Dances With Wolves Movie Questions

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History Through Film

Westward Expansion

Dances With Wolves
Movie Questions

1. Which war is being fought in the beginning of the movie?


2. What does Lt. Dunbar do to avoid having his leg amputated?


3. “I’ve always wanted to see the frontier before its gone”

What does Lt. Dunbar mean before its gone?

4. Describe the land as Lt. Dunbar travels to Fort Sedgwick


American Policy

When white people began to settle the Plains, conflict developed with Native American groups. In 1867 the federal government appointed the Indian Peace Commission to develop a policy toward Native Americans. The commission recommended moving the Native Americans to a few large reservations, land set aside for them. The army was given authority to deal with any groups that would not move. Moving Native Americans to reservations was not a new policy, but the government increased its efforts in that direction.

Reading Questions

5. Define reservation


6. What two government agencies were given authority to deal with Native Americans?


Movie Questions

7. How do the Native Americans react when they first meet Lt. Dunbar?


8. How do the Native Americans and Dunbar communicate?

Following the Buffalo

The Great Plains had been home to many Native American nations for centuries. Some, like the Omaha and the Osage nations, lived in communities as farmers and hunters. Most of the Plains Indians, however, including the Sioux, the Comanche, and the Blackfeet, lived a nomadic life. They traveled vast distances following their main source of food-great herds of buffalo.

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Reading Questions

9. Define nomadic


10. List 3 ways in which Native Americans used the buffalo.


For most of their history, the Plains Native Americans had millions of buffalo to supply their needs. After the Civil War, however, American hunters hired by the railroad began slaughtering the animals to feed the crews building the railroads. The railroad companies also wanted to prevent the giant herds of buffalo from blocking the trains. Starting in 1872, hunters targeted buffalo to sell the hides back east.

11. How did Native American use of the buffalo compare to white Americans?

Movie Questions

12. How do the Native Americans react when they see the hideless buffalo? Who is responsible?


13. Explain Dunbar’s quote, “Guns would make one warrior like two.” Why is this important to the Sioux in this scene?


Reservation Life

Government agents often used trickery to persuade Native American nations to move to the reservations. Many reservations were located on poor land. In addition, the government often failed to deliver promised food and supplies, and the goods that were delivered were of poor quality.

A great many Native Americans accepted the reservation policy at first, and they agreed to move to the lands that had been set aside for them. However, some Native Americans refused to move, while others who tried reservation life eventually abandoned it.

Reading Question

14. Describe Indian life on a reservation.


Movie Questions

15. What phrase does Lt. Dunbar (Dances With Wolves) use to describe the amount of white settlers coming to Sioux territory?


16. Why do the US soldiers attack Dunbar?


17. How are US soldiers portrayed in the movie? Use an example to explain your reason.



Westward migration of white settlers in the mid-1800s caused conflicts with Native Americans on the Great Plains. White settlers fought with any groups, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, Apache, and Navajo. After the Civil War, the US government implemented a reservation policy. Some Native Americans agreed to move to reservations; others resisted. :::desktop:hist_battle_map.gif

Reading Questions

18. Put the battles in chronological order on the timeline below

A Changing Culture:::desktop:dawes act.jpg

Many factors changed Native American life-the movement of whites onto their lands, the slaughter of the buffalo, US army attacks, and the reservation policy. Change also came from reformers who wanted to absorb Native Americans into the white culture.

In 1887 Congress passed the Dawes Act. It aimed to Americanize Native Americans by removing what whites regarded as two weaknesses of Native American life: the lack of private property, and the nomadic tradition. The act called for the break up of reservations and an end to identification with tribal groups. Each Native American would receive a plot of reservation land. The government sold the remainder of the land to white settlers.
Another way to Americanize Native Americans into American culture was by sending Native Americans to places such as the Carlisle School, or Hampton Institute. There they would be forbidden to speak traditional languages, given Americanized haircuts and clothing, American names, and would be taught to become devout Catholics.

Reading Questions:::desktop:carlisle200-a327d5e2df23a9f048a52b69efd341c4ecbb9121-s6-c30.jpg

19. Explain the two ways the US government tried to assimilate (Americanize) Native Americans.


Movie Questions

20. Describe the relationship between Lt. Dunbar and the Sioux. How does it evolve throughout the movie? Do you think there is a message behind this? If so, then what?


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