‘Yellowstone’ TV: Kevin Costner is an Honorary Member of the Sioux Nation after ‘Dances With Wolves’

by Katie Maloney

Kevin Costner makes Western movie history with his 1990 film Dances With Wolves.

Undoubtedly, Dances With Wolves is an iconic film. Directed by and starring Kevin Costner, the movie won seven Academy Awards and grossed over $400 million. In fact, Dances With Wolves is the highest-grossing Western of all time. In conclusion, this movie is epic. But that wasn’t always the popular opinion. The movie is three hours long. Costner and the crew went a million dollars over budget while filming. And the movie starred several unknown actors. Additionally, the movie included lots of dialogue in a language that most audiences didn’t recognize. Almost a third of the dialogue is in Lakota. In other words, lots of people thought Dances With Wolves was going to flop. But Kevin Costner knew otherwise and soon, the world followed suit.

The Sioux Nation Welcomed Kevin Costner as an Honorary Member

Dances With Wolves is about a Civil War lieutenant who befriends a tribe of Sioux Indians and navigates the harsh realities of the west. The film depicted the peaceful lives of the Lakota Sioux before the land was taken over in the 1870s during the search for gold. As an honorary member, Kevin Costner attended a ceremony during which tribal leaders presented him with a hand-woven quilt. During the ceremony, leaders tied an eagle feather into his hair. This act was a gesture of appreciation for his sensitivity to Sioux traditions.

During a post-ceremony interview in 1990, Albert Whitehat talked about getting to know Costner. Whitehat was a Lakota elder and a cultural adviser for the film. Whitehat also adopted Costner.

“When the movie was done, one of my granddaughters, who was an extra, kept on saying ‘Kevin this’ and ‘Kevin that.’ ‘What is this first-name basis?’ I asked. ‘And what kind of a guy is this Kevin? We ought to check him out.’ Now we all admire and respect his courage to break the barriers for us in bringing our two cultures together,” said Whitehat.

However, a few years after the induction, Kevin Costner and his brother Dan purchased several hundred acres of land in South Dakota. The two wanted to use about 600 acres of National Forest land for an 18-hole golf course. The proposed $100 million resort was also supposed to include a 350-room lodge. And an outdoor amphitheater built on adjacent private land. Obviously, the Sioux were not happy. In the end, developing the project proved difficult, and the Costners ditched the project in 2013.