Lily Gladstone, the female lead in the Martin Scorsese directorial, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ essays a commendable performance as Mollie Kyle/Burkhart, a Native American woman who saw great adversity in Oklahoma during the 1920s Reign of Terror. The film’s depiction of the Osage Nation defines its narrative as it follows Mollie’s husband, Ernest Burkhart, who targets members of the Indigenous Tribe in a wealth grab alongside his uncle, William Hale. Therefore, since the film delves into the historical mistreatment of the Osage People with Gladstone’s character, Mollie, at its center, viewers must be compelled to wonder about the actress’ ethnic background and connections to the Osage people.
Lily Gladstone Is Blackfeet and Nez Perce With European Heritage
While Lily Gladstone is a Native American, she does not belong to the Osage Nation. Instead, she’s half-white on her mother’s side and Blackfeet (Niitsitapi) and Nez Perce (Nimíipuu) on her father’s side. Born in Browning, Montana, the woman grew up at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation until the age of 13. Eventually, in 2013, she debuted as an actress in the film, ‘Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.’
Yet, almost a decade into her career, Gladstone found herself second-guessing her profession of choice. Although many actors undergo such a moment of doubt, Gladstone’s lack of certainty stemmed from her identity as a Native woman since she wasn’t coming across roles she was compelled to do. Nonetheless, ‘Killer of the Flower Moon’ proved to be a refreshingly different story.
The actress found Scorcese’s film to be a wonderful opportunity to present a Native American story in a way that hasn’t been done before. “It [the film’s story] is a hundred years ago, but really it’s a modern story,” said the actress. “It’s like you see images that are really exciting, like native people driving around in Rolls Royce(s), you know. So it changes our image to something that’s more real in that way.”
Most of all, Gladstone was thrilled to be a part of a story that speaks of the resilience of Native Americans. Even though the actress comes from a different tribe, she intimately understands the weight of her history, wherein people have consistently tried to eradicate Native Tribal Nations. As such, a sense of solidarity helped her understand the experiences of the Osage Tribe.
Still, since Gladstone isn’t Osage, she came into the project as an outsider. “We all have somewhat similar histories in regards to, you know, federal policy. But the Reign of Terror is very specifically Osage,” said the actress in a conversation with CBS Mornings. “You know, I came in with, you know, wanting to handle it the way I would expect somebody to come in and tell a story about my great-grandmother.”
As a result, Gladstone did her due diligence research by meeting with Osage families to learn about their story and history and formed close bonds with them. Furthermore, like her co-stars, the Native American actress also learned to speak the Osage language to maintain her character and the overall film’s authenticity. Even though the process was months in the making, due to the language’s different pace of speaking, the language ultimately transformed the way Gladstone moved as her character, Mollie. As such, despite her difference in Native American heritage, Gladstone brings her Osage character to life with exceptional authenticity.
Read More: What Happened to Mollie Burkhart’s Children?