Here Comes the Sunken Place, Part 6: Indigenous Content



“Will my work really be worse because, by staying in the same place, I shall see the seasons pass and repass over the same subjects, seeing again the same orchards in the spring, the same fields of wheat in summer?”

~ Vincent Van Gogh

Last, but perhaps most important, is the matter of both the indigenous motifs that feature in almost every scene of the movie, and the genocide of the indigenous peoples of modern day America, perpetrated by 19th-century colonialists, and which continues today, if perhaps in less mass-carnage scope and scale. Now, I don’t know if The Shining has the current issue of missing and murdered indigenous women on its mind. I think it’s far more concerned with the general history of white people treating indigenous populations as “nits” that “make lice” as the charming Methodist pastor (who perpetrated the Sand Creek massacre) John Milton Chivington put it. Under his orders, as many as 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples were slaughtered in cold blood, two-thirds of which were unarmed women and children. The accounts are among the most horrifying in the history of genocides.

Now, before we get into that sad reality, there also seems to be some subtextual allusions to American slavery as well, like the cotton balls that appear next to the minotaur bull and twin shakers above Wendy’s head here. Or how the Overlook opens every year just as cotton picking season ends in some places, on May 15th. Or, you know, the axe-murdering of Hallorann, and the Overlook’s designs on making that happen. But knowing little specific information about American slavery not gleaned from films and documentaries, I can’t say I noticed too much in the way of buried clues pointing to that, but if anyone does, I’ll be happy to link to your work (again, if it’s quality). I think Kubrick might’ve felt that the concept was so obviously invoked by the n-word tryst of Jack and Grady, and by Hallorann’s murder, that the subject didn’t need buried clues to lead the audience down that particular rabbit hole.


Starting things off on a lighter note, Kubrick may have seen fit to invoke the indigenous concept of the Four Directions while making the film. I’ve discussed my evidence for all this sufficiently at the start of the section on animals in the film, but here’s the nutshell:

If Kubrick had this concept in mind, then the bear quadrant is Wendy (Winnie-the-Pooh), the buffalo quadrant is Jack (the minotaur), the eagle quadrant is Danny (Road Runner/Flyers jersey), and the wolf quadrant is the hotel (all the dog paintings). The hotel is the one I’m least sure about, since it contains all these animals and more. But there does seem to be an uptick in dog art.

In any case, you can see just by glancing at the Four Directions wheel that some of the components seem off. The Overlook is in Colorado, which is hardly the “north” (although the opening shot of the movie is a 20 minute drive from Canada, and the Timberline hotel is about equally far from the Washington state border in Oregon), Danny is almost never seen wearing yellow (he has yellow socks in one scene), Wendy isn’t a black person, and Jack doesn’t survive, except metaphysically.

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Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny that Jack, Wendy and Danny are heavily correlated to these creatures, and that numerous Four-Directions-shaped items and designs appear in the film. And as we’ve seen with the Beatles in the Redrum Road analysis, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the four gospels above, there does seem to be a kind of Four Humours philosophy at play in the film.

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Before I get into the more speculative networks of clues about indigenous genocides, I want to point out how there’s a letter board Jack passes on his way to the ghost ball with the words COCKTAIL and INDIAN and LADIES/ON THE W on it. This is the only time we can clearly make out these words, though we see the existence of the board several times, most notably when Hallorann is happening upon his death. When Jack’s axe collides with Dick’s chest, Dick is standing in front of that very same letter board. The letter board nearer to Jack in this instance has the words SWEET SHOP and COLORADO LOUNGE on it, which could possibly be a callback to Wendy’s Hansel and Gretel reference.

The fact that Jack murders with the word COLORADO behind him, and also beside him on two huge posters, does seem to suggest the time and place of this act.

The word “colorado” is Spanish for “coloured red”. As in redrum. As in Jack’s jacket. As in what’s about to spill out of Hallorann’s chest.

It’s perhaps, then, also worth pointing out how Danny witnesses the Grady twins and Jack has his murder nightmare both while being under the Colorado state flag. The red of this flag represents the red soil of the land. As though the bloody earth itself were somehow intrinsic to understanding this place.


There’s an indigenous reservation in Washington state called the Colville Indian Reservation, which came up as a tangential element in a few of my little research dives into the lives of the Albertan Bearspaw people whose portraits appear in the film, like Chief Bear Paw and Chief Walking Buffalo. The one direct connection is how the second shot in the film features Jack driving past Lake McDonald, which was likely named for Duncan McDonald, who was half-Nez-Perce, which is one of the twelve bands of Colville people (people named for the reservation).

The Nez Perce War came to my attention since it ended with something called the Battle of Bear Paw, which is not named for the chief seen in the film, but rather for the mountains in which the battle took place (though I think it’s quite likely the mountains and the Nakoda band’s etymology could be linked in some way). But survivors fled into Alberta, Canada – right into the zone where Chief Bear Paw had held sway. One of the major historical moments that connect Chief Bear Paw and Chief Walking Buffalo (both of the “Bearspaw” band of the Nakoda nation) is the signing of Treaty 7, which Bear Paw signed and Walking Buffalo witnessed the signing of as a child. That was on September 22nd of 1877. The Battle of Bear Paw happened a week later, between September 30th and October 5th of 1877. The signing of Treaty 7 was not good for the Bearspaw people, as it’s believed they didn’t understand the subtlety or intricacy of the document, and what it would mean for them going forward. So, though the Colville/Nez-Perce people who survived the Nez Perce War by fleeing into Bearspaw country avoided a terrible fate, they arrived just in time to share the misfortune of their new brethren – who happened to share the same name as that fateful battle. One of the main chiefs lost in that battle was named Looking Glass, and Stephen King’s novel makes overt references to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland/Alice’s Adventure’s Through the Looking Glass, something Kubrick’s film does much more subtly. So I suspect this could’ve been part of Kubrick’s reason for invoking this particular network of references. Also, the name Delbert (à la Delbert Grady) is the masculine form of Alberta, the place to which the Colvilles fled.

It’s probably also worth pointing out how the Makah people of Washington state were (relatively) close neighbours of the Colvilles, and how there’s a painting called Makah Returning in Their War Canoes by Paul Kane hanging next to the ghost I believe to be the real Charles Grady (click that last link for details). In the novel, Jack remembers grimly the way his father put his mother in the hospital by beating her with his cane, and I believe Kubrick saw a connection between how Jack reacts to the memory of Mark Torrance and his encounters with Delbert Grady. Both are violent, vicious father figures (though one is a little more pitiable than the other), and I think Kubrick saw in them a connection to western imperialism.

