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Why Lizzie Q From Killers Of The Flower Moon Looks So Familiar

Martin Scorsese's upcoming "Killers of the Flower Moon" is one of the most anticipated films of the year, and is based on the book by David Grann, "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI." Due to the 1906 Osage Allotment Act, the property and mineral income from the oil-rich land was divided equally among the tribe. A headright was one equal share, and if a person died, their heir received the deceased person's headright — whether they were of Osage blood or not.

The disturbing true story centers around the Osage people in 1920s Oklahoma, who had become extremely rich after oil was discovered on their land. In what became known as the "Reign of Terror," 60 Osage members with headrights were murdered between 1920 and 1925. They were murdered by schemers that wanted their fortune. 

One of these affected families was that of Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone). Many members of Mollie's family were killed, including her mother, Lizzie Ne Kah Es Sey, referred to as Lizzie Q. The actress who plays her, Tantoo Cardinal, is one of the most well-known Native actresses, and while it wasn't her first film, co-starring in the Oscar-winning "Dances with Wolves" helped propel her into Hollywood.

She played Black Shawl in Dances with Wolves

Tantoo Cardinal has over 120 films and television series under her belt and is a member of the Order of Canada due to her activism and work with the Aboriginal performing arts. Her activism spirit is what drew her to acting in the first place. "It was my sense of injustice and my rage of how we were being treated," she told Native News Online. "I wanted to be a part of bringing something truer forward. To bring some justice to who we are as human beings and our right to life." After a decade of paying her dues in smaller films, she got the part of Black Shawl in 1990's "Dances with Wolves."

Black Shawl is the partner of Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) and the adopted mother of Stands with a Fist (Mary McDonnell). Black Shawl is a calm woman, but shows her protectiveness towards her adopted daughter when Kicking Bird makes her cry. Later when the Pawnee attack their campsite, the other woman huddles behind her as she raises a spear to the warrior entering their teepee. She also is the voice of reason, the one who tells Kicking Bird that Stands with a Fist is in love with Dunbar (Kevin Costner), teasing him that he can't see everything coming all the time.

She played a supporting role in Legends of the Fall

Four years later, Tantoo Cardinal played the role of Pet in "Legends of the Fall," starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. Pet was the wife of Roscoe Decker (Paul Desmond), a rancher and outlaw who came to help Colonel William Ludlow (Hopkins) when he decided to leave the army and build a ranch in Montana. She was also the mother of Isabel 2 (Karina Lombard), who predicted as a child that she would marry Tristan (Pitt), and then did when she became an adult.

While Roscoe is white, Pet is Cree, and when Colonel Ludlow suggests educating Isabel 2, Pet doesn't see what good it will do, since Isabel 2's half-Native American status means few people will accept her in society. Despite their hesitation, he finally convinces Pet and Roscoe that even if she can't do anything with the knowledge, it will open up a whole new world for her. "Legends of the Fall" received mixed reviews, but the one thing most critics could agree on was that the supporting cast — which included Cardinal, Desmond, and Gordon Tootoosis — was wonderful.

She co-starred in the groundbreaking Smoke Signals

From 1995 through 1997 Tantoo Cardinal began appearing more in television, with roles in "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and "North of 60." But in 1998 she played Arlene Joseph in the groundbreaking film "Smoke Signals." Becoming the first film that not only starred Native Americans but was written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans, it won awards at the Sundance Film Festival and the London Film Festival, and was entered into the National Film Registry in 2018.

"Smoke Signals" is a coming-of-age story concerning two boys and Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), the man they viewed as a father figure. One of the boys, Victor Joseph (Adam Beach), is Arnold's biological son, and resented Arnold for leaving him and his mother as a child. Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), on the other hand, grew up without his father and always worshiped Arnold because he once rescued him from a fire. Arlene Joseph is the cautious and worried mother of Victor, and Arnold's former wife.

When Victor and Thomas decide to leave the reservation and go on a cross-country trip to retrieve Arnold's ashes, she is nervous that he's leaving for good and makes him promise to return. When he sarcastically asks if she wants him to sign something declaring he will come back, she balks, saying "You know how Indians feel about signing papers," a clear nod to a bitterness concerning the various treaties Native Americans have signed throughout history.

The Last Manhunt was her third project with Jason Momoa

Tantoo Cardinal never seems to slow down, and between 1998 and 2022 she appeared in 85 films, shorts, and television series, including "The Killing," "Blackstone," "Westworld," "Falls Around Her," "Stumptown," and two series with Jason Momoa, "See" and "Frontier." 

Her last film, "The Last Manhunt," also co-starred Momoa. The film is based on the true story of Willie Boy, played in the film by Martin Sensmeier. He is in love with Carlota (Mainei Kinimaka) and they go on the run after he accidentally kills her father, William (Zahn McClarnon), a Chemehuevi shaman and tribal leader. Cardinal plays Willie Boy's grandma, Ticup, who is also his guardian.

Momoa, who plays a small role as Big Jim, also helped write and produce the film, telling Deadline "I developed the story with my team because I wanted to set the record straight, and set the spirits of this story free." While the couple is being hunted, we see Ticup praying for Willie Boy, saying, "Forgive Willie Boy of his sin. Let not your spirit sit in anger over us." Cardinal's character gets minimal screen time, but she uses her face to portray all the pain and anguish she feels for her grandson.