Lily Gladstone, the First Native American to Win an Oscar


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Lily Gladstone was determined to be in a meaningful place when she received the Oscar news. It wasn't about being at home, watching it on TV; it was about being in Oklahoma, surrounded by the Osage community that mirrors the real-life counterparts of her character in Martin Scorsese’s "Killers of the Flower Moon."

"I made the decision to be on the Osage reservation if this news came today," shared Gladstone in an interview right after making history with her best actress nomination – the first time a Native American received such an honor. "I wanted to be as close to Mollie Kyle and her family as possible. So, I'm here in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. After everything wraps up, I'm planning to load up and drive out to Fairfax and Gray Horse to pay my respects."

While the nominations were being announced, Gladstone's parents were FaceTiming her. Instead of showing her the TV screen, she asked them to focus on their own faces during this momentous occasion.

‘Turn the camera around,’ " she instructed her mother. "‘I want to see your and Dad’s reactions!’ And right on cue, I could faintly hear them beginning to mention my name, but the sound was quickly overtaken by my parents' enthusiastic cheers, accompanied by the joyful barking of my dog."

Gladstone's nomination wasn't exactly unexpected. The praise for the 37-year-old actor's performance has been pouring in since the film's release in October, and she secured a Golden Globe earlier this month. With time and opportunities to reflect, she remains just as fervent about what makes this moment historic.

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“What I've been expressing all along still holds true,” she affirmed. “I happen to carry this honor right now, but it's long overdue. It marks a genuine moment of restoration, placing indigenous talent in these roles, shedding light on their humanity. I believe it's breaking down many stereotypes people hold about indigenous women, especially Native American women.”

“We're claiming our place where we rightfully belong,” she emphasized regarding indigenous actors and storytellers. “It's been a lengthy journey to reach this point, but it's absolutely essential.”

Gladstone, who spent her upbringing between Seattle and the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and even learned the Osage language for the film, expressed that this recognition arrives "at a time when stories like this are often pushed aside, deemed too aware." She found satisfaction in being part of a film that solidifies this history in the public eye, making it accessible for people to witness and comprehend in a way that only film can, despite its sometimes brutal, heartbreaking, and challenging nature.

Killers of the Flower Moon," adapted from David Grann’s real-life whodunnit of the same name, places a stronger emphasis on the relationship between Mollie and her husband, Ernest Burkhart (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), compared to the original book. In the film, Ernest loves Mollie but is entangled in a sinister plot with his uncle (Robert De Niro, also nominated) to eliminate her family and acquire their oil-rich land.

However, Gladstone highlighted that the movie goes beyond exploring the “horrible, complicated, skewed love” between Mollie and Ernest. According to her, it also delves into “the love that Mollie and her community had for each other. The one that carries everybody forward.”

“We carry forward by passing our stories, our sense of self, and our knowledge forward, by adapting and growing,” she explained. “So, having the story shared on such a massive scale, I hope it sparks a curiosity that maybe wasn’t there before for most people.”
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