But, despite the incredible symbolic depth of Colville paintings (or even because of how weighty they are), both in themselves and in how they relate to the film’s subtext, I have a harder time seeing the Colville paintings as evoking the people of the same name as strongly as the Bearspaw portraits evoke those people. I realize that probably sounds obvious, and I think I’ve provided sufficient evidence to show the Colville people are not discounted from the film. But the strongest link is in McDonald Lake (and yeah, there are two JEH MacDonald paintings in the lobby – The Solemn Land and Mist Fantasy – the latter of which may connect more to the notion of imperialist genocide more than any other in the film), and that connection really depends on Kubrick knowing about that one, arguably most likely, explanation of the lake’s name.

In any case, here’s links to all five Colville paintings, so you can decide for yourself how likely they connect to all this: Woman and Terrier, Horse and Train, Hound in Field, Moon and Cow, and Dog, Boy, and St. John River.


Going-to-the-Sun Road (seen extensively during the film’s opening) is perhaps the perfect location to express the schism between the genocide of the indigenous peoples of America, and the way Americans have chosen to remember that genocide. Just a 20 minute drive from the Canadian border (where many indigenous peoples were able to flee to avoid extermination), the road took 11 years to construct (1921-1932), and was the first road registered as a National Historic Place, National Historic Landmark, and Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. With all those accreditations, it starts to sound a bit in league with the Great Wall of China.

The name comes from the nearby mountain, Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, which is said to be named for a Blackfeet legend about a deity, Sour Spirit, returning to the sun from that mountain after finishing his work on earth (part of the mountain looks like a giant face, and this was thought to be Sour Spirit). The mountain’s original name was The-Face-of-Sour-Spirit-Who-Went-Back-to-The-Sun-After-His-Work-Was-Done Mountain. It was a hotspot for Blackfeet peoples on vision quests. So, the film opens on Jack travelling up a road named for a mountain where people seek visions.

Before we get to a shot-by-shot analysis of the Going-to-the-Road sequences, here’s a master map of the nine different shots, and the directions the helicopter travelled in to get the shot. If you’ve seen other peoples’ attempts at creating a map like this, please note that those contained errors. As you’ll see in my comparisons, I’ve gone to the trouble of showing the real-life spots where you could now drive to witness the same vantages. Also note in the master map below the way the sequence of shots is all over the place, with shots 1 and 3/4 retracing steps, 6 jumping way back to 7, 8 jumping back for 9 to cover the exact same curve of road, and 2/8/9 travelling in the opposite direction. For anyone familiar with these vistas, this would create a strong sense of disorientation and retread. For anyone unfamiliar, there’s still a powerful sense of strangeness during the 8/9 shots, which show the car seemingly on the left side of the gorge, when the opening was all on the right side. How many 25 mile roads go up both sides of a mountain range?

So let’s talk about these mountain names. From left to right we’ve got Red Eagle Mountain, Mahtotopa (Four Bears) Mountain, Little Chief Mountain, Citadel Mountain, Wild Goose Island (not a mountain, but still), Fusillade Mountain (above Wild Goose Island, no arrow), Reynolds Mountain/Heavy Runner Mountain (possibly obscured by Goat Mountain, I’m not sure), and Goat Mountain. All wrapping around St. Mary Lake.

As you’ll read in my animals section, I think there’s a strong symbolic purpose for opening the film on these mountains, but for now let’s just look at the historic nature of the area. Red Eagle was named, according to James Willard Schultz, by his wife Natahki, a Piegan Blackfeet woman, and survivor of the Baker/Marias massacre of 1870. She had an uncle named Red Eagle, who had saved their son Lone Wolf’s life with his prayers to the sun.

Mahtotopa Mountain is (inaccurately) named for Mato-tope (literally “Bear” “Four”), the second chief of the Mandan tribe of the same name. He was famed among his people for killing a Cheyenne chief with his bear hands, and for fighting several other tribes. He also belongs to the annals of history thanks to his brutal death during the 1837 smallpox epidemic, which caused him to denounce his former brother, the white man. It’s also possible the epidemic killed only his wife and children, and it’s also possible he starved himself to death out of grief over the loss of his family. The official count was that only 23 or 27 Mandans survived the epidemic to tell about it, or 1% of their initial population of around 2000. Imagine how you’d feel if you were among the 1% remaining of your people after some friendly folk gave you an inescapable, incurable poison. Would that seem like the worst genocide in the history of the world, do you think?

Little Chief Mountain was named by George Bird Grinnell (an American anthropologist who made firm, lasting contact with indigenous peoples) for his friend Captain Luther North, of the US Army, whose Pawnee name was Little Chief.

Citadel Mountain I couldn’t originate. Presumably it’s just what it sounds like. Wild Goose Island is another mystery, though it has a cute Romeo & Juliet-style legend.

Fusillade Mountain has one of my favourite origin stories. It was named by Grinnell as a “satirical gesture at [a Civil War general/Secretary of State, and the man who would later supervise the Manhattan Project] for firing a futile volley at a group of goats on the side of this mountain.” “Fusillade” means a series of shots all fired at the same time in quick succession, so apparently these men were not exactly crack shots.

Heavy Runner Mountain is almost certainly named for Chief Heavy Runner, who headed a band of Piegan peoples, but we’ll be covering him when we get to Piegan Mountain in a few shots. Note, however, that Heavy Runner was at the certain of another major slaughter, the Marias/Baker/Piegan massacre.

Goat Mountain, I’m going to extrapolate from the Fusillade Mountain story, is probably named for the local goats of the region.

And of course, St. Mary Lake could refer to a few women of myth (there’s actually at least 10 St. Marys…that’s confusing), but almost certainly refers to the nearby town of St. Mary, at the lake’s eastern edge.

Okay, so we’ve got mountains that memorialize massacres and genocides and we’ve got mountains that memorialize fellowship and in-jokes among the sides. And then right in the middle, a massive reminder of Christian mythology. And that’s all just in the first shot of the movie.

The second shot is of the foot of Mt. Brown, beside Lake McDonald. Other analysts have mistaken this for St. Mary Lake again, but you can see it’s McDonald by studying the lakeshore in the first part of the shot, and the little wedge of extra shoulder on the west side of the road at the top of the image at the end of the shot.

There’s conflicting reports on who Brown was named for, but I think, given the other subtext concerning railroads in the film, Kubrick would’ve liked the explanation that it was for William Brown, Solicitor General for the Chicago and Alton Railroad, given the connection that would provide to Carson City, which is about the building of a railroad.

