7 Memorable Quotes from “Smoke Signals”

Published December 19, 2018

WASHINGTON  —  The 1998 “Smoke Signals” is considered to be the first feature film written, directed and produced by American Indians.

After the Library of Congress named “Smoke Signals” to its annual selection of 25 of America’s most influential motion pictures to be inducted into the National Film Registry, many memorable quotes came back to mind.

Native News Online compiled the following seven quotes to enjoy:

Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  Hey Victor! I’m sorry ’bout your dad.

Victor Joseph:  How’d you hear about it?

Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. And your mom was just in here cryin’.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  Hey Victor! I remember the time your father took me to Denny’s. It was afternoon you know. But I still I had the Grand Slam Breakfast. Two eggs, two sausages, two pieces of bacon, and two pancakes. And some juice. And milk. Some days, it’s a good day to die. And some days, it’s a good day to have breakfast.


Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  So, I told you a story. Now it’s your turn.’

Suzy Song: What, do you want the truth, or do you want lies?

Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  I want both.

Evan Adams, plays Thomas-Builds-The-Fire, in the 1998 film, “Smoke Signals” opposite Adam Beach


While Victor and Thomas were on the bus singing

Victor Joseph, Thomas Builds-the-Fire: John Wayne’s teeth, hey-a, hey-a! Are they false, are they real, are they plastic, are they steel?


Irene Bedard played Suzy Song

Said as Victor, Thomas and Suzy watch a western on television

Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  The only thing more pathetic than Indians on TV is Indians watching Indians on TV.


Victor Joseph: You gotta look mean or people won’t respect you. White people will run all over you if you don’t look mean. You gotta look like a warrior! You gotta look like you just came back from killing a buffalo!

Thomas Builds-the-Fire:  But our tribe never hunted buffalo – we were fishermen.

Victor Joseph: What! You want to look like you just came back from catching a fish? This ain’t “Dances with Salmon” you know!


John Trudell playinig Randy Peone

John Trudell played Randy Peone, a radio announcer who provided on-the-scene coverage from the reservation.

Randy Peone: It’s a good day to be indigenous!


Thomas Builds-the-Fire: How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often, or forever, when we were little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all? Do we forgive our fathers for marrying, or not marrying, our mothers? Or divorcing, or not divorcing, our mothers? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing, or leaning? For shutting doors or speaking through walls? For never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deaths, saying it to them or not saying it. If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

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