Barrow woman surprised to hear a familiar voice in 'The Revenant' - her own

About 90 minutes into "The Revenant," as a friendly Pawnee builds a shelter for a trapper left for dead by his companions, a woman's voice can be heard speaking a Native American language. There's a lot of Pawnee spoken in the film about the Old West. But these lines are not in Plains Indian Pawnee dialect. They're in the Inupiaq language of Arctic Alaska, spoken by Doreen Nutaaq Simmonds of Barrow.

Simmonds was watching the Oscar-winning film in Fairbanks with her son and a friend when she unexpectedly encountered her 15 seconds of fame. As the scene unfolded, the friend, who also speaks Inupiaq, suddenly whispered, "Hey! I can understand that!"

"I was so engrossed in what the Indian was doing, that I hadn't paid attention," Simmonds said. "But then I started listening more closely. My son said, 'That's you, Mom.' That's when my ears opened."

The audio is of Simmonds reciting a poem by a Canadian Inuit featured in the recording of John Luther Adams' "Earth and the Great Weather." It begins:

Tagiuqpaum sagvagaanja.

Arjalatkaanja ivigaatun

Sagvaqsiqsuatun kuukpagmi.


"The great sea has set me adrift. It moves me like a weed in a great river."

Simmonds, now 69, is currently in Fairbanks, trying to finish up her bachelor's degree. "It's something I've dreamed of for a long time," she said. "I didn't want to wait until I was 100."

She said she was shocked to hear herself in the movie. No one had told her her voice was going to be used in a feature film, much less a major production that cost $135 million to make and has thus far grossed nearly half a billion dollars. She's not sure what the terms were of whatever agreement she signed 27 years ago, if there was any written agreement at all. But she said she didn't receive any money for the movie. She didn't even get a screen credit.

The credits do include a roster of production companies, however. Prominent among them is an outfit called, with unintentional irony, Anonymous Content.

Mike Dunham

Mike Dunham has been a reporter and editor at the ADN since 1994, mainly writing about culture, arts and Alaska history. He worked in radio for 20 years before switching to print.