In the film Thunderheart starring Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, and Graham Greene, Kilmer plays a half-Sioux FBI agent investigating a murder on a Sioux reservation.
The script is based on events that took place on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 in South Dakota involving an armed standoff between Indian activists and the FBI which culminated in the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier in 1977 – a case that Amnesty International lists as unfair. This volatile time is described beginning in Part 2 in the 4-part series called The Spirit of Crazy Horse.
As Kilmer’s character reconnects with the Sioux and recovers the memories of his indigenous heritage, he discovers that the FBI is actually there to protect a uranium mine that is poisoning the water and killing all life on the reservation. Near the end of the film, his FBI colleague even says, "He's going native!". In remembering his native roots, Kilmer's character becomes a protector of the river and the Earth.
Kilmer's character is everyman -- reminding us that we must all "go native" to remember the importance of protecting the Earth before we destroy all life on the planet. In a pivotal scene, when asked why he's such a threat, John Trudell’s character delivers a riveting performance cited by many as the film’s highlight. He points out: "Sometimes they have to kill us because they can't break our spirit. We choose the right to be who we are. We know the difference between the reality of freedom and the illusion of freedom. There’s a way of Earth and a way not of Earth. We choose the way of Earth. It's about power, Ray. "