Lily Gladstone has made history at the Golden Globes, becoming the first Indigenous actor to win a Globe since the awards began 81 years ago.
Gladstone, who grew up on the Blackfeet Nation reservation in Browning, Montana, took home the award for Best Female Actor — Motion Picture — Drama for their role as Osage woman Mollie Burkhart in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon.
Accepting the award, Gladstone spoke the Blackfeet language to open their powerful speech.
“I just spoke a bit of Blackfeet language, a beautiful community nation that raised me, that encouraged me to keep going, keep doing this,” she said. “My mom, even though she’s not Blackfeet, worked tirelessly to get our language into our classroom so I had a Blackfeet language teacher growing up.” Gladstone’s father is of Blackfeet and Nimiipuu heritage and her mother is white.
“I’m so grateful that I can speak even a little bit of my language, which I’m not fluent in up here, because in this business, Native actors used to speak their lines in English and then the sound mixers would run them backwards to accomplish Native languages on camera,” Gladstone said.
“This is a historic one, and it doesn’t belong to just me,” they said. “I’m holding it with all of my beautiful sisters in the film at this table over here and my mother [in Killers of the Flower Moon], Tantoo Cardinal, standing on all of your shoulders.”
“This is for every little res kid, every little urban kid, every little Native kid out there who has a dream,” Gladstone concluded, “who is seeing themselves represented, and our stories told by ourselves, in our own words with tremendous allies and tremendous trust with and from each other.”
Gladstone’s performance was described by Mashable’s film editor Kristy Puchko in her review as “one of keening and personal agony, but also of joy and steely resilience.”
Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
Credit: Apple TV+
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Irene Bedard, who is of Iñupiat and Métis heritage and a Koyuk citizen, is the only other Indigenous actor to be nominated for a Golden Globe (in 1994, for Best Actress in a miniseries or TV movie in Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee). Beyond actors, Māori/Jewish director Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy in 2020. And Reservation Dogs, created by Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, a member of the Seminole Nation who has Muskogee heritage, was up for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 2022— though the series was snubbed this year.
The Golden Globes is still rebuilding since its representation controversy within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and its history of largely ignoring projects by and featuring people of colour. In Hollywood in general, it’s still a pretty dismal picture for Indigenous representation onscreen.
According to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s research brief by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, published in October 2023 at the time of the release of Killers of the Flower Moon, just one protagonist from the top 1,600 highest earning, theatrical release movies from the last 16 years was Native American: The New Mutants‘ Dani Moonstar/Mirage of the Cheyenne Nation, played by Blu Hunt, who is of Oglala Lakota ancestry herself.
Of a total of 62,224 characters present in these films, just 133 were American Indian/Alaskan Native characters which “calculates to less than a quarter of one percent (0.21) of all speaking characters coded for race/ethnicity.” Notably, only 99 of these roles were played by Native actors. Of the last 16 years of theatrical releases, the year with the most depictions was 2017, with “with 20 Native characters shown across the 100 top movies”, and the Twilight franchise accounts for the most portrayals, “with 39 or 29.3 percent of all Native characters appearing in this series.”
“Given that roughly 1.3 percent of the U.S. identify as Native American,” the report read, “the portrayal in Hollywood is astonishingly below the real world statistic.”