work these days? In reality, most don’t. And that’s the tragedy.

In truth, the American Indian today bears little or no actual resemblance to their honored ancestors. Obesity and diabetes are epidemic on the reservation. Their honored ancestors experienced neither. Nearly every modern Indian boy on the reservation I’ve known wants to be a rodeo circuit rider, winning “best all around cowboy,” the pinnacle of the rodeo profession. Yes, that’s right. A professional cowboy. In essence—and these are not my words—nearly every modern American Indian from whatever tribe they hail, are “apples” (by their own admission)—red on the outside and white at the core.


I know of what I speak. I lived for years with the Navajo, on the Reservation in the Four Corners area of the Southwest. Also the Hopi, Zuni, and Ute reservations. I learned the language of the Navajo (though most young Navajos today speak their language poorly, or not at all), and worked every day with them side-by-side, repairing their homes or hogans, their log bridges that were washed out, nursing them (particularly the elderly) when sick, birthing babies, driving around in snowstorms and too often pulling young men or women out of snow banks in a drunken stupor, and burying those who die at rates several times the national average, usually by suicide or overdose. We fought against the ubiquitous alcoholism, drug use, and disease, but mostly gut-wrenching depression and murderous despair. I lost colleagues, several, killed trying to help on the “Res.” Perhaps worst of all I watched as the federal government’s reservation system, established more than a century ago by what were the beginnings of the Left in this country—so-called “Secular Progressives”—systematically decimate these ancient peoples. The Federal Government, through their political policies of “social justice” and “equality,” is destroying a once great people by turning them into dependent, shackled wards of the State.

If you question my words, take even a superficial look at the statistics: highest levels of alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide in the country, by far. Highest levels of poverty and depression, child abuse and neglect, malnutrition, disease, welfare dependence, infant mortality, and shortest life-spans. Of course the makers of The Revenant documentary never once touched on these obvious side-effects of current (and past) American Leftist government policy. Instead, they do what deceivers do—they cherry-pick their facts and completely ignore the overarching and undergirding truth. I can list a dozen just from the Documentary alone.


I also have a personal stake in this. My ancestors are Shoshoni. My triple-great grandmother was Sally of the Shoshonis, whose life is one of the truly amazing untold stories of America. She fell in love with two mountain men—a French trapper, Jean Baptiste Xavier, and my direct ancestor, Elijah Ward, from Virginia. She was kidnapped as a girl and taken to St. Louis and raised and educated in the ways of the white man. She fled West to find her home when just a teen, marrying both Xavier, and later Elijah, having several children by both men. A tragic, yet inspiring story of America. I’ve written a book on their amazing adventures and contributions titled: Torn Between Two Worlds (see “My Books” on this website).


In many ways I’ve lived their lives—in research, in walking the same ground they struggled on, where they fought and died. I visit Grandpa Elijah’s gravesite regularly. We don’t know where Sally is buried. This wonderfully effective husband and wife team lived much of the same story we see in The Revenant.

As I followed their path I began to realize that the way this story is usually presented today by the Hollywood Left, and as they portrayed it in the 1990s movies, and before that in the 70s, is no more “accurate” than how Hollywood portrayed Indians in the movies of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Probably less. In truth the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. That’s hardly fair and balanced. It’s radical political extremism, whether left or right. It does damage to refrain from telling the American people, and the world, the most important truths of this story, that of critical cooperation of the mountain men and the American Indians, of how the Indians mentored and molded some of our most important American iconic heroes. These peoples intermarried; they formed friendships, partnerships, and alliances. Many mountaineers were honorary tribal members, like Jim Beckwourth, who was also black and a former slave. The great Rocky Mountain Wilderness was the great equalizer, liberating (or destroying) all men brave enough to venture within. The story of interracial comradery—very often between Indian, Mexican, black and white—is never told today. Yet, in one written account of my ancestor, Elijah Ward, he always maintained that he felt more comfortable with the red man than with his own white race.

Of course, this is not the place to fully correct the record. Not enough space to do it justice. If you want to gain a truly accurate look at the opening of the West then read Torn Between Two Worlds. Just keep in mind that Leo DiCaprio, or Kevin Costner, or Dustin Hoffman or Candice Bergen, in fact none of these Hollywood elites will ever provide an accurate account. Why?

Because they can’t. They are too steeped in their own ideology, their preconceived notions, but mostly they lack the requisite humility to step back and take an honest look at the whole story. More importantly, it doesn’t fit the Hollywood mindset of those they vacation and party with, nor does it align with the Left’s modern political activist agenda to bring about the “transformation of the United States of America” because of America’s past “sins,” against the environment, against its native peoples, against the “poor,” take your pick. There must always be “victims” or activist political extremism grinds to a halt.


As well, calling the American Indian anything other than his chosen tribal name (Shoshoni, Ute, Flathead, Crow, etc.), or what most Indians prefer, “American Indian,” is ludicrous. The “Native American” handle only drives wedges between American ethnic groups, them versus us. Haven’t we seen the ugly fruit of such self-serving political policies by segregating these tribes on undeveloped, poverty-stricken reservations? Such hellholes not only breed and enable the above social ills, but also help ensure that these once proud peoples remain all their lives welfare dependents of the Federal Government. I once had an old hatathlee (medicine man), who was sitting on a wooden stool in the front of his hogan, pointing to a cow corralled nearby, say to me: “You know, I am like that steer captured in that pen, I am kept and caged, with my children, by the government in Wash-shin-doon, like a hobbled beast, like a neutered bull.”

The tragedy of big, Nanny-State Government is not that it wastes money…but that it wastes people.


Of course, you’d think that if these wealthy entertainment icons were truly sincere they’d want to make movies that would actually help their so-called “Native Americans.” So, when I see Hollywood and the Left say (as they did in their Documentary on The Revenant) that they hope their movies will “help the ‘native peoples’ who’ve been so woefully maltreated” I have to sit back and wonder: “How bad to they truly want to help? Did Mr. DiCaprio take some time and go live on these hopeless reservations, repair leaky hogan roofs, perhaps work in an Indian alcohol and drug addiction clinic, or drive the reservation and pull unconscious alcoholics out of frozen ditches, or maybe petition politicians to actually help the American Indian to become productive, independent, successful members of American society? Or has Leo simply done his easy, misinformed promo interviews, spoken his inaccurate movie and documentary lines, taken his big, fat check to the bank, and then simply moved on to his next film project?

My point is that since Hollywood exploited this genuine suffering and made hundreds of millions of dollars on the back of the plight of the American Indian since the 1970s, and then again in the 1990s, and now once more today in Revenant, has anything been done by Hollywood, or by our mostly Leftist Government, of any real value to truly help these formerly proud peoples stand on their own?

Of course, the answer is “no.” “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,” (John Adams).

And mark my words, in another two decades Hollywood will once again “discover” the “plight of the ‘Native American’,” produce another probably multi-billion dollar movie extravaganza, and then return to their red carpet venues, their Academy Awards, their garden parties and posh Brentwood mansions and pools, and pat each other on the back over how much they “truly do care.”

It’s déjà vu all over again.




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I have a standing rule to live by…a liberty to follow my own will in all things…and never subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man—Life, liberty, and property.

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