I am shocked that The Searchers is spoken about without any caveat like the permanent introduction attached to screenings of Birth of a Nation: "this is a racist film important for its filming techniques."
Director John Ford was trying to make a movie that plainly showed the racist and genocidal tendencies on the frontier. Sounds interesting, neh? Unfortunately, while he crafts a wide variety of interesting, racist, white characters, the Indian characters are shallow, stereotyped plot devices.
John Wayne is perfect in his role as the racist, cold, frontier savvy tough guy. But don't go thinking that this film has depth. Despite the critics talking about its "deep layers" it's still the heavily sensationalized frontier simulacra so popular in American cinema.
This film has a degree of understanding akin to suburban kids singing along to gangsta rap. They know all the words but they're clueless.
Consider this comic relief. A young white man "accidentally" buys an Indian wife in a trade. After trying to scare her off like a wild animal he tolerates her pouring him coffee. Then, upset that she has laid down beside him to sleep he gives her an exceptionally violent kick that sends her rolling down a hill. The music suggests that this is comical and John Wayne laughs.
The Searchers is possibly the worst movie John Ford made with Indians, not the best. Rob's rating: 6.0 of 10.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.