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Lt. John Dunbar, exiled to a remote western Civil War outpost, befriends wolves and Indians, making him an intolerable aberration in the military.
Wind In His Hair: [in Lakota; subtitled] Dances with Wolves! I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?
[talking about the white men coming] Kicking Bird: How many? John Dunbar: Like the stars.
John Dunbar: Many times I'd felt alone, but until this afternoon I'd never felt completely lonely.
John Dunbar: [to his army captors who are interrogating him, in Lakota] My name is Dances with Wolves. I have nothing to say to you. You are not worth talking to.
Stands With a Fist: [translating for Kicking Bird] He thanks Dances with Wolves for coming. John Dunbar: Who is Dances with Wolves? Stands With a Fist: It is the name all the people are calling you now.
Ten Bears: [in Lakota to Dunbar; subtitled] Dances with Wolves has been quiet these past few days. Is his heart bad? John Dunbar: [in Lakota to the village council; subtitled] Killing those soldiers at the river was a good thing. I never got to thank all of you for saving me. I did not mind killing those men. I was glad to do it. But now I know that the soldiers hate me like they hate no other. Because I killed soldiers, men of my own race, they think I am a traitor. [the council murmurs and nods in agreement] John Dunbar: [in Lakota; subtitled] And now they will hunt for me. And when they find me they will find you. I think it would be wise to move the village to another location right now. As for me... I will be leaving. I will be leaving with my wife Stands With a Fist as soon as possible. I must go and try to talk to those that will listen. [shouts and protests immediately begin around the council. Wind In His Hair stands up and screams his objection. Even Kicking Bird is protesting. However, Ten Bears rises both of his hands as a sign to stop] Ten Bears: [in Lakota; subtitled] Quiet! You are all hurting my ears! Leave us! [all the Sioux file out of the tent, and within seconds Ten Bears and Dunbar are alone] Ten Bears: [in Lakota to Dunbar; subtitled] You are the only white man I have ever known. I have thought about you a lot. More than you think. And I understand your concern. But I think you are wrong. The white man the soldiers are looking for no longer exists. Now there is only a Sioux named Dances with Wolves.
John Dunbar: [writing in his diary] If it wasn't for my companion, I believe I'd be having the time of my life.
Major Fambrough: The king is dead... [raises a pistol to his head] Major Fambrough: Long live the king... [pulls the trigger]
Major Fambrough: Sir knight? I've just pissed in my pants... and nobody can do anything about it.
John Dunbar: The strangeness of this life cannot be measured: in trying to produce my own death, I was elevated to the status of a living hero.
John Dunbar: I am Lieutenant John J. Dunbar and this is my post.
John Dunbar: [voice-over] Nothing I have been told about these people is correct. They are not thieves or beggars. They are not the bogeymen they are made out to be. On the contrary, they are polite guests and I enjoy their humor.
John Dunbar: Who would do such a thing? The field was proof enough that it was a people without value and without soul, with no regard for Sioux rights. The wagon tracks leading away left little doubt and my heart sank as I knew it could only be white hunters. Voices that had been joyous all morning were now as silent as the dead buffalo left to rot in this valley, killed only for their tongues and the price of their hides.
John Dunbar: How did you get your name? Stands With a Fist: When I came to live on the prarie, I worked every day... very hard... there was a woman who didn't like me. She called me bad names... sometimes she beat me. One day she was calling me these bad names, her face in my face, and I hit her. I was not very big, but she fell down. She fell hard and didn't move. I stood over her with my fist and asked if any other woman wanted to call me bad names... No one bothered me after that day. John Dunbar: [smiles] I wouldn't think so. Show me... where you hit her. [Stands With a Fist balls her fist and touches John at the base of the chin. John feigns being knocked unconscious as Stands With a Fist laughs]
Timmons: [after he has bent over and farted] Why don't you put that in your book?
Stands With a Fist: My place is with you. I go where you go.
Lt. Elgin: Spivy! You bash that prisoner one more time, I'll put those shackles on YOU!
