‘Y: 1883’: How Much Will ‘Yellowstone’ Prequel Touch on Native American History?

by Jon D. B.

Through Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan’s own background, we know that Y:1883 will be perhaps one of the most brutally honest accounts of Native American and Western settler interactions in Hollywood history.

Friday, Yellowstone fans’ minds were blown as the show’s first spinoff came in a surprise announcement. Accompanying it, both the teaser trailer and plot synopsis reveal Yellowstone: 1883 to be an intense period drama based on American history.

Specifically, we’re told that Y:1883 will follow the ancestors of John Dutton “as they embark on a journey west through the Great Plains towards the last bastion of untamed America.”

In doing so, Yellowstone showrunner and mastermind Taylor Sheridan promises “a stark retelling of Western expansion.” 1883 will serve as “an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land – Montana.”

All of this points to 1883 showing not only the origins of our favorite family – but their Yellowstone Ranch we know so well, as well.

As any American knows, however, the Western settlers were far from the first peoples to live on these lands. With this in mind, the further plot of Y:1883 becomes immediately apparent. Or so it should.

Yellowstone & Native American Rights

To put it plainly for both fiction and reality: there is no Yellowstone without the indigenous peoples of North America. Showrunner Taylor Sheridan has made sure that the history, plight, and triumphs of Native Americans are a proper focus of his series.

To do so, Sheridan pulls from real-life relationships, experiences, and friendships. In doing so, he brings the realities of Native American life to the masses. Indigenous rights is an issue that holds his utmost passion, and has been the focus of much of his work. His most well-received film, Wind River, alongside Yellowstone, showcase this most prominently.

Speaking on the matter, Sheridan tells IMDb: “It is the great shame of my nation the manner in which it has treated the native inhabitants of North America. Sadly, my government continues that shame with an insidious mixture of apathy and exploitation. (…) There is nothing I can do to change the issues afflicting Indian country, but what we can do as artists – and must do – is scream about them with fists clenched. What we can do – is make sure these issues aren’t ignored. Then the people who can effect change will be forced to.”

“It’s unknown … ignored by the media,” he continues. “It’s not that the leaders of these tribes aren’t screaming about it, it’s just that no one’s listening … one of the great things about film: We can give a voice to those that are not being heard,” Sheridan states.

He delivers on this ideal heartily through Yellowstone. Issues he has witnessed first hand, such as underreported violence against women on the reservations of his indigenous friends, inspire much of the storytelling we’ve seen in the show.

From this, we know that no show Sheridan is creator of will skirt these issues. In any matter.

As a result, we know Yellowstone: 1883 is going to be perhaps the most brutally honest retelling of the Western Expansion in Hollywood history.

Those in the Western Expansion had plenty of fellow Americans to squabble over land with. But one hold a history or claim to it like the Native Americans.

In kind, we can be absolutely certain we will see the first clash between the Dutton settlers and the indigenous inhabitants of Montana. We will see the horrors committed, the battles fought, the lives and lands taken. We will see it all.

And as Sheridan’s work on Yellowstone shows us – it will be unforgiving, brutal, and honest.

Ready for Y:1883 already? So are we. Stick with your fellow Yellowstone fans at Outsider.com for all the latest from both shows. Up next: