Lily Gladstone's roots are deeply embedded in her upbringing on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana. Her heritage encompasses Piegan Blackfeet (Siksikaitsitapi), Nez Perce (Nimíipuu), and European ancestry, reflecting the rich tapestry of Native American culture. Raised by a Blackfeet and Nez Perce father and a white mother, Gladstone's diverse background adds layers to her identity.
Her journey into acting was sparked by an unexpected source – an Ewok. At the tender age of five, after watching 'Return of the Jedi,' Gladstone developed a desire to portray one of the iconic creatures. This early inclination foreshadowed a career that would see her embody a diverse array of characters on the big and small screens.
Gladstone's first brush with acting came when the Missoula Children's Theatre visited her hometown of East Glacier, Montana. Cast as an evil step-sister in 'Cinderella,' she discovered the transformative power of performance. The family's move to the Seattle area during her middle school years brought Gladstone closer to her grandmother and led her to enroll in Stone Soup Theatre, a non-profit educational theatre company for Seattle youth.
Graduating from Mountlake Terrace High School in 2004, Gladstone continued her educational journey at the University of Montana. In 2008, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting/Directing, with a minor in Native American Studies. Her time at the university exposed her to Theatre of the Oppressed, and she honed her acting skills through various productions, including 'Riders to the Sea,' 'Richard III,' 'Miss Julie,' and 'Coyote on a Fence.'
Post-graduation, Gladstone's commitment to her native community extended beyond the stage. She taught acting classes and workshops, focusing on an image theatre acting method she called a 'sculpture garden' for violence prevention, sponsored by the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. In 2010, she performed in 'The Frybread Queen,' a co-production by Native Voices at the Autry, the UM School of Theatre and Dance, and The Montana Repertory Theatre.