Kicking Bird: [in Lakota; addressing the village council] He may be a special man or even a god. I ask that Chief Ten Bears give us permission to talk with him. [murmurs around the council as Wind in his Hair rises to speak] Wind In His Hair: [in Lakota; subtitled] I do not care for this talk about a white man at the soldier fort. Whoever he is he is not a Sioux and that makes him less. We took more then a hundred horses from these people and there was no honor in it. They don't ride well. They don't shoot well. They're dirty. Those so-called "soldiers" could not make it through one winter in our country. And all these people are said to flourish? I think they will all be dead soon... maybe in ten years. [murmurs circulate around the council] Wind In His Hair: [in Lakota] I think this fool is probally lost. [the councel laughs as Wind In His Hair sits back down and Kicking Bird raises his right hand as a call for silence] Kicking Bird: [in Lakota; subtitled] Wind In His Hair has spoken and his words are strong. It is true that the whites are a poor race and it is hard to understand them. But make no mistake, the whites are coming. Even our enemies agree on this. But when I see one white man alone and without fear in our country, I do not think he is lost. I think he may have medicine. I think this is a man who will speak for all white people. I think this is a man from which treaties may be struck. [the council murmurs and nods in agreement until Wind In His Hair rises to speak again] Wind In His Hair: [in Lakota; subtitled] Kicking Bird is always looking ahead and while that is good, he doesn't know this lone white man. This white man cannot hunt, cover our lodges, or feed our children. He is nothing to us! I will take some warriors with me and we will shoot some arrows into the white man. If he truly has medicine, he will not be hurt. If he has no medicine, he will be dead. [more murmurs are heard as Wind In His Hair sits back down and Stone Calf rises to speak] Stone Calf: [in Lakota; subtitled] No man on the council can tell another man what to do. But killing a white man is a delicate business. If you kill one, more are sure to come. Ten Bears: [in Lakota; subtitled] It's easy to become confused by these questions. Before we take action we need to talk about this some more at another time. That is all I have to say. This council is dismissed.
[Dunbar has found an old skeleton on the prairie] Timmons: I'll bet someone back east is going, "Now why don't he write?"
John Dunbar: [voice over] It seems every day ends with a miracle here. And whatever God may be, I thank God for this day.
Major Fambrough: You wish to see the frontier? John Dunbar: Yes sir, before it's gone.
Kicking Bird: [after receiving the pipe from Dances with Wolves] How does it smoke? John Dunbar: I don't know; I haven't smoked it yet.
Stands With a Fist: He also asks if you would watch over his family while he is gone. [pauses] Stands With a Fist: This thing he asks of you is a great honor. John Dunbar: Tell him I would be happy to watch over his family.
Ten Bears: [in Lakota; subtitled] Let us smoke a while. John Dunbar: [voiceover] With Ten Bears, it was always more than a while. There was purpose in everything he did, and I knew he wanted me to stay. But I was sure of myself. I would be an excuse, and that's all the Army would need to find this place. I pushed him as far as I could to move the camp. But in the end, he only smiled and talked of simple pleasures. He reminded me that at his age, a good fire was better than anything. Ten Bears was an extraordinary man.
John Dunbar: [voice-over] They were a people so eager to laugh, so devoted to family, so dedicated to each other. The only word that comes to mind is harmony.
Toughest Pawnee: [speaking Pawnee; subtitled] Only a white man would make a fire for everyone to see. Pawnee #1: [in Pawnee] Maybe there's more than one. Pawnee #2: [in Pawnee] There may be three or four. Toughest Pawnee: [in Pawnee] I know three or four who will not be making the trip home.
General Tide: [after Dunbar's suicide attempt at the enemy lines] You rest easy, son. You'll keep your leg, as God is my judge, you'll keep it.
Sgt. Bauer: [to Dunbar] Turned injun, didn't yeh?