Lake McDonald was likely named for Duncan McDonald, a “mixed-blood son of a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader and a Nez Perce [indigenous] woman”, who had carved his name on a tree near the lake (leading denizens to call it McDonald’s Lake), and who also set up his own hotel and restaurant on the Flathead reservation where he lived as a tribal leader, and as chairman of the Flathead Business Committee for 15 years. Like Chief Tatânga Mânî, who shows up later in a portrait in the Colorado lounge, McDonald acted as a bridge between the white man’s world and the tribe’s world. Unlike Mânî, McDonald seems to have stuck it to the man a little more, acting as a “thorn in the side” of the agents assigned to overlook the Flathead peoples. Another interesting note: the lake used to be called Terry Lake, after General Alfred Terry, a famous fighter of indigenous peoples. So this was also an instance of the name going back to signify something it used to signify, since the first name of the place was the Kootenai word for “sacred dancing”. Also, though it’s not seen in the film, at the start of the shot, Jack’s VW has just passed Lake McDonald Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, built by a man named George Snyder. The hotel’s lobby has a concrete floor with numerous indigenous languages scored into it (sort of like how the Overlook lobby is scored with numerous Apache/Navajo motifs).

Also, as noted in the buried art section, McDonald shares a name with JEH MacDonald, the artist whose art is the first art seen in the movie, as Jack walks into the hotel. The Solemn Land and Mist Fantasy are the only two MacDonalds I’ve ID’d so far, but there might be others.

In the third shot of the movie we get a repeat view of Red Eagle, Four Bears and Little Chief Mountains (which are glazed with snow now, presumably because these shots were taken at a different time of year from the first shot in the film), but because this part of the road is almost at the start of St. Mary Lake (as opposed to halfway through), we get a wider array of the surrounding mountains. From left to right these are Curly Bear Mountain, Kakitos (Blackfeet: “Star”) Mountain, Split Mountain, Red Eagle Mountain, Four Bears Mountain, Little Chief Mountain, and finally, on Jack’s side of the lake, East Flattop Mountain.

Kakitos is said to frequently resemble a three-pointed star. Aerial views of Split make it look like two mountains that used to be one, and East Flattop is probably true to its name as well. The only of the new ones here to have an indigenous significance is Curly Bear Mountain, named for a Blackfeet historian and warrior, Curly Bear (Kyáiyo-xusi) who worked with James Willard Schultz to provide place names to the area.

The fourth shot of the film, groovin’ up slowly on Jack’s VW, is a repeat of the same vista from the first and third shots, but especially the first, showing Goat, Red Eagle, Four Bears, Citadel and Fusillade Mountains.

The fifth shot is quite Christian in tone, compared to the others.

Bishops Cap Mountain, named for having a top like a bishop’s hat, is what Jack drives along while Danny Lloyd (Danny), Scatman Crothers (Hallorann), Barry Nelson (Ullman), Philip Stone (Grady), Joe Turkel (Lloyd) and Anne Jackson (Doctor) go by. In the distance are Heaven’s Peak and the foot of Mount Oberlin. Heaven’s Peak comes from reconnaissance maps prepared for Lt. George Ahern, of the 25th infantry (so, possibly the brainchild of some random scout). And Oberlin was named for the progressive Oberlin College, named for JF Oberlin, an Alsatian minister and philanthropist. There was also a famous rescue of slaves called the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, whose name derives from the same root figure (though I don’t think there’s any “Wellington” reference in the film, so this is possibly incidental).

I’m not sure if any particular point is being made by having the vast majority of the supporting cast (only Tony Burton (Durkin) is relegated to the following shot, which still includes Bishops Cap and Heaven’s Peak) appear during this collection of Christian-themed mountains, but perhaps it’s because the cast isn’t indigenous. I don’t know if anyone on production was, but I’m doubtful.

Bishops Cap and Heaven’s Peak are back in shot six, and joining them is Mt. Cannon, named for Walter Bradford Cannon, the American physiologist who coined the term “fight or flight response” and who furthered Claude Bernard’s work on homeostasis (among many other studies relevant to The Shining‘s content). Most interesting, I feel, is his work on something called “Voodoo Death“, where someone (indigenous and otherwise) is thought to have died due to the shock of having broken a taboo. “[I]n New Zealand” he writes, “there are tales of death induced by ghostly power.” The fact that Stephen King’s name scrolls by here seems apt.

Also, the mountain was named for Cannon after he and his wife became the first to scale it while on their honeymoon. It had originally been named Goat Mountain, which, as we’ve seen, became the name of that other mountain.

On a more figurative level, it could also be inferred that “Cannon” appearing centre-screen is apt since the next shot features Heavy Runner Mountain, referencing a chief who (at the risk of sounding irreverent) found his death in the white man’s hand-cannons.

The seventh and final shot of Going-to-the-Sun Road from the intro is notable for being in roughly the exact middle between the further reaches of these shots in all four directions. But especially interesting is how 2, 3 and 7 are the shots that make the diagonal slash across the line formed by the other 6 shots. These three shots also, collectively contain all the indigenous references made by mountains and lakes in the intro. Shots 1 and 4 cover all the same indigenous names covered in 3 and 7.

Jack has just passed Siyeh Bend (Blackfeet: “Crazy Dog”/”Mad Wolf”), and is driving alongside Piegan Mountain, heading straight for Heavy Runner Mountain (with possibly part of Reynolds or Fusillade off in the distance).

So, first off, “Mad Wolf” Bend coming right before the Overlook would be apt if I’m right about the hotel correlating to wolves on the Four Directions map.

But more significant is the centring of Heavy Runner Mountain. There’s really no point in my truncating this story for concision or clarity; please head to Wikipedia for an overview of the tragedy.

As for how it relates to The Shining, note that Chief Heavy Runner was shot dead while running toward the Americans while waving a safe conduct paper from the Indian Bureau (guaranteeing him and his peoples safety), and the total people murdered was 217. Now, that number is surely a coincidence with regard to King’s putting a 217 in the novel (King claims the number comes from the room he stayed in at the Stanley Hotel, and I tend to believe him). But King’s novel is set in Colorado, and Kubrick specifically chose this area of Montana to film the opening. So, possibly the 217 detail is why he chose here over anywhere else. It’s chicken and the egg, and it’s also possibly a giant coincidence, all round.

Also, while I can’t say if Heavy Runner is visible in the opening shot, it is possible that it is, which would make it the only mountain to appear in the first and last shot of the Going-to-the-Sun road sequence. In both instances, visible or not, the camera is racing upon the spot where Heavy Runner sits. So it’s like the opening is putting us on the side of the US Army, alongside our great hero Jack Torrance, the Big Bag Wolf.

