Lily Gladstone makes Oscars history as first Native American nominated for best actress

The Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, and while there were several major snubs, there was also one notable achievement worthy of great praise.

Lily Gladstone, who stars in Martin Scorsese‘s Western crime drama “Killers of the Flower Moon,” made Oscars history by becoming the first Native American woman to be nominated for best actress at the Academy Awards. Gladstone plays Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman whose family is murdered over their rights to valuable oil reserves. The film also stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Mollie’s husband Ernest Burkhart and fellow Oscar nominee Robert De Niro as William King Hale, Ernest’s crime boss uncle.

Prior to her Oscar nomination, Gladstone made history at this year’s Golden Globes, where she became the first Indigenous woman to win the award for best actress in a motion picture.

“This is a historic win. It doesn’t belong to just me. I’m holding it right now. I’m holding it with all of my beautiful sisters in the film at the table over here, and my mother, standing on all of your shoulders,” Gladstone said during her speech.

“This is for every little rez kid, every little urban kid, every little Native kid out there who has a dream and is seeing themselves represented in our stories told by ourselves, in our own words, with tremendous allies and tremendous trust from within, from each other,” she continued.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” was nominated for seven awards at the Globes. Gladstone’s win was the only award the film took home that night.

Gladstone, who is of Piegan Blackfeet and Nez Perce heritage, is the first Native American actress to be nominated for an Oscar. She’s the fourth Indigenous actress overall to ever earn a nomination in the category. 

Her nomination comes four years after Yalitza Aparicio, who is of indigenous Mixtec descent, was nominated in the same category for her role in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 film “Roma.” Alongside Aparicio is Sri Lankan actress Merle Oberon, who is believed to have Māori heritage, for her performance as Kitty Vane in Sidney Franklin’s 1933 film “The Dark Angel.” There’s also Keisha Castle-Hughes, who is a New Zealander of Maori descent, for her performance as Paikea in the 2022 adventure drama “Whale Rider.”

Gladstone previously starred in independent films like Kelly Reichardt’s 2016 drama “Certain Women” and 2019 drama “First Cow.” She also appeared in episodes of HBO’s “Room 104,” Showtime’s “Billions” and FX’s “Reservation Dogs.”

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Ahead of the premiere of “Killers of the Flower Moon” at Cannes Film Festival, Gladstone told The Hollywood Reporter that she almost quit acting prior to landing the role of Mollie.

“You just wonder if it’s going to be sustainable,” Gladstone said. “So I had my credit card out, registering for a data analytics course.”

Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” scored 10 total Oscars nominations. In addition to the best actress nomination, the film is nominated for best picture, actor in a supporting role, achievement in directing, costume design, original song, original score, production design, achievement in film editing and achievement in cinematography.

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