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This book examines the fascinating and often disturbing portrayal of Native American women in film. Through discussion of thirty-four Hollywood films from the silent period to the present, the book examines the sacrificial role of what it terms the “Celluloid Maiden”—a young Native woman who allies herself with a white male hero and dies as a result of that choice. The book intertwines theories of colonization, gender, race, and film studies to ground the study in socio-historical context all in an attempt to define what it means to be an American. As the book charts the consistent depiction of the Celluloid Maiden, it uncovers two primary characterizations: the Celluloid Princess and the Sexualized Maiden. This book reveals a cultural iconography about Native Americans and their role in the frontier embedded in the American psyche. The Native American woman is a racialized and sexualized other; a conquerable body representing both the seductions and the dangers of the frontier. These films show her being colonized and suffering at the hands of Manifest Destiny and American expansionism, but the book argues that the Native American woman also represents a threat to the idea of a white America. The complexity and longevity of the Celluloid Maiden icon—persisting into the twenty-first century—symbolizes an identity crisis about the composition of the American national body that has played over and over throughout different eras and political climates. Ultimately, the book establishes that the ongoing representation of the Celluloid Maiden signals the continuing development and justification of American colonialism.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY




978-0-8131-7154-8 (pdf version)


978-0-8131-3694-3 (epub version)



Native American women, Celluloid Maiden, Colonization, Gender, Race, Film studies, Celluloid Princess, Sexualized Maiden, Iconography, American expansionism


Film and Media Studies | Mass Communication | Women's Studies

Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film
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