February 24, 2024

It was an eventful summer for Lily Gladstone in 2020. An independent film actress with a growing career, the pandemic forced her to search for other job opportunities. The industry shutdown left her concerned about her future. Gladstone, a self-proclaimed “bee nerd,” considered a seasonal job with the Department of Agriculture to track murder hornets. However, she received a Zoom invitation from Martin Scorsese. He was directing a film based on the book “Killers of the Flower Moon.” It explores a series of unexplained deaths in Oklahoma during the 1920s when the Osage Nation prospered from oil money. Her role in the film has now earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards, a first for a Native American woman. Portraying Mollie Kyle, she showcases a range of emotions in the film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. While the industry historically neglected and insulted Native American characters, Gladstone’s nomination represents a significant milestone. Raised within the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, she recognizes the importance of her nomination and hopes it inspires others to follow in her footsteps. She acknowledges the responsibility of being a trailblazer and aims to maintain an open door for future Native American performers.

Despite her newfound stardom and hectic schedule during the awards season, Gladstone points out the prevalent bias against indigenous representation in Hollywood. She views her nomination as long overdue, considering that the Oscars have been around for over 95 years on Native American land. She understands the implications of being the first Native American Indigenous woman in the Best Actress category. Recognizing all the performers who came before her, she hopes to not only be the first but also leave an opportunity for others who will follow her lead. While she appreciates the recognition as an actor, she is also mindful of being a representative for her community and the Osage culture that she portrays on screen. She uses her newfound platform to challenge the narrow perceptions of Native Americans and the underrepresentation in American media. Overall, there is a recognition that her role transcends acting, bringing a fresh perspective to Hollywood and paving the way for future indigenous actors in the industry.