In Dances with Wolves, examine decisions that John Dunbar makes throughout the movie in dealing with the Sioux Native Americans and the Army?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most intense decisions that Dunbar makes is his conscious attempt to embrace the solidarity with the Sioux and distancing himself from the American army.  Due to the isolation that Dunbar experiences, he is able to accept the solidarity with the Sioux, embracing their culture and their own identity.  He does this by shedding the American military view of the Sioux.  This viewpoint is one that sees the Sioux, and all Native Americans, as a force to be conquered and whose territory should fall under the control of the United States army and government.  It becomes evident that Dunbar rejects this when he embraces what it means to be a Sioux in participating in the buffalo hunt as well as defending the Sioux from another tribe's attack.  Dunbar also makes a conscious decision to reject the army's understanding when he escapes, with help from the Sioux.  In this, one can see that Dunbar has made an official distance from his former position with the army and has embraced a life that moves him ever closer to the life of the Sioux Native Americans.  In this, the decision to reject his own past and remake his own conception of self becomes one of the strongest themes of the film.  Through such an idea, the powerful element of how individuals can make conscious decisions to remake their own vision of self is where the film makes its strongest statement in what Dunbar decides in terms of his own identity and that of Native Americans:

Dances with Wolves enshrines, dignifies, and ennobles the Indian within us.  The Indian in us can rise up, stand tall, and feel a respected equal to the other inner selves that make up our whole self.

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