In a recent interview with Cowboys & Indians Magazine, “Yellowstone” star Mo Brings Plenty–actor, activist, and rancher–spoke about growing up on a reservation. He also spoke about his experiences with Native American portrayals in popular culture. Additionally, he spoke about his personal cultural identity as an indigenous person.
Reclaiming cultural identity is important to a lot of Native American people in the 21st century because of the heinous acts of early English settlers and the U.S. Government: genocide, splitting up families, stripping them of their language, their names, their homes, and their culture. Now, many young indigenous people are learning their languages for the first time, not only to preserve their culture, but as an act of defiance against colonization.
Portrayals of Native Americans in popular media has also improved in recent years; shows like “Mohawk Girls” and “Reservation Dogs,” showcase everyday human struggles under the veil of being indigenous. These shows employ indigenous writers, actors, and crew, and because of this, their characters and storylines don’t fall into stereotypes. Also, of course, “Yellowstone” and “1883” take steps to ensure their depictions of Native peoples are respectful and accurate.
Mo Brings Plenty Talks Cultural Identity, Lesson His Father Instilled in Him
When asked about the first time he saw a positive portrayal of indigenous life in popular media, Mo Brings Plenty answered immediately, “‘Dances With Wolves.’” He continued, “That was the very first movie. And it came at a very appropriate time in my life as well. Because growing up on the reservation, you struggle between an ever-changing society and your true cultural identity. So the struggle was very legit and very real.”
Mo Brings Plenty then spoke about his cultural identity; he related to both being culturally wealthy and financially poor. “You look at your identity and how people perceived who we are,” he said. “It was always we come from an impoverished area, we’re alcoholics, and so on and so forth. And I didn’t come from any of that. I came from a very wealthy cultural family. Our people were rich in our culture, our language is still here, there’s so much of the past that’s still here. So for me, I didn’t know we were poor.”
He spoke about his mother and father always taking care of them; they had a roof over their heads, warmth in the winter, and food on the table. He and his brother did chores as part of their daily living, helping out by chopping wood for the winter. “My father really instilled that ‘to live is to move, to move is to live.’ And prepare, always be prepared,” said Brings Plenty.
Mo Brings Plenty obviously has a strong connection to his culture and heritage; he brings that to his role on “Yellowstone.” His character, who initially didn’t have a name, is incredibly knowledgeable about myths, traditions, and ceremonies–calling to mind the scenes where Kayce has his vision quest in the penultimate season 4 episode–and that’s because Mo himself is knowledgeable and passionate about his own traditions.