Date of Award



© 2014 Kathleen Labbe

Document Type



Political Science

First Advisor

Ali Abdulatiff Ahmida


A major institution in perpetuating beliefs of Native Americans as the “other” during the Twentieth Century was the Hollywood Western. This highly popular genre perpetuated the myth of Native Americans as the “other,” an animal like savage that could be saved only with the intervention and assimilation of White ideals and society. This paper focuses on the following questions. Firstly, why and how has the Native American been continuingly labeled, invented, and accepted as the other both in American academia and the cultural consciousness? Lastly, how has the myth of the good, white, rugged pioneer cowboy versus the savage Native American been revisited, changed, or challenged in recent history? This paper analyzes two popular Hollywood Westerns from the early to mid-Twentieth Century, John Ford’s Fort Apache (1948) and The Searchers (1956), and one Hollywood film from the 1990s featuring Native American culture, Dances with Wolves (1990). Previous theories by leading scholars, such as James Scott and Mahmood Mamdani have also been integrated. The paper also examines how the myth of the United States as a land of progression, and the labeling and portrayal of Native Americans as the “other,” has resulted in the negative and stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in new media, specifically Hollywood films during the Twentieth Century. Further, analysis is extended to explain how even the critically acclaimed sympathetic Native American films of the late Twentieth Century do not eradicate the negative and stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, but rather redefines the Native cultural image in a continuingly negative and stereotypical light.


Senior thesis