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Native Americans in Film collection

Identifier: Ayer-Modern-MS-NAIF

Scope and Content of the Collection

Collection of movie scripts featuring Native American themes, characters, and actors, augmented by a variety of visual materials. Consists of over 300 items including scripts, press and promotional booklets, lobby cards, posters, and photographs. The bulk of material are scripts written between 1927 to 1995.

Major film studios represented in the collection include Allied Artists, Columbia, MGM, Paramount, Republic, Twentieth Century Fox, United Artists, Universal, Walt Disney, and Warner Brothers. The materials in this collection explore life in the Arctic Circle, Westward expansion, battles between Native Americans and settlers, the fur trade, the old west, frontier life, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, life on reservations, Custer’s battle and the aftermath, the French and Indian War, railroads, Geronimo, mining, massacres, uprising, the American Civil War, the search for gold, characters of mixed heritage, white captivity narratives, cattle ranching, slaughter of buffalo, racism, gunfighting, and truth and reconciliation. This collection contains a variety of genres including silent films, Western serials, Western musicals, comedies, movies based on literature, biographies, science fiction/horror, and documentary.

Native American and non-Native American actors represented within the collection include: Victor Aaron, The Andrew Sisters, Ann-Margret, Desi Arnaz Jr., Irene Bedard, Noah Beery Jr., Irving Berlin, David Bowie, Yul Brynner, Eloy Casados, Lon Chene Jr., Iron Eyes Cody, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Chief Basil White Eagle, Chief Dan George, Chief John Big Tree (Isaac Johnny John), Chief Many Treaties, Chief Sky Eagle, Chief Thunderbird, Chief Thundercloud (Victor Daniels), Chief Yowlachie (Daniel Simmons), Cecil B. DeMille, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dolores Del Rio, Faye Dunaway, Cint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, John Ford, Gene Hackman, Barbara Hale, Richard Harris, Pat Hogan, Thomas H. Ince, Noble Johnson, Celie Kay, Don Knotts, Frank Lackteen, Burt Lancaster, Tom Laughlin, Dawn Little Sky, Eddie Little Sky, Sacheen Littlefeather, Fred MacMurray, Victor Mature, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Elvis Presley, Anthony Quinn, Redfearn, Linda Redwing, Rodd Reynolds, Debbie Riggs, Lynn, Eric Schweig, Victor Sen Yung, George Sherman, Jay Silverheels, Frank Sinatra, Charles Stevens, Sharon Stone, Madeline Stowe, Delores Taylor, Jim Thorpe, Rino Thunder, Spencer Tracy, John War Eagle, John Wayne, Shelley Winters.

Nations and peoples represented in the collection include: Arikara, Apsáalooke (Crow), Chata (Choctaw), Dine'é (Navajo), Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Inde (Apache), Inuit, Iñunaina (Arapaho), Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk), K'oigu (Kiowa), Lakota Sioux, Mamachatpam (Yakama), Niitsítapi (Blackfoot), Nimíipuu (Nez Perce), Numinu (Comanche), Potawatomi, Sahnish (Arikara), Seminole, Shoshone, Tsalagi/Aniyvwiya?i (Cherokee), Tsitsistas (Cheyenne), and Wabanaki.


  • Creation: 1912-2018
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1932-1995



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Native Americans in Film collection is open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Native Americans in Film collection are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

History of the Native Americans in Film Collection

This collection both in visuals and text reflects over a century (films between 1912 and 2018 included here) of Native Americans as represented in mainly Hollywood films. Traditionally, the portrayal of Native Americans in film has been shaped by racialized stereotypes that juxtapose violent, uncivilized, villainous, and hypersexualized Native American archetypes (often played by white actors) against an archetypal hero: the virtuous, white Anglo-Saxon settler. Toward the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond, a number of pictures attempted to portray the Indigenous peoples of the Americas in a more historically accurate light. Represented in this collection are adaptations of classic literature, Western film serials of the 1930s and 40s, the classic films of John Ford, as well as explorations of Native American life in historical and contemporary times. Highlighted are the tribes and nations represented both in casting and film storylines, as well as the Native American actors employed by film studios.

Film titles include “Nanook of the North,” serials “Heroes of the West” and “Rustlers of Red Dog,” “Last of the Mohicans,” “The Plainsman,” “My Darling Clementine,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Comanche Territory,” “Iroquois Trail,” “Apache Drums,” “Half-Breed,” “Chief Crazy Horse,” “The Searchers,” “Flaming Star,” “The Outsider,” “How the West Was Won,” “Cheyenne Autumn,” “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here,” “Little Big Man,” “A Man Called Horse,” “Billy Jack,” “Buffalo Bill and the Indians,” “War Party,” “Geronimo,” “Wild Bill,” and “Dawnland.”


13.8 Linear Feet (18 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, and 1 oversize flat file folder)


Collection of movie scripts featuring Native American themes, characters, and actors, augmented by a variety of visual materials. Consists of over 300 items including scripts, press and promotional booklets, lobby cards, posters, and photographs.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Scripts and Budgets, 1927-1995
Boxes 1-16
Series 2: Promotional material, 1937-1981
Box 17
Series 3: Lobby cards, 1940-1978
Box 18
Series 4: Photographs, 1936-1968, 1989
Box 18
Series 5: Oversize Promotional materials, 1936-1980
Boxes 20-21
Series 6: Oversize Film posters, 1912-2018, bulk 1952-1980
Box 21, Oversize folder 1

Collection Stack Location

3a 54 2; 4a flat file


Purchase, George Robert Minkoff, Inc. Rare Books, 2017. Acquired by the Newberry with the Society of Collectors and Duplicates funds.

Processed by

Analú López and Jennifer Patiño, 2018.

Inventory of the Native Americans in Film collection, 1912-2018, bulk 1932-1995
Analú López and Jennifer Patiño
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022-03-12: Additional materials added to the collection including poster and lobby card photographs for "Navajo" and Polaroid photographs depicting Native American extras in "Dances With Wolves."

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States