Too many White Savior films are causing a loss in translation from Brown and Black people to tell their stories. Hollywood was built on systemic racism, much like the United States; however, beginning in the early 1900s was when Hollywood became a prominent film industry, it allowed Jay Silverheels and Stepin Fetchit to portray their race of character. Before Hollywood there were dime novels and Western shows, which at times did not portray these races in favorable light. Hollywood, dime novels, and Western shows from the era of Buffalo Bill are the reasons why there is White saviorism, even in the 21st century.

Defining the four tropes as the “White Savior”, “Noble Savage”, “Indian Maiden” and “Tonto Talk”, this thesis will break down scenes from Dances with Wolves to see if each scene depicts the tropes. My findings will cover the codebook to identify the four tropes and to apply them to the film while also using scholarly sources to show empirical data to support the claims of Native tropes. There are also limitations to my research by referencing the film in question and not others as an entire component to “Indian” tropes. Also, I did not use history textbooks for researching Native Americans because of the almost obsolete historical findings, I opted instead to use scholarly essays, interviews, and informational books. These tropes will be defined by two coders, A and B. The codebook that was created first to determine the tropes will allow the two coders to first see the trope, then have its definition to determine the accuracy and from other film references, and their communicative aspects from verbal and nonverbal perspectives. By the end of the paper, the codebook and chapters will determine the accuracy of each trope mentioned.

Date of publication

Summer 8-27-2021

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members




Included in

Communication Commons