The final shot of the opening jumps us 12 hours west from Montana to Oregon, specifically to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. The Timberline (built during the Great Depression) has been used for a few movies (notably ones about the gold rush and desegregation), but what’s most notable about the building itself is that it was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who also designed the Ahwahnee Hotel, which the interior of the Overlook was based on. This seems vaguely significant since the hotel that inspired the novel of The Shining was the Stanley Hotel, and of course here we have Stanley Kubrick adapting the film. Underwood specialized in hotel and lodge architecture, but perhaps the real reason for using the Timberline was in order to set the action on Mt. Hood.

About 70km east of Portland, Mt. Hood was named for Samuel Hood, a British Viscount and navy admiral of olden times, who fought in the Seven Years War, the American Revolutionary War, and the Battle of Chesapeake, with great success. He was painted by Thomas Gainsborough, whose paintings were a major inspiration on Barry Lyndon. Incidentally, the other area in Canada named for him is in Nova Scotia, not far from where Alex Colville (who has five paintings featured in the film) lived.

More significantly, the mountain was originally called Wy’east by the Multnomah peoples, for a legend of theirs with a few different tellings. In each one the mountain is symbolic of a warrior who fought another warrior (sons of the Great Spirit Sahale/Saghalie) for the hand of a beautiful maiden. All three were turned into mountains, either due to the great carnage that their warring created (destroying a land mass called the Bridge of the Gods, leading to a great release of water), or because their extreme anger made them into volcanoes. Interestingly, the woman mountain became Mt. St. Helen’s, and the two male mountains became Mount Hood, named by Lt. William Broughton, a member of George Vancouver’s exploration team, and Mount Adams, named for President John Adams.

Lt. Broughton left the B.C.-Oregon area thanks to “conflicting instructions over Nootka Sound”, which is where the indigenous folks from the John Webber paintings are from. So it’s interesting that the mountain retains a name that was given to it by “the enemy” so to speak, and named for one who gave the Americans what for.

The last time the mountain erupted was in 1907, which is when the Overlook is said to have been built (in fact, the Timberline was built in 1936-38, and the Ahwahnee in 1926-27, which may have seemed funny to any parkitecture enthusiasts).

It’s also worth noting how, in the mirrorform, the image of dead Jack being dead has him overlaying Bishop’s Cap, Oberlin and Heaven’s Peak Mountains while a name with “Stone” in it scrolls by. Perhaps this was a subtle reference to the Wy’east mythology. Jack is, after all, absorbed into the Overlook, which is like an extension of Wy’east.

The last two shots of Going-to-the-Sun Road (where Jack is driving the family up for the winter) are actually two passes at the same kilometre of road, the first one only slightly further ahead of the second one (just around the bend the other is ahead of), again, creating a vague sense of déjà vu for anyone familiar with the region.

I should also remind that the eighth and ninth shots are also the second and third, after the second shot (of Lake McDonald), to show Jack driving due east. While the first of these is hard to tell because it is such an aerial view, not in the mountains, and quite winding, the eighth shot gives away a larger vantage, and shows the car driving along the right shoulder of the range. What really struck me about this, with all the Going-to-the-Sun Road sequences in mind, is how, separated by about 14 minutes of other action, Kubrick gives us a lot of time to forget that all the other shots of Jack driving to the hotel were on the left shoulder of the range. I’m no civil engineer, or expert on 25-mile stretches of road through large mountain ranges (as Ullman describes the access), but do you suppose many of them cross from one shoulder of a range to the other?

So the subliminal effect, like with many of the hotel’s tricks, is of mirroring. Using our subconscious sense of symmetry to hint that there’s been a glitch in the matrix.

The eighth shot also gives us the distant feet of Oberlin and Heaven’s Peak again, but focuses on The Garden Wall Mountain, Alder Creek and Haystack Creek. I can’t find any info on Haystack Creek or its sister mountain, Haystack Butte, but Alder Creek is named for all the alders growing along it, and sure enough, the word alder comes from the Proto-Indo-European root el-, which means “red” or “brown”.

In this eighth shot we see the yellow Torrance Beetle drive through the “red” creek, and in the ninth shot we’ll see them reapproaching it, as if driving through the red water flow twice. The mirrorform for both of these shots is Jack having freshly axed into Suite 3, and Wendy having just seen REDRUM. The river of blood is coming…

The name Garden Wall comes from a time in the late 1890s when one of George Bird Grinnell’s party members, who, after a campfire round of singing the recently popular song Over the Garden Wall, said, “There is one wall we cannot get over” meaning the ridge. The line from the song that seems interesting to this moment is, “With a lad and a ladder she managed to creep/Over the garden wall”, since in the mirrorform for the next shot, Danny is seen sliding over the snow mound that allows him to escape Jack’s axe. And I’ve long wondered if this moment has a connection to Jacob’s Ladder, a moment in the bible that is invoked at several other points in the film. Of course, Wendy does not manage to creep over this garden wall, but the lad and the ladder might.

As you can (kinda) see, Danny’s slide is almost exactly the same grade as the slope of the Garden Wall, and the side of the Overlook looks almost built into the side of the mountain. In the context where the Overlook is itself a kind of labyrinth, seeing it built into the “Garden Wall” is pretty apt.

Putting aside the Haystack Butte (named for its appearance), the only mountain we see here in the final shot of Going-to-the-Sun Road that we haven’t seen before is Mount Gould, which was named for GR Gould, a hunting and business partner of George Bird Grinnell. I can’t find anything else on that man, so perhaps this last shot was merely meant to repeat the same bit of road, and give us that sense of repeating something forever and ever.

Of course, Gould looks like “gold” because the name is a variation on the name “Gold”, and Montana’s most profitable gold rush was along another creek by the name Alder (Gulch). So perhaps this last shot is meant to instil in us that subconscious sense of what ultimately ripped the Torrances to shreds: the pursuit of wealth by any means available.

(Since writing this, many months ago, I discovered the many John Gould paintings in room 237, so this may very well be the reason for these shots being used.)

So, of the 9 shots of the road, only 5, 6, 8, and 9 seem to omit indigenous references (all of which are north of the others–in Four Directions north equals the white man). And 6 may be a soft reference, given the Voodoo Death research of Walter Bradford Cannon.

The last shot of a mountain to put a name to appears in the film between the first shot of Mt. Hood and the eighth of the Going-to-the-Sun Road shots. This is Green Mountain, appearing to the southwest of the Kensington Apartments in Boulder, Colorado. I can’t find the origin of this name applying to this mountain but there is another, more incredible connection.

