Early in our nation's history, white settlement of the Americas began a long-standing tradition of misunderstanding and hostility between Native American tribes and United States society. Intercultural communication barriers lent themselves to assumptions and intolerance, which led to warfare, bloodshed, and the eventual destruction of an entire culture's traditional ways of life. Today, stereotypical representations of the "cowboys and Indians" of the 1800s continue to perpetuate hurtful misconceptions that further thwart attempts at understanding between the cultures. One motion picture, released almost two decades ago, served to demonstrate how a thoughtful, respectful approach across cultural boundaries might have resulted in a more
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Their mutual patience and willingness to "tolerate ambiguity" (p. 113) allow them to work through the language block to learn about one another by watching and clarifying through nonverbal means until they reach an unspoken understanding. For instance, vexed by the language barrier, Dunbar begins to demonstrate items from his fort, such as a coffee grinder, that catch his visitors' interest and allow him to appeal to their senses of humor as he engages in some silly behavior. Even the hostile Wind In His Hair is won over by the discovery of fresh coffee and sugar to go with it.
Another pivotal scene in Dances With Wolves (Wilson & Costner, 1990) depicts Dunbar, Kicking Bird, and Stands With a Fist as the three meet together for the first time in the Lakota village, after Stands With a Fist has recovered from her injuries. Earlier exchanges inform the viewer that Kicking Bird is fascinated with Dunbar and has pressured Stands With a Fist to act as an interpreter to learn what she can from the white man in their midst. Stands With a Fist is reluctant to do so because she fears a return to the white world, and she clearly approaches Dunbar while "assuming