Dustin Bird doesn’t have a ton of time to be a professional team roper anymore.
The five-time National Finals Rodeo header did manage to win the Montana Circuit this winter, as well as the average at the Montana ProRodeo Circuit Finals. But that was in between hauling his steers to many of the circuit rodeos and jackpots in Montana and beyond, running cows on his family’s multigenerational operation in Cut Bank, raising two wild cowboys with his wife, Alicia, and making some appearances as a stuntman on the hit Taylor Sheridan series, 1883.
Most team roping fans have heard about Bird’s in-arena successes and cattle business in previous articles, but the million-dollar header is part of a group of Native Americans from the Blackfeet Reservation who’ve been tapped over the years to play the role of an American Indian in Hollywood film and television.
“Years ago, Dutch Lunak started it all in the movie Dances With Wolves,” Bird, 43, said. “My brothers Shawn and Casey have been getting into it a lot more, but I was there for a week this spring, filming on the 6666s Ranch outside of Amarillo. It’s a good opportunity they’ve brought back to the reservation, because we don’t have to learn anything to do it. We’re horseback every day anyway at home.”
Most of the stuntwork just involved running the horses in battle scenes alongside the pioneer Dutton family’s covered wagons, Bird said, while others who had a tick more experience would jump or fall from the saddle at high speeds.“
Bird got to meet Sam Elliott, while others tribal members got to meet Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who all starred in the series.
“A lot of the old Westerns are based down in the southern part of the country,” Bird said. “We’re Northern Indians, but nobody seemed to mind. You could work for 15 minutes a day or for four hours a day. You’re just on call sitting there waiting most of the time, and when they need you, they need you. Then they’re done with you.”
Good thing for Bird that Hollywood didn’t need him too terribly long—he had the steers at the College National Finals Rodeo, and he is circuit rodeoing himself—sitting just out of the No. 1 spot in Montana behind Brady Tryan. He’s got a batch of MP Frenchmans Hayday-bred colts that he and Alicia are riding and prepping for the rodeo trail, and his boys—Stockton, 7, and Sampson, 5—are in the saddle with Mom and Dad as much as possible. TRJ