Dances with Wolves and the Role of Loyalty

Film Essay

The film Dances With Wolves elicits the importance of loyalty. The Sioux Indians were intensely loyal to their families and other tribal members. John Dunbar was loyal to the Sioux Indians and in doing so, he earned their loyalty. This led to the Sioux Indians rescuing Dunbar and saving his life. Dunbar’s loyalty helped transform him from John Dunbar to Dances With Wolves. When the American Soldiers came, he identified as a member of the Sioux Indians rather than an American Soldier.

Finally, loyalty caused Dunbar to leave the camp so the soldiers would not harm the tribe while they hunted for him.

Watching the film, I was taken emotionally by the power of the relationships developed by Dunbar throughout, more specifically, with his horse. Back in the time period represented in the film, a man’s horse was often his best friend. In this case, the horse became more than just a prize for Dunbar. Once the horse met its end, you could not help but shed tears along with Dunbar.

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Later, his relationship with the wolf developed into not only the title of the film, but also a key symbol of his integration with the tribe. Another significant relationship that evolved throughout the film was between Dunbar and Stands with a Fist. She served as the bridge between the Sioux and American Cultures. Along with translating for Dunbar, she provided him a greater desire to learn more about them. Their love was able to happen regardless of cultural boundaries.

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I found that to be a very hopeful and optimistic message.

There are many characteristics of Sioux culture that are both similar and different compared to American culture. In both instances, the concept of a hero is always an important role. What’s interesting is what each of the cultures would define as a hero. Dunbar instantly gained popularity by leading the buffalo hunt. In American culture, it would take a lot more than just that to become a hero.

The cultural stereotype of the Sioux could be negative because they were thought of as being very wild and war-like. In reality, they were very thoughtful and loyal to one another and their beliefs. In fact, how they fought was virtually harmless. What they actually did was called a coup where they had a long stick and they would ride on their horses as if they were going into battle and whoever touched the opponent with their stick first won. Nobody got hurt. I feel that says a lot about their beliefs as a whole. They seem to really care about one another as a tribe. Even if two people are in different families, they still treat each other like family. They still look out for each other like family. They are loyal to each other as one would be to their family.

Another difference between the two cultures that I noticed was that their wedding ceremonies are completely different. When Dunbar got married to Stands with a Fist, the ceremony was very short and simple. Dunbar also had to give gifts to the bride’s family in order to marry her in the first place because he was not wealthy enough. Fortunately, he got a large amount of gift donations so that he could marry her. Right after the ceremony, the couple was just told to go into the teepee. They didn’t leave the teepee for days. This would never happen in a traditional American wedding ceremony.

The Native Americans also highly value trading. There were many instances throughout the film where Dunbar made trades with the Sioux Indians and has earned trust through making these trades. He then learned why these trades are so important to the Sioux. They value trading so highly because trading is fair. Each party gets something equal. This goes along with the fact that they treat everyone in their tribe like family. They treat everyone with fairness.

All in all, I really enjoyed the film for a plethora of reasons. It elicits the values of the Sioux Indians and it was intriguing to watch Dunbar adapt to their culture and learn to communicate with them, more specifically, watching him become one of them. He started trading with them, helped them hunt for buffalo, and took part in their events . In the beginning, he was alone most of the time and it didn’t seem to bother him but then later in the film he felt lonely when he wasn’t with the tribe even if it was only for a couple of days. It just shows how much it’s really changed him as a person and it was very intriguing to watch.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Dances with Wolves and the Role of Loyalty. (2024, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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