[Ten Bears shows Dunbar an old Spanish Conquistador's helmet] Ten Bears: [in Lakota; subtitled] The white men who wore this came around the time of my grandfather's grandfather. Eventually we drove them out. Then the Mexicans came. But they do not come here any more. In my own time, the Texans. They have been like all the others. They take without asking. But I think you are right. I think they will keep coming. When I think of that, I look at this helmet. I don't know if we are ready for these people. Our country is all that we have, and we will fight to keep it.
John Dunbar: [at the celebration of the buffalo feast, noticing a big Sioux man has his Lieutenant's hat] That's my hat... that's my hat! Big Warrior: [in Lakota, as all becomes quiet in the tent] I found it on the prarie. It's mine. Wind In His Hair: [stands up, in Lakota] The hat belongs to Lieutenant. Big Warrior: He left it on the prarie. He didn't want it. Wind In His Hair: Well, you can see he wants it now. We all know it's a soldier hat. We all know who wears it. If you want to keep it, that's fine. But give something for it. [the Sioux takes his knife and sheath off his belt and gives it to Dunbar] Wind In His Hair: [in English, to Dunbar] Good... trade!
Wind In His Hair: [watching Dunbar dance around like a buffalo] His mind is gone!
John Dunbar: [in Lakota; subtitled] We are trying for a baby. Kicking Bird: [in Lakota] No waiting? John Dunbar: [in Lakota] No waiting. Kicking Bird: [in Lakota] I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life, there are some that matter most. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail, and it is good to see.
John Dunbar: Dunbar, not Dumb Bear.
Smiles A Lot: [after Otter has fallen off his horse during the attempt to steal Cisco] [all in Lakota, subtitled] Smiles A Lot: What happened? Otter: I don't know. My arm won't work. Worm: [riding up] What happened? Smiles A Lot: Otter hurt himself. Otter: [to Worm, who looks scared] Why do you look like that? I'm the one who's hurt! Worm: I will be when my father finds out. His bow will be across MY back! Smiles A Lot: You shouldn't have fallen off. Now we'll be in trouble. Otter: I didn't mean to fall off. This was YOUR idea! Smiles A Lot: My idea was only to take the horse, not fall down.
John Dunbar: [voice-over] I had never really known who John Dunbar was. Perhaps because the name itself had no meaning. But as I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was.
John Dunbar: [voice-over] It was hard to know how to feel. I had never been in a battle like this one. This had not been a fight for territory or riches or to make men free. This battle had no ego. It had been fought to preserve the food stores that would see us through winter, to protect the lives of women and children and loved ones only a few feet away. I felt a pride I had never felt before.
Sergeant Pepper: [at the inactive battlefield] Some of the boys are saying that if we ain't gonna fight we could just settle the whole business with a little high stakes poker. Wouldn't that be a sight... a bunch of fellas sitting in the middle of this field drawing cards...
Pawnee #1: [speaking Pawnee; subtitled] We have nothing to show for this trail. Pawnee #2: [in Pawnee] We have no rifles. White men are sure to have rifles! Pawnee #3: [in Pawnee] If they don't have rifles, it's hard to say how many might be down there. We should forget this and go home. Toughest Pawnee: [in Pawnee] Then go. I would rather die than argue to any white man about a single line of smoke in my own country! [the Toughest Pawnee rides off into the direction of the smoke] Pawnee #1: [in Pawnee] He will not quit until we are all dead.
Timmons: [John Dunbar tries to wake him by hitting him with a stick] Something poked me in the butt, was that you?
John Dunbar: How come we haven't seen any buffalo? Timmons: Can't figure the stinking buffalo. Sometimes you don't see them for days, and sometimes they're out there as thick as curls on a whore. John Dunbar: What about Indians? Timmons: Indians? Goddamn Indians you'd just as soon not see, unless the bastards are dead. They're nothing but thieves and beggars.
John Dunbar: Guns would make one warrior like two.
[Repeated line] Timmons: [after they have reached an abandoned fort] There ain't nothing here, lieutenant.