Native American Women as Palimpsestic Apparitions in Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu’s The Revenant

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2022




Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu’s mythic retelling of the Hugh Glass story revises and critiques the grand narratives of American exceptionalism born of the frontier. It highlights the violence bred of racism that weaves throughout the history of westward expansion, undercuts the genre’s tendency toward white privilege through multi-lingual narratives, and centers a counter-narrative focused on Indigenous families and women. Building from and reflecting on my earlier work in Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film, this essay reads the film’s representation of Native/First Nations women as palimpsestic apparitions of the Celluloid Indian Maiden trope that are both progressive and problematic in their ability to counter white hegemonic narratives of power and ongoing racism. This reading engages the dialogical tension between Iñárritu’s representation of his two primary Indigenous women—the “ghost” of Glass’ wife and Powaqa—allowing us to explore the hegemonic power of cinematic tropes in residual form. Ultimately, as Indigenous responses are brought to bear witness, we are asked to consider our ongoing attachment to particular tropes and depictions of Indigenous women even as we attempt to critique them.


This article published in the European Journal of American Studies and is available at https://journals.openedition.org/ejas/18235

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