The "Washington redskin" of "Thunderheart," as he is derisively called by the film's American Indian characters, is an F.B.I. agent who is sent from Washington to an Oglala Sioux reservation to investigate a crime. Raymond Levoi (Val Kilmer) does not welcome this assignment. Part Sioux himself, and too culturally assimilated to acknowledge that heritage, he resents having been selected for the job on the basis of his background. He refers contemptuously to various Indians as "Geronimo" and "Tonto" as a means of registering his unfamiliarity with their world.
But during the course of the story, Ray is freed from his high-handed superiority to Indian culture, made to understand the many problems of the violence-torn Indian community (the film is set in the late 1970's) and forced to accept his own past. "The same blood that was spilled in the grass and snow at Wounded Knee runs through your heart like a buffalo," he is told by one of the story's far more spiritually aware Indian characters.
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