Right before Danny turns the last corner before stopping outside 237, he passes the 1839 Louise-Amélie Panet-Berczy painting entitled either Sisters Creek or The Battle of Longue-Pointe or The Battle of the Barn. It’s the second/third name which most concerns us here, since the Battle of Longue-Pointe was when American Revolutionary War participant Ethan Allen was captured by Canadian forces and held for three years after a failed attempt at invading parts of French-speaking Canada. Earlier in life Allen was the head thug of a Vermont-based militia self-named the Green Mountain Boys, who had their own flag and everything. Wendy tells the doctor that the Torrances are originally from Vermont, a name that comes from the French “Verd Mont”, meaning “green mountain”. So even if this somehow isn’t a reference to the Green Mountain Boys, there’s still the sense that the Torrances haven’t really moved at all; the Green Mountain is still behind them.

Also, it’s unclear, but it seems that around 10% of the Canadian forces that captured Allen were indigenous peoples working for the British.

Bonus thought: My last point to make here is small, and potentially meaningless, but the direction in which Green Mountain is shot puts Mariposa Avenue between the Torrances and the mountain. Mariposa is Spanish for “butterfly”. Mt. Hood can be perceived reflected in a lake called Mirror Lake. So, this would all fit with the film’s mirror and symmetry subtext.

Why that’s potentially meaningless is I have no idea if that road was around in 1979, or whenever the establishing shot was taken, and I have no intention of finding out. As you can see in the establishing shot above, the land behind the apartments looks pretty undeveloped, but this could simply be clever framing. If Kubrick knew that people would one day be looking into the meaning behind all the mountains, perhaps he knew that this would stand out as well. Perhaps not.

So yeah. It seems like the land masses in the film all have a certain relevance to the story, or the film’s general purposes, especially with regard to American conquest, and the suffering of indigenous folks. But it doesn’t end there!


I’m not entirely certain this was intentional, but check this out. The three times that Ullman’s map of Colorado appears in the (impossible) daylight, two regions appear to have a ghostly, glowing outline. I suppose it’s possible this is some trick of the light, but you’ll easily note that none of the other regions subjected to the same light have borders reacting likewise.

As you can see on this map of Colorado, these areas are Routt and Pitkin, both named for former governors. John Long Routt‘s major contributions to the state seems to be cracking away at the state constitution and women’s suffrage. Frederick Walker Pitkin, who immediately followed Routt, was known for dealing with railway feuds, and for ordering the suppression and relocation of Ute peoples following the Meeker massacre.

What that was, was a group of Utes massacred Nathan Meeker, an agent assigned to officially deal with the Colorado Utes (a utopian who was trying to convert them to Christianity while simultaneously trying to disabuse them of how they used their land), along with ten of his male workers. This ended up coinciding with an ambush on some nearby military men, called in by Meeker to help. These forces lost 14 men, and the Utes escaped with many hostages. This became known as the Meeker massacre and the Milk Creek Canyon disaster.

Chief Ouray, of the Uncompahgre Ute, was the one who negotiated for the release of the women and children hostages. I mention him because there became an area of Colorado known as Ouray which is mentioned by name in the film. “And the search continues in the mountains near Ouray today for that missing Aspen woman,” says the reporter on TV, “24-year-old Susan Robertson has been missing 10 days.” I have a few ideas on the name Susan Robertson, but in this context it brings to mind the Roberts brand milk in the red carton behind Wendy, which we first saw while Wendy was washing up in Boulder. Does Milk = Milk Creek?

The result of the Meeker massacre would not seem to match the crime, however. Governor Frederick Pitkin ran on a campaign of, according to Wikipedia, “The Utes Must Go!” which sadly resonated with the Coloradans of the day enough to elect him. Pitkin made “exaggerated claims against the Ute” for the purpose of turning public favour against them, in order to gain control of Ute territories. The Milk Creek and Meeker massacres, along with the lengthy hostage taking, was enough to achieve this end, it seems. The resulting Ute Removal Act “denied the Ute 12 million acres [emphasis mine] of land that had formerly been guaranteed to them in perpetuity.” What’s more, the Ute’s name for these areas was formerly “The Shining Mountains“. And of course it’s right at this kitchen table that Hallorann introduced Danny to the word “shining” to describe their “very great talent”.

So Wendy’s obliviousness to herstory (and her general life situation) might be being underscored here. After all, while she sits with her back to the ghostly outlines of Routt and Pitkin, she wears a jacket covered in tipis, and shoes that resemble moccasin slippers. Perhaps these two men simply express how quickly something can go from good to bad, from benign to malevolent. Pitkin, the map area, only highlights in the below scene (of the four scenes featuring the map), which is Wendy’s first scene after Jack’s first outburst in the Colorado lounge.

Strangely enough, one of the chiefs behind the Milk Creek ambush was Nicaagat (Ute: “leaves becoming green”), known to colonists as Chief Jack.

One last thing: the name Routt comes from the Old English root “rud-” which means “ruddy”. The name Routt was meant to describe someone with a reddish complexion, or it could mean someone who often wears red (the last time Jack stands before this map he will have assumed his final, ruddy form; see below). Pitkin, sadly, does not mean “rum”, but “along”.


While this isn’t terribly indigenous in nature, I can’t think of a better place to put this theory to record. So, the news reporter’s full (pre-weather-forecast) dialogue goes, “…Sunday. Rutherford was serving a life sentence for his conviction in the 1968 shooting. And the search continues in the mountains near Ouray today for that missing Aspen woman. 24-year-old Susan Robertson has been missing 10 days. She disappeared while on a hunting trip with her husband.”

True Grit was a novel that came out in 1968, and was filmed in the town of Ouray that same year (from September to December). The screenwriter who adapted True Grit was a leftist, who was blacklisted in 1952 for her refusing to name names to HUAC, named Marguerite Roberts. John Wayne insisted for her script, calling it “the best [he’d] ever read” despite his own conservative leanings. The story is about a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (on a “hunting trip” in indigenous country with a hired gun, Rooster Cogburn), bringing her father’s killer to justice with her own two hands, which has a vague reminiscence to the “unusually empowered youth” theme of The Shining. Roberts had been “missing” 10 years from the film industry having penned the script for Ivanhoe in 1952 and Diamond Head in 1962. And while Roberts was born in Greeley, Colorado, I can’t find evidence of her having lived in Aspen, Colorado. Still, they’re only four hours apart. And the 24-years-old detail could be a reference to the fact that she was only credited for 24 screenplays before being blacklisted. Her 25th, Ivanhoe, had her name removed before the film was released thanks to the HUAC nonsense.

But anyway, what was the point of this reference tree, if that’s what it is? Who is Rutherford? I’m not sure (various theories translate this name as meaning “red river crossing” or “oxen/cattle river crossing”, both of which would play well with my general analysis of the film). Possibly there are other blacklisted writer references in the film I’m not seeing, but this might be all there is. Possibly Kubrick just wanted to add a dash of HUAC to the broth.

