As strange as it was for a movie coming out in 1976, and having a Confederate raider as the hero, The Outlaw Josey Wales is a great American movie. Clint Eastwood, in one of his first directing roles plays Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer trying to stay out of the war. When a group of Union redleg raiders destroy his family and farm he buries his family and then joins some Confederate guerrillas to get his revenge.
When the war ends. the guerrilla leader, Bloody Bill Fletcher, brings his men in to swear loyalty to the Union. Josey does not go in, his war is not over. But the surrender is a set-up, and the Union troops begin to massacre the guerrillas. Josey joins the fight, and then escapes with a wounded young soldier and heads for the Indian Nations.
The cavalry and the redlegs then set out in pursuit of Josey. When Josey's friend dies, he heads on alone. It is then he runs in to the Cherokee chief Lone Watie (Chief Dan George). Lone Watie becomes Josey's companion and provides comic relief in the film. In the first scene we see Lone Watie Josey sneaks up behind him. He tells Josie "I'm an Indian, all right; but here in the nation they call us the 'civilized tribe'. They call us 'civilized' because we're easy to sneak up on. White men have been sneaking up on us for years." "They sneaked up on us and told us we wouldn't be happy here. They said we would be happier in the Nations. So they took away our lands and sent us here. I had a fine woman and two sons but they all died on the Trail of Tears. And now the white man is sneaking up on me again."
Lone Watie goes on to say: "I wore this frock coat in Washington. Before the war. We wore them because we belonged to the five civilized tribes. We dressed ourselves up like Abtaham Lincoln. We only got to see the Secretary of the Interior. And he said: 'Boy! You boys sure look civilized.!' he congratulated us and gave us medals for looking so civilized. We told him about how our land had been stolen and our people were dying. When we finished, he shook our hands and said 'Endeavor to persevere.' They stood us in a line. John Jumper, Chilly McIntire, Buffalo Hump, and Jim Pock Mark and me. I'm Lone Watie. They took our pictures. And the newspaper said 'Indians Vow to Endeavor to persevere.' We thought about it for a long time. 'Endeavor to persevere.' And when we had thought about it long enough we declared war on the Union."
Josey then heads off and comes up to a trading post where the trader is cheating some Indians who are trading for liquor. When his servant Indian girl breaks a bottle of whiskey he beats her. Two hunters at the post then start abusing the girl. They then turn their guns on Josey because of the bounty on him, but Josey shoots them down. Lone Watie then sneaks up on Josey but now the Indian girl, Little Moonlight has Josey's back.
Now Josey, Lone Watie and Little Moonlight head out together with Lone Watie providing the comic relief. They come upon some settlers being abused by some Comancheros, who soon capture Lone Watie. Josey rides in and shoots the Comancheros down. They now have two more women in their group.
Josey and his group get to the settlers destination, a little farm on a river. Then the Comanches show up. The Comanche chief, Ten Bears, has been pushed farther and farther every year by the bluecoats. Ten Bears captures a few of the settlers. Josey rides out to meet them.
Josey rides up to Ten Bears and tells him who he is. Ten Bears tells him he can go in peace since he is the one who won't make peace with the bluecoats he can go on. Josey tells him that he has no where to go.
He says : "I came here to die with you, or live with you. Dying isn't so hard for men like you and me, it's living that's hard. When all you ever cared about has been butchered or raped. Governments don't live together, people live together. With governments you don't always get a fair word or a fair fight, well I've come here to give you either one or get either one from you. I came here like this so you'll know my word of death is true and my word of life is then true. The bear lives here, the wolf, the antelope, the Comanche. And so will we. We'll only hunt what we need to live on, same as the Comanche does. And every spring when the Comanche moves north he can rest here in peace butcher some of our cattle and jerk beef for the journey. The sign of the Comanche will be on our lodge. That's my word of life."
Ten Bears : "And your word of death?"
Josey Wales: "It's here in my pistols and there in your rifles. I'm here for either one."
Ten Bears: "These things you say we will have, we already have."
Josey Wales: "That's true. I ain't promising you nothing extra. I'm just giving you life and you're giving me life. And I'm saying that men can live together without butchering one another."
Ten Bears: "It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death. It shall be life."
The movie about a Missouri farmer being mistreated by rogue Union troops also does a really good job of showing the plight of the Indians. Hunters abusing an Indian women, the peaceful tribes being pushed off their lands, the Comanches being pushed farther and farther off their lands by bad treaties. For a movie that was supposed to be about a Confederate guerrilla, it had a lot to say about the treatment of the Indians in this country. It was also nice to see the Indians being portrayed as people, not as stereotypes of what someone thought they were.