Arthur Redcloud didn't know when he set out on a Texas highway, headed for New Mexico, he was about to become part of film history.
But, destiny had plans for him. All he had to do was steer the wheel.
Arthur saw a post on Facebook, saying that Leonardo DiCaprio was having an open casting call in New Mexico for an upcoming movie. Doubtful, he checked it out. The post was real, and Arthur decided to take a gamble, and head for Santa Fe.
After all, he knew the way.
He grew up not far from there, in Window Rock, Arizona. The capitol of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock is also the seat of the tribal government. Arthur was raised on the reservation, learning the traditional ways from his grandfather.
Franklin Sandoval Redcloud was a Navajo medicine man. He passed his teachings on to his grandson, the oldest of 30 grandchildren, just as his ancestors had done before him. But life called Arthur a different way, and he moved first to Kansas to attend Haskell Indian Nations University, and then to Texas, working in prisons and studying to become a forensic specialist. Eventually, he went to work as a fuel delivery driver, and made his home in the town of Colleyville, Texas. And then, one night, he set out in his truck for an open casting call.
Arthur didn't realize that those 635 miles into the Southwest would take him closer to home than he could imagine.
Arthur thought they were casting for a small part, nothing significant. He showed up, read his lines, and headed back to Texas. Then, he got a call. He needed to come to Canada. Excited, he made it to Canada, read for the director, and landed the part. It wasn't until he was on set that he found out this was no small role, but a pivotal character to the film. He worked with an acting coach to prepare, and the cast rehearsed endless hours a day.
And then, Arthur began work on the role of a lifetime.
Arthur played Hikuc, a lone Pawnee man looking for any survivors from his tribe. He comes across Hugh Glass, who is alone, suffering horrible injuries from a brutal bear attack. Hikuc tends to Glass' wounds and spirit using the medicine of his people, saving the trapper's life. Arthur took great care to respect and honor the Pawnee through his portrayal, and found a kindred spirit in director Alejandro Inarritu. "He was trying to correct the story, not just tell the story," Arthur explains. "Alejandro made everything authentic. He wanted it real."
That allowed Arthur to bring his own medicine to the story. He created the sweat lodge used in one scene from memory of his grandfather's teachings. And then, he brought Franklin Redcloud's words.
The moment Hikuc prays over Glass, uttered in Dine' bizaad, Arthur left the path of his grandfather and those ancestors before him forever on film. "Alejandro has reawakened that spirituality that we have lost," Arthur says.
Like the horse scene. Rather than the typical, squirming reaction most audience members have, Arthur tells that we need to go deeper. "Think of what comes out of a mother. What does a snake do? Takes off its old skin. It's a rebirthing." It's the ultimate gift of life from one to another.
That is the message Arthur wants to spread, and hopes to see in more films in the future. "It is time to honor and respect the old way. No matter race or color, we can have that same type of exchange. We can give to each other," he says. "Don't lose your spirituality. The saying follow your heart is the worst thing you can do," Arthur explains. "Your heart can lie to you. Allow your spirit to guide you."
And what's next for Arthur Redcloud? "Whatever the Creator wants. You can't plan," he says humbly. " When you plan, you get in His way. You need to be open and ready and prepared. Accept what is, not what was." Arthur is silent for a moment, then speaks softly, "This is all Creator. I couldn't have planned any of this. Life is a journey you can't plan."