One thing’s for sure, Dick Hallorann (Danny Torrance’s hired gun) does have a rooster behind him in all three Miami scenes.

And the only thing between Jack and Grady is a…red pepper.

ADDENDUM: What I will say about True Grit‘s indigenous subtext is that, by setting the bulk of the story’s action in “Indian country” but without involving any indigenous characters or subplots it gives the story an appropriate sense of happening in another land, which is was. But in most of the old westerns I’ve seen (while I’ve seen over 5000 films, that’s one genre I’m not well-versed in) the danger of going into hostile territory is the so-called hostiles. In True Grit, it’s a so-called American.


This is a brief one for one of the most complicated instances of genocide. Pontiac’s War, which has been characterized as both sides trying to extinguish the other, was named for Pontiac, a leader of the Odawa, who helped spark a widespread rebellion against British forces, though it’s debated now how much control he had past a point.

After reading a fair bit about this, I can’t see any obvious connections other than the fact that a Pontiac Parisienne (Boulder) and a Pontiac Firebird (Durkin’s) appear in the film. Were these intentional references to the war, or simply to the man? Or simply to the car…? The fact that the Boulder car is a Parisienne (and that the apartments are called the Kensington Apartments) could be an allusion to the fact that Pontiac worked with French forces against the British. That’s all I got. But it’s not nothing.


This hardly seems worth pointing out, now that I have all these seemingly direct references to the genocide of indigenous peoples, but I want to include my work on the Sand Creek massacre just because this was the network of clues that got me thinking there could be buried references to specific massacres.

The Sand Creek massacre is considered one of the most substantial acts of genocide in the history of American genocides. It was from when the Methodist preacher John Milton Chivington, then a US Army Colonel, and openly genocidal racist (Chivington: “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! … I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honourable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”) lead around 700 of his men to attack and destroy a Cheyenne/Arapahoe village and to murder and mutilate as many as 500 people, two-thirds of whom were women and children. The accounts of the aftermath of battle (please go read those) are among the most sickening I’ve ever read about. I’m not sure why this particular massacre upsets me so much, but it’s blinding. I’ve tried to work on the writing for this section about 20 times, and I keep having to give up, because as I get more and more into the history, my mind goes numb with nausea. State-funded psychopathy is nothing I’m unfamiliar with, and certainly just bullying all the many indigenous peoples aside, then rounding them into mineral-poor reservations, or nearly extinguishing entire peoples with smallpox…are greater crimes, if only in scale. But I just find this particular microcosm of the whole colonial process poignantly disturbing.

This is why I don’t agree with the position that Kubrick wouldn’t bury warfare subtext into The Shining, because it would simply be more honourable to film that story head-on. Kubrick tried to make Aryan Papers (and did make Full Metal Jacket), and his wife Christiane said she would come upon him weeping in his study over history books about the war, and that she was relieved when he finally abandoned the project. I think The Shining became the perfect vessel through which to deal with the most brutal, disturbing elements of all these things, without having to marinate in the sad, soul-sucking reality of man’s inhumanity to man, point blank. Many of the best films about the Holocaust, or indeed any brilliant film focused on the carnage of war, are no fun to watch. You can only revisit them as masterpieces of art, not as thrilling depictions of the human condition. And how could you bring yourself to lace such a film with the kind of rich cultural intertextuality that we find in The Shining? Doesn’t the gravity of the genocide/atrocity always take precedence? Of course, fans of Shutter Island and Inglourious Basterds will certainly find a nit to pick with my thought, there, but those films are clearly shifting focus away from the greatest horrors of those wars to focus on a microcosm (or to focus on an alternate/imaginary universe). I’m talking about films that deal with the macrocosm of the Holocaust (Schindler’s List, The Grey Zone, The Counterfeiters, etc.).

Alright, so, first (and best?) clue! The painting that appears when Jack hears Jack Hylton’s Masquerade playing at the ghostball is JEH MacDonald’s Mist Fantasy, Sand River, Algoma. The piece features two empty canoes in Sand River, Ontario. And the piece is just up the hall from Makah Returning in Their War Canoes, which, as elsewhere discussed, contains a depiction of two such war canoes paddled by 42 men (not counting the coxswains).

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When Wendy comes upon the murdered snowcat, there’s a big red bucket with SAND written across it in white paint. It’s right beneath a red and white arrow pointing straight down at it. The dead snowcat is also red and white.

Right before Danny gets to 237 and has his second vision of the Grady twins, he passes the painting Sisters Creek, about a battle which involved indigenous victors. This is, as yet, one of only two flagrant references in the film to the word “creek” (the other being Hallorann hearing on the radio that Wolf Creek pass is closed), though I suppose if you knew what Alder or Haystack Creek were by sight, you could’ve been thinking about those already. Still, this creek has a direct tie to indigenous involvement in a battle.

One of the main Westerners to speak out against the Sand Creek massacre was famed and beloved American frontiersman, Kit Carson, who said, “Jis’ to think of that dog Chivington and his dirty hounds, up thar at Sand Creek. His men shot down squaws, and blew the brains out of little innocent children. You call sich soldiers Christians, do ye? And Indians savages? What der yer s’pose our Heavenly Father, who made both them and us, thinks of these things? I tell you what, I don’t like a hostile red skin any more than you do. And when they are hostile, I’ve fought ’em, hard as any man. But I never yet drew a bead on a squaw or papoose, and I despise the man who would.”

The movie that plays behind Wendy here is Carson City (1952). The real Carson City was named after Kit Carson. Also, Wendy’s wearing an indigenous-style belt here, as we’ll see in better detail later on.

I could also draw your attention to all the other notable references in the film to a “Carson“, but I think that alone should suffice. Although, when Jack says, “Here’s Johnny!”, you know, that could work as a sly mash-up of (John) Chivington and Kit (Carson).

There were 8 members of what was called the Council of 44 who were slain in the event, and these were White Antelope (there’s a white antelope head behind Hallorann at his Miami apartment), One Eye (Carson City was directed by Andre DeToth, who only had one eye), Yellow Wolf (there’s a reference to “Wolf Creek” on the radio, but that’s not a complete reference; though Wolf Creek does happen to run in the shadow of Alberta Peak), Big Man, Bear Man (I mean, there’s lots of bears in the film; Winnie-the-Pooh is especially manlike), War Bonnet (the man on the Calumet Baking Powder can is wearing a war bonnet), Spotted Crow, and Bear Robe (the figure in the blowjob room is wearing a literal bear robe).

