Wonder Woman is a fantastic film for many, many reasons. It's a genre-bending war epic, it's the #DCEU's first incontrovertible success, and it's a testament to breaking Hollywood's prejudiced and outdated boundaries. But above all, Wonder Woman is a solo movie that truly does its protagonist justice, making multiple comments about overcoming prejudice in a film that has more heart than all other superhero flicks put together.
One of the best ways Wonder Woman stays true to the ideals of the comics is through the character of the Chief, a Native American who has journeyed to European shores to help out the war effort — and is named after the "Apache Chief" who helped the Justice League in the cartoon Super Friends. Of Diana's ragtag band, Chief is possibly the most noble, and even after he admits that he's here for profit, Diana sees him refusing money from people they save later on. But Chief isn't just a lovable rogue or a much-needed icon for Native American representation in cinema, he also might just be a god.
An Honorable Man In No Man's Land
Chief's first conversation with Diana is a subtle, but fascinating little scene. They speak in Blackfoot — as an Amazon, Diana knows every human language — but this exchange is not subtitled, unlike every other conversation in a non-English language in the movie.
This meant that what they said to each other was "an awesome easter egg only Indian country would know." Our translation comes via Indian Country Today's Vincent Schilling, self-confessed "Native nerd", who was very impressed with Chief's portrayal in the film. In his review, he says:
What I didn’t expect was to be overcome with emotion when Eugene Brave Rock’s character ‘Chief’ met Wonder Woman, who was spectacularly portrayed by Gal Gadot. Why? His first words to her were in Blackfoot. Even better, he introduced himself as Napi, the Blackfoot demi-god who is known as a trickster and a storyteller. Congratulations, Indian country. We all get to share a secret moment in the Wonder Woman movie. If you speak Blackfoot, the magic will surely be tenfold.
Notably, Chief is the only person that Diana shakes hands with. After several different people offering a hand to Diana only for her to ignore the handshake request, as viewers we assume that she just doesn't know what a handshake is. However, the fact that she shakes hands with Chief reveals that she does know this gesture, but was reserving it for someone she felt deserved it.
So does this, combined with Chief's introduction of himself as "Napi," suggest that the wandering frontiersman is in fact the American trickster god himself? It's entirely possible. Greek gods play a huge role in the Wonder Woman film, with Diana herself being revealed as the demigod daughter of Zeus.
[Update:] Referencing this article, io9 reached out to Eugene Brave rock on Twitter, and he confirmed that the Chief is indeed a god.
He also revealed that this wasn't an improvised line, but the script always included the fact that Chief is the Blackfoot demi-god Napi.
The Trickster God Of Creation
Napi is a fascinating figure from Blackfoot mythology. Unlike other creator gods, Napi is not benevolent or all powerful, but rather fulfills the role of a trickster — a parable about how the natural world might give us life, but it also has a will of its own. Associated with the coyote, Napi was said to give people visions and guide them in life.
There are plenty of ways this could work in the DCEU. Chief could return in Wonder Woman 2 — now loosely confirmed — surprising Diana by turning up when she least expected it, still looking the same as he did when she met him. He could easily fulfill the role of an advice-giver, or if the filmmakers want to explore other mythologies, Napi could also introduce other deities. This is an intriguing thought considering the DCEU is rumored to follow the comics' New Gods storyline, in which the #JusticeLeague are given the powers of godlike beings.
But whether Chief turns out to be a secret god or not, he's already fulfilled a fantastic role in the first Wonder Woman film. Patty Jenkins gave actor Eugene Brave Rock free rein when it came to his role, and he sought out Native American WWI veterans for advice, crafting his costume himself and drawing from history to create an authentic, well-rounded character.
Chief not only provided Native Americans with some much needed representation, but he also made an excellent comment about his people's history with colonialism — telling Diana that his people were torn from their homes and almost wiped out by Steve Trevor's people. Chief confesses that, having journeyed to this land of war, at least he can be free.
Even if he doesn't turn out to be a god, Chief's role was one of the most affecting and important parts of a film that, ultimately, is as much about the conflicts and unions between humans as it is about Diana's journey to becoming Wonder Woman.
Tell us in the comments: Would you like to see the Chief return as Napi in Wonder Woman 2?