Who is this ancestor of John Dutton spurning with such an intense turn of phrase? Yellowstone prequel Y:1883 can’t get here soon enough.
Last week gave Yellowstone fans a fantastic surprise announcement. Together, CBSViacom and Paramount Network told fans that Y: 1883 is heading our way – giving us the period-piece prequel Western fans have been yearning for. And thanks to the ominous teaser, we’ve gotten not only our first glimpse at the show’s tone, but at the main character, too.
1883‘s moody, snow-laden teaser begins with the words of an ancestral Dutton. Within, a worn, grizzly voice breaks through the thicke of winter to mark harsh words onto another:
“I don’t care if you live or die. But should you live, you tell them about me…”
By the wordage on display here, we can safely assume that this man is the main protagonist – and direct descendant of John Dutton – which we speculate on heavily here, using Kevin Costner’s own genealogy.
Why do we think this? The dialogue is direct and pointed, and the Duttons are who-to-remember in the Yellowstone legacy. Moreover, 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 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.”
In total, this points to 1883 showing us both the origins of the Duttons and Yellowstone Ranch, as well (fittingly). As any American knows, however, such settlers were far from the first peoples to live on these lands.
With this in mind, we can learn a great deal about who this ancestral Dutton is speaking to through American history.
Yellowstone Duttons vs Native Americans?
The many indigenous tribes of Montana’s wide expanses were well established in the area for eons before the arrival of European settlers. As such, it is likely the man 1883’s Dutton is speaking to is Native American.
Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition had them pass through what would become Montana during 1804-1806, and waves of fir trappers and traders followed suit. With them, these settlers brought alcohol, European diseases, and a new economic system to the indigenous peoples – alongside their languages, like French and English. With Yellowstone’s prequel taking place in 1883, after decades of settler/indigenous interactions, many of the local tribes would have members fluent in both French and this fictional Dutton’s English. As such, a pointed, vicious turn-of-phrase like his teaser line would not be lost on many he would encounter.
According to Montana.gov, the indigenous tribes of the state include “the Crows in the south central region, the Cheyenne in the southeastern part of the state, the Blackfeet, Assiniboine, and Gros Ventres in the central and north-central areas, and the Kootenai and Salish in the western sector. The Pend d’Oreille were [of] Flathead Lake, and the Kalispel occupied the western mountains.”
Given showrunner Taylor Sheridan’s respect for and activism on behalf of Native Americans, we can assume that he will base the opponents of the Dutton settlers on a real indigenous tribe. He will also represent their side of the equation fairly.
Indigenous & Settler Conflicts Paramount in 1883
This time period is rife with conflict between Native Americans and Western Expansion settlers, too. Just before 1883, “The Sioux and Cheyenne were victorious in 1876 at the Battle of the Little Bighorn”. Moreover, “Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce won a battle in the Big Hole Basin (1877),” MT.gov continues. “Yet, in the end, the Indians could not hold out against the strength of the United States Army.”
Around the time of the Yellowstone prequel, cattle ranchers began flourishing due to the demand for beef in mining communities. “After 1870, open-range cattle operations spread across the high plains, taking advantage of the free public-domain land,” MT.gov adds.
It is likely that this will factor heavily into the Dutton’s struggles in 1883, given Yellowstone’s cattle & cowboy legacy.
Interestingly, this decade also coincides with the first railroads crossing Montana. And if Y:1883 runs long enough, then perhaps we’ll be able to watch the Duttons – and indigenous tribes – react as the Montana territory becomes a U.S. state in 1889.
Regardless, Yellowstone: 1883 is going to be perhaps the most brutally honest retelling of the Western Expansion in Hollywood history. And we can’t wait to watch it.
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