What lead to Sand Creek was partly the signing of the Treaty of Fort Wise, which was signed by Cheyenne chiefs Black Kettle (there’s kettles all over the movie, mostly silver, though, the darkest being the one in the boiler room; see below), White Antelope, Lean Bear, Little Wolf, and Tall Bear, and the Arapahoe chiefs Little Raven, Storm (many storms in the film), Shave-Head (Hallorann’s looking pretty damn shorn here), Big Mouth (Jack’s always making his mouth look large and cavernous, though Wendy and Danny do their share of gaping mouth faces), and Left Hand (the movie is pointed full of left hand turns, as discussed at length elsewhere).

Also, while it’s possible/probable that other “bears” were murdered at Sand Creek, the ones noted on Wikipedia include Bear Man, Bear Robe, Lean Bear and Tall Bear. That’s four bears. Like Four Bears Mountain.

Here’s the blackest of all the kettles, seen while Jack is having his murder dream.

A conflict involving Cheyenne chiefs Lean Bear and Star getting murdered by Chivington’s men was a major precursor to the Sand Creek massacre, and the film does include a lean bear, in the sense that the bear rug is very lean, and one of the mountains in the opening is called Kakitos (Star) Mountain. Not named by the same language, to be sure, but still.

And, if you like, this lean bear appears onscreen with the American flag. Covered in stars.

According to testimonies made to the US Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in 1865, Chivington and his men made trophies out of their weaponry by decorating them with the mutilated, severed scalps, genitals, and cut-out/shot-out foetuses of the murdered Cheyenne/Arapahoe. If that’s not blindingly disturbing enough for you, these were publicly displayed at Denver’s Apollo theatre. I don’t know if no one complained, but can you imagine not complaining? For a heartbeat?

Here, Danny’s Apollo sweater appears at length beside a Nakoda girl with pigtails.

When Wendy is first witnessing Jack’s initial descent into madness, she seems to be standing in the middle of a massive close-up on an Arapahoe flag. The flag was created to commemorate and pay respect to Arapahoe War Veterans. Black means for people to be strong in the face of death (which Wendy increasingly is), and white means knowledge to be passed on to the young. The occlusion of red (in the film) is probably a necessary evil, if this was even intentional symbolism, but red is for the People. If the occlusion was on purpose, I suppose you could say that it’s symbolic of the way the Arapahoe (like so many indigenous peoples) have been forgotten by modern America.

This is perhaps minor, but the issue of Field & Stream this guy’s reading includes the line “PIKE ARE GAMEFISH!” And the Pikes Peak gold rush is partly responsible for causing the massacre.

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Actually, on that note, the SKI BROADMOOR poster could be a reference to this as well, since The Broadmoor Hotel is in the shadow of Pikes Peak.

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Wendy hears about a 24-year-old Aspen woman who’s been missing 10 days in the mountains near Ouray.

The battle of Sand Creek created, as atrocities of this nature tend to do, militants out of the surviving members of the slaughtered people. Most notable were the Dog Soldiers, Cheyennes and Lakotas who pre-existed the battle, but who were greatly empowered by its occurrence. Many of the many dog paintings in the film appear within eyesight of portraits of Nakoda children or a Nakoda chief. I’m not sure if that’s a reference to the Dog Soldiers, ultimately, but there was one notable warrior created by Sand Creek, and that was Mochi (Cheyenne: “Buffalo Calf”). She was a 24-year-old member of Black Kettle’s camp when the attack happened, saw her mother shot dead in the forehead, and who killed the US soldier who did this while he was attempting to rape her. This lead to her becoming a raiding warrior from 1864-1874. Aspen and Ouray are about equidistant from Sand Creek.

I honestly don’t know if Mochi is being (very obscurely) alluded to here, but it is worth noting that Mochi’s big atrocity was in taking part in the massacre/kidnapping of the German family of ten. Mochi herself is credited with splitting Liddia German’s head in two with a tomahawk. Does that compare to Chivington’s deeds? No. But it’s not nothing, by a long shot. And the fact that the family was called the Germans would play into the WWII subtext.

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So, was that a lot of straw-grasping? Perhaps. The most direct connection seems to be Carson City, which is only as direct as it seems when you’re looking for the connection. The Apollo/Nakoda girl connection is probably the strongest on a direct visual level, but again, it requires precise awareness of the tragedy to make that connection.


Jack is clubbed by Wendy directly above the portrait of Tatânga Mânî (“Walking Buffalo”, AKA George McLean). Mânî was was an interesting character. He was witness and subject to some of the worst things Canadian colonialists would perpetrate against the indigenous peoples here (residential schools, the breaking of treaties, the extinction of the bison), but he still felt it was better to live the life of a diplomat, and, quite late in life, found the incredible strength to forgive the white man his ills, and to live in a spirit of forgiveness.

I’m not sure exactly why this man’s portrait hangs in the Colorado lounge, right next to Ullman when he says “All the best people”, right across from Jack’s face (through the stairs) whenever he’s typing the All Work pages, and right below Wendy when she clubs Jack on the stairs. Mânî was a man of incredible balance, and Jack is a man of incredible imbalance. It does occur to me that some have said that Danny’s higher level trike rides symbolize his floating around in his parents’ higher consciences (237 for Jack, the twins for Wendy), so possibly Wendy’s clubbing Jack right around the corner from 237 and right above Mânî means her defeat of Jack is something like Mânî’s higher consciousness, or the higher consciousness of the Nakoda/Stoney/Bearspaw peoples.

And speaking of Stoney peoples, Going-to-the-Sun Rd. doesn’t take you to a resort lodge, at its zenith, but rather to a spot called “The Loop” where people can park to go hiking or camping. The path that goes north from here has, as its second major stopping point, a peak called Stoney Indian Peaks South. That’s significant because the portraits of the indigenous children that hang all throughout the hotel are of kids from the Stoney peoples of Western Canada, otherwise known as the Nakoda, which means “friend” or “ally”, and more specifically from the band known as Bearspaw.

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Both times Jack throws the tennis ball he’s chucking it near a piece of bog oak (red box – both of which will disappear before the movie is through), near a place where Danny has been or will be playing (the lounge throws touch the other side of the wall from where Danny will be playing with his toys outside 237), and near a piece of Navajo art (the fireplace mural in the lounge, the mazerug in the lobby). This seems to speak to Jack’s obliviousness to the ancient past (the bog oak), the present (the suffering of indigenous peoples) and the future (his progeny). And the more I think about it, the more I realize there’s a multitude of other connections between these spots, but you get the point.

