“This Is for Every Little Rez Kid” – Lily Gladstone’s Home Is Over the Moon About Her Historic Golden Globe Triumph

The children couldn’t believe it. There was a beautiful, gowned woman on TV speaking the Blackfoot language—the first indigenous person to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress. The children, students at Browning Elementary School in the reservation town of Browning, Montana, understood what she was saying. They study it at school.

Lily Gladstone (Photo by Leoman123, Creative Commons 4.0)

Lily Gladstone proudly announced her Blackfoot heritage as her hometown friends and relations swelled with pride. It was a moment of triumph, not just for the town, not just for indigenous people, but for the language of Blackfoot—a melodious tongue difficult to crystallize into any alphabet.

Blackfoot is spoken fluently by just a few dozen—mostly elderly—on the reservation and a few hundred more in Canada. The language, a casualty of the cruel Indian boarding schools that forbade children to speak it—had been a crucial part of the culture and identity of the Blackfeet people.

But thanks to Gladstone’s win and her acceptance speech, the embers have been fanned into a flame. Her friend and teacher of Blackfoot, Robert Hall—now director of the Blackfeet Native American studies program in Browning Public Schools—found his phone dinging with texts after the actress called him a “good friend.”

“Lily Gladstone speaking Blackfoot up on that stage is a victory. It’s saying: I’m still alive,” said Hall, delighted at the reawakened interest in the language and busily handling questions and requests from newly interested students and teachers. “This isn’t just a symbolic action. This is something that is tangible and has created change.”

Gladstone thanked her mom who “worked tirelessly” to get the Blackfoot language into the local curriculum. She recalled that Native actors in films used to speak English and then the sound mixers would scramble it to make it sound “authentic.”

If you want to hear the “authentic” sound of Blackfoot, give a listen to Hall’s take on the Muppet Christmas special, featuring popular holiday songs (The Chipmunks!) rendered in the indigenous language with English subtitles.

Today about 190 K-8 Browning students participate in a grant-funded Blackfoot immersion program—learning not just the language, but also the heritage, history and design of the culture as well. And all students take special classes that expose them to the language.

School superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall, born in Browning, the child of just one Blackfoot parent, was never taught the language. She never considered herself Native until she reached adulthood. But, doing the program herself gave her the confidence to identify herself to others with the Blackfoot name she was given as a toddler: Pretty Woman.

Of Gladstone’s Golden Globes speech, Guardipee-Hall said, “It was such a validation that what we’re doing is working. She gave us such a powerful gift.”

Along with photos of Lily Gladstone, classroom walls are also adorned with pictures of animals, captioned with their Blackfoot names. Every day 18 Blackfoot teachers demonstrate various customs to their students. One is the “smudge box”—a wooden container with sweet grass that when lit produces smoke which the students then waft over themselves as they recite a Blackfoot blessing. The words translate to “Amen, holy beings, water beings. Help us so that we may know our Blackfeet ways.”

As the buzz over Lily Gladstone’s triumph grows, it is likely that many now will know the Blackfeet ways.


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Ethnocide Native American religion Lily Gladstone Golden Globe Award Blackfoot Blackfeet Indian bording schools