To put this movie into perspective, the writer, Punke, is white and serves as a trade representative and US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. This may explain the subtle, yet sinister way that the movie distorts history.
To begin with, the movie perpetuates the myth that Native Americans scalped settlers. However, this barbaric custom was introduced by the Spaniards and adopted by settlers, who would often offer bounties for the scalps of Native Americans.
The movie also shows the Native Americans as violent and vengeful, searching for settlers to kill and attacking groups of people unprovoked. This demonizes Native Americans and gives viewers the idea that settlers had somehow been justified in history for defending themselves [sic] against the Native Americans.
It also glorifies Americans, as the hero of the movie is a white, American male (DiCaprio) and a massacre perpetuated on an Indian village shown in the movie is carried out by the French, not Americans.
Another subtle distortion of history includes the description of the Pawnees and Sioux Indians. The Pawnees are idealized in this movie, and one Pawnee character tells DiCaprio that his village was massacred by the Sioux. While the Pawnees and Sioux were known to be old tribal enemies, according the book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown, Pawnees were historically known to be mercenary scouts of the white settlers, often helping them to hunt down other bands of Native Americans fleeing from Americans soldiers.
The movie uses graphic violence throughout, as our society becomes more and more desensitized to violence that we crave more and more. Violence sells.
This movie has won several Golden Globe awards, but the danger here is that Hollywood is very effective in influencing what we believe even if it is a lie. Although the acting is well performed and it uses many First Nation actors, the hero is white. It is a shame and a sham.
Could you image a best selling movie where the hero was Native American? What about a movie about a real Native American hero like Crazy Horse - an Oglala Sioux warrior that never gave up defending his people? But I doubt Hollywood or the American public is ready for a real dose of history.