That said, at three moments, Wendy is seen wearing clothing with references to indigenous designs and traditional garb, and if you count the mukluk-style boots, she’s almost never without an indigenous reference on her person. So, if that’s the message, that she has some intrinsic connection to Navajos or Nakodas or some such, I’m lead to wonder if she’s a symbol of the conquered and oppressed or if she’s just another white person ignorant of the effects of cultural appropriation. Or both.

I wonder if this has some connection to the attacks that had to be “repelled” while the Overlook was being built. If the hotel sees Wendy and Danny as threats, the clothing could heighten our sense of that element.

The TV series Emergency! (1972-1979), referenced in Danny’s bedroom by a thermos and a lunchpail, starred Randolph Mantooth, who is half Seminole. The name Seminole comes from the Creek word simanó-li, which means “runaway” (another, very obscure, Creek reference?). And the lunchpail is directly above Candyland, which features the gingerbread man as its mascot, also famous for his running away abilities.

Danny’s superpower will become running away at the end, though he has a few good running away moments before then, like when he flees Summer of ’42, or when he escapes the 237 ghost’s clutches.

Tiger of the Snows (Tenzing Norgay and John Ramsey Ullman, 1955) – Ullman interviewed Norgay, and then credited Norgay as the author, which is fairly selfless, as these (1955) things go. The book tells the story of the first two men, Edmund Hillary and Norgay, a Sherpa, to set foot on the summit of Everest.

So, aside from being a book by a guy who shares a name with a character we’ve already met in the Overlook (Ullman), it shares a big similarity with the Apollo 11 imagery; the idea of pioneers going to places never before seen. Kubrick’s work in general speaks to an admiration for explorers and truth-tellers. Ullman was shining a light on the other side of this famed expedition and on the universe of the Sherpas, who had never been properly portrayed to the world at large before. This heightens the movie’s adherence symbolically to indigenous cultures, overlooked. (Also, how about this! The actor who plays the bloody head Grady ghost is Norman Gay. Nor-Gay.) Perhaps Kubrick included this also as an example of an indigenous man whose life was positively impacted by his interactions with the white man. Time magazine considers Norgay one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, placing him alongside the likes of Einstein and Gandhi.

Where’s his biopic, eh? Hitler has a dozen already.

As Jack crosses through space to kill his family, he says, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” which as some of you will already know is much more likely a reference to the Thriller episode by the same name (I’ve linked to a thousand times already). But it is also a possible reference to The Wizard of Oz, originally written by L. Frank Baum, which includes a song called Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are, sung by Glenda the Good Witch to the Munchkins. Kubrick, as far as I can tell, didn’t espouse any particular distaste for any particular movie (he did make some sweeping pronouncements about certain cinematic trends and cultures, like Disney’s handling of children’s stories), other than his daughter’s claim that he hated The Wizard of Oz. But why have a reference to that film at all? Just to ruin its reputation slightly by putting one of its song titles in the mouth of a psycho killer?

Well, perhaps the answer lies somewhat in the genocidal views editorialized by the series’ author in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, and if you decide to burn these words into your mind forever, I won’t stop you. Personally, I have to say, I’m a fan of George Cukor, but I honestly don’t know if I can ever enjoy a creation of Baum’s again. I mean, Kevin Spacey was one of my favourite actors for most of my life, and we’re about two years from the revelations now, and I still can’t bring myself to revisit a single one of his masterpieces.

Keep American Beautiful, the famous 1971 ad campaign with Iron Eyes Cody, is seemingly referenced by Wendy and Danny as they run into the labyrinth “The loser has to keep America clean, how ’bout that?!”

There’s a non-profit organization by the same name that goes back to 1953. It was founded by, among others, Philip Morris, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola (Philip Morris and Coke are referenced in the film). It also bears mention that Iron Eyes Cody was, famously, not indigenous (also a close friend of Walt Disney’s), but this wasn’t well-known until the mid-90s. Most likely the reference has nothing to do with Cody specifically. But perhaps there’s a connection I’m not seeing.

There’s an abundance of art in the Overlook depicting Nakoda/Stoney/Bearspaw children, but not a lot of art by actual indigenous artists. Of the three artists I think are in the film, one is anonymous (the Zapotec/Navajo mural in the lounge), one is uncertain (the musk ox one at the end below, which looks to me like the work of Pudlo Pudlat), and the one with two pieces in the film is Copper Thunderbird (AKA Norval Morrisseau), called “the Picasso of the North”, and who was one of the members and proponents of the Indian Group of Seven. An Anishinaabe raised both traditionally and by western values (another victim of the residential schools, but also his maternal grandmother was a devout Catholic), Thunderbird’s work is notable for the way it rides a line between indigenous and Christian values. Certain elements of his style were inspired by his admiration for the stained-glass windows of churches, so, while Thunderbird was drawn to blend stained-glass with an indigenous spirituality, Jeanette Dryer Spencer, the artist behind the stained glass in the Ahwahnee Hotel (virtually identical to the stained-glass designs in the Colorado lounge) was known for her mural work on churches, but used Navajo design concepts for the Ahwahnee.

The closest comparison I’ve been able to find yet is this piece by
Elizabeth McClelland, to whom, incidentally, I can’t find any other art credited.

Rainbows symbolize peace and happiness in apparently a few indigenous cultures, so I wondered if the four that appear throughout the film might be referencing that on some level.

At 1 hour and 42 minutes, Wendy is seen looking for Jack with her Louisville Slugger. Alert for danger, and with the dead iron halo above her head, we see her with her bat pointed absentmindedly at the Navajo mural. Later, when she’s in the heat of defending her life, the iron halo has come alive, and the bat points at nothing. I think this conveys nicely the schism between America’s attitudes about self-defence and conquest.

I didn’t do a big search for moments like this, and perhaps this is the only one, but in the mirrorform there’s this crazy sequence of Danny overlaying with the war-bonneted indigenous man from the Calumet can. Not a minute ago Jack and Wendy were hearing about the “repelled” attacks from Ullman, and Danny is being brought in by Susie, after Danny was repelled from the hotel by the freaky Grady twins. Danny who was just throwing red darts into a wall of the building.

In the mirrorverse, Grady is teasing Jack for not having the “belly” to murder his family in cold blood. What a coward!

Finally, I just want to mention that, while I’ve almost exclusively looked at the labyrinths in the film through the Greco-Roman lens, labyrinths also have a place in ancient indigenous culture. Specifically the Tohono O’odham (“Desert People”) of modern day Arizona/Sonora. For them, the creator is I’itoi, the “man in the maze“, because all of life is a labyrinth, they think, and the passage through life is the journey to the centre of the maze, to confront the sun god, and then to be delivered into the next world. Jack confronts a very different kind of sun god at the centre of his maze (one he might like to chop up with an axe), and he is delivered to the next life for his trouble.