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Osage Nation Passes Bills in Support of Lily Gladstone and Scott George for Roles in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

Indigenous stories aren’t always told with the care, nuance and authenticity they deserve in Hollywood, and, more often than not, their stories aren’t told at all.

While “Killers of the Flower Moon” has certainly prompted discourse within indigenous communities about who should tell what stories, the Osage Nation Congress has unanimously endorsed the creative contributions that Lily Gladstone and Scott George made to the film. The tribal governing body recently passed bills expressing support for their roles in Martin Scorsese’s historical epic. Signed by all 12 members of the legislative branch, the bills became law on Feb. 2.

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Scorsese’s film is based on the murdering spree that targeted Oklahoma’s Osage Nation in the early 20th century, which was executed with the intention of stealing the community’s oil wealth. Gladstone and George are nominated for Academy Awards for best actress and best original song, respectively. Starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Gladstone portrays Mollie Burkhart, the Osage wife of a man involved in the violent scheme. Meanwhile, George, who is Osage, composed the song “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People).”

“We proudly stand behind Lily, Scott, and those who worked tirelessly to tell our story with respect, care, and authenticity,” said Congresswoman Pamela Shaw. “It’s important for people to know they have our support.”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” consulting producer and Osage Nation Ambassador Chad Renfro spoke with Variety about the significance of the film and his experience working on it.

Renfro doesn’t come from a film industry background — he’s an interior designer — but he is of Osage heritage and sought involvement in “Killers of the Flower Moon” when he heard the rights had been sold.

“I reached out to the people at Imperative Entertainment through a contact that I had, and just said, ‘I’m Osage. You need to come and talk to us. In fact, this is going to be a story about us no matter whether it’s told from the FBI’s perspective, or from our perspective. We have a lot of resources and a lot of reasons,'” he said.

Renfro continued, “So I felt strongly about [doing] everything that I could to make sure that our Osage people’s voices were heard. And that was my conviction. For about three years, I worked on this without any idea of what would come of it for me or for any of us, except that I knew that I could get in and push some buttons.”

His work included setting up a team of consultants for all different aspects of production. He also helped bridge cultures and work through the obstacles of Covid.

“But I focused mostly on the unbelievable amount of nuance that it takes to work with people who are worlds apart, in terms of corporate structure, in terms of daily living,” he said.

He also shined a spotlight on the contributions of elder Johnny Williams, who died after production wrapped, but “was very much a driving force on set every day” as he collaborated with Scorsese’s team, actors and consultants.

Renfro also highlighted what audiences can take away from watching “Killers of the Flower Moon”: “People can learn that there is a system within the federal government based on many Native nations. They can learn that good always seems to somehow overcome evil. They can learn that many of the things that were perpetrated on the Osages are still being perpetrated today. Many of the laws and rules in place haven’t changed in 100 years.”

Renfro spoke to the reaction of his community when they learned of Gladstone and George’s Oscar nominations by acknowledging that many Osage people didn’t expect the level of recognition the film has received.

“You can just feel the sigh of relief. In a place where we truly had the most agency — meaning a Native American woman to look up to, for that matter, our own language and our own music, our song and our own people really being at the forefront of being nominated and recognized — there was a little bit of a breath of air that just lifted under the whole thing…That now there are all of these people absolutely rooting for this where, again, we started out the conversation with trepidation.”

And what should come next for indigenous storytelling in Hollywood?

“I think that staying in a genre where it’s truly just Native American stories doesn’t suit everyone the way it would if we were just simply included on every level and could bring our expertise and our knowledge and the way that we live holistically —  the way that we respect one another, respect the earth, respect the things that come along inherently with our culture.”

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