Native American Leader Pursues ‘Return to the Way It Used to Be’ on Yellowstone Show

July 12th, 2020 11:24 PM

The show Yellowstone is, in many ways, about the clashes between people who want very different futures. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) always fights to protect his ranch to keep it for future generations of his family. Meanwhile tribal chairman Thomas Rainwater’s vision of the future is a return to the past.  

On Sunday's episode, "Going Back to Cali," Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) is not shy about sharing his vision of a valley denuded of homes, ranches and farms. He considers this to be “land ravaged by man.” He wants to see it all belong again to his tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock, for them to live off the land like they used to. His long-term plan and motivation for building a casino is to make enough money to buy all the land back for his people since the American government won’t give it back to them.



“There’s two futures for this valley. One with the land stripped of the second homes, hobby farms, a return to the way it used to be. You drive 20 miles into the park and that’s how our whole nation looked at one time,” Rainwater tells an unnamed white, male attorney. 

He speaks critically of “modern society” and the cycle of going to school, learning skills to make money so you can buy necessities. 

Rainwater continues, “But on land that hasn’t been ravaged by man, you don’t need to buy food. You just go find it. You don’t buy clothes, you make them, and you don’t build houses. You seek shelter. You live with the land, not on it.”

When the lawyer points out Rainwater mentioned a second future, he goes on: “The other’s where you live. Concrete world with stick houses, grass that can’t survive without fertilizer and sprinklers. Someday this planet’s gonna shake your world off its back like dirty water. The casino gives me the money I need to make sure that happens. The first future is the only future.”

Rainwater’s honesty about making this future a reality is not new to the show. In an earlier season, he threatened John Dutton directly saying he expects it will cost $14 billion to buy all the land in the valley and intends to buy the Dutton’s out first, rip down all the fences and “erase you from the future.”

“See I’m the opposite of progress John, I am the past, catching up with you,” Rainwater told Dutton back then. 

Ironically, this week the tribal leader realized he must form an alliance with his foe John Dutton to have any chance of fending off a multibillion dollar corporate developer. The company, Market Equities, is working to stop Rainwater’s casino and trying to get an eminent domain seizure of some of Dutton’s property to build an airport and a city for millionaires in the middle of their valley.