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Author Topic: Best Native American Movie Characters  (Read 4148 times)
Mofo Rising
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« on: April 10, 2008, 12:45:37 AM »

For those of you who don't know, I am a Native Alaskan. That's what I tell people at least, because if I told them I am Tlingit they usually wouldn't know what the hell I'm talking about.

As far as cinematic representation goes, Native Americans have been vastly underserved by movies in general. They are either represented as dim, firewater drinking "savages" or as mystical earth-loving hippies, with little to show outside of these two stereotypes. The former is insulting while the latter I find incredibly annoying. Every once in a while a movie gets it right, though, so I'm offering up two characters I like.

The first, which is probably my favorite, is Gary Farmer's role as Nobody in Dead Man. Far from being a sinewy, clad-in-loin-cloth fellow, Nobody is a rather heavy-set fellow who by circumstance has traveled through Europe and become well versed in the poetry of William Blake. His character is at first seemingly prone to spouting the pseudo-mystical pronouncements that plague Indian characters in movies. On further investigation though, most of what Nobody says are examples of his oblique and incredibly biting sense of humor. Dead Man is easily one of my favorite movies of all time, in no small part to Gary Farmer. Farmer also played an interesting role in the comedy Powwow Highway, another underrated movie.

Another role I enjoyed, though not as easily defensible as my first choice, is Wes Studi's Magua in Last of the Mohicans. Not defensible because Magua is clearly a villain, his misguided lust for power has led him astray. Studi's performance, however, is filled with passionate intensity, which makes him fascinating to watch. Mohicans has courted some controversy for its portrayal of Native American culture, but it's only a movie, and a hell of a good one at that. Wes Studi stands out in this one, and the film certainly made him a face to watch for me. Also, he was in Mystery Men, which is a plus in my book.

So those are my two choices for the time being. Are there any other examples that stand out for anybody else?
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akiratubo
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2008, 06:19:48 AM »

I was going to nominate Mogua.  He was a great, complex character, the kind of villain most actors would die to play.
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2008, 01:26:23 PM »

Cheif....in One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest---

 
Small | Large


Cheif Dan George in the Outlaw Josey Wales----

 
Small | Large


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Neville
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2008, 02:00:12 PM »

Lone Watie (Chief Dan George) in "The outlaw Josey Wales" is easily my favourite native American character ever. His dialogue is often humorous and sad at the same time, it makes a very powerful effect in the movie. These are my favourite lines:

Lone Watie: We thought about it for a long time, "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.

(About hs tribe being asked by the U.S. president to "Endeavor to persevere.")

Lone Watie: I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender. They have him pulling a wagon up in Kansas I bet.

(About the outcome of their war against whites)
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peter johnson
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2008, 02:05:20 PM »

Hey!  Bad Movie Actor though I am, my major was in Anthropology, so not only do I know who the Tlingit are, but am a strong admirer of their art!
Your group has the wonderful stories about how the Ravens created Man with the help of a mermaid-like being, am I correct?
I have Shalish, Tlingit, Haida, and Kwakaiutul art in my study -- though I am told that nowadays "Kwakaiutul" no longer applies, and that this designation is more correctly broken up into more accurate sub-group names that I can't remember right now.
All those bold black and red and cedar depictions just move me -- ditto the soapstone seal-forms & etc.
* * *
You mentioned Powow Highway -- I really dug that movie because of the constant, hilarious bickering among the two protagonists.  Yes, I very much like Dead Man as well, but found the buddy-picture/road-picture/constant arguing of Powow Highway to be very funny & engaging -- I really cared what happened to both those guys.
Though, back to the Northwest Coast art thing again, I never will forget how the cedar Raven lodge opened up its mouth to receive Johnny Depp in Dead Man --
While probably not as popular today, I still really enjoy Chief Dan George in "Little Big Man" -- "It's a good day to die . . . Sometimes the magic works, sometimes not . . .".  I just find him inherently likable & I really wanted good things to happen to him.
While not a film, Ed Ames as Yadkin in the old "Daniel Boone" TV shows was probably the most positive Indian image seen up until then -- Articulate, thoughtful, clear in his choice to turn his back on the White world & live as the Indian half of his heritage, sort of like Mr. Spock -- Though I really thought Jay Silverheels' Tonto gets some unjustified bad press -- If you really look at the Lone Ranger episodes, yes, Tonto doesn't speak English very well, but he's shown as an equal partner with The Lone Ranger, and not some mere servant.  He would frequently bravely rescue the Lone Ranger and his horse when they were in dire straits, and took it to the bad guys on his own on occasion.
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2008, 11:01:58 PM »

I liked George C. Scott's native American character in FIRESTARTER . . . . but it's been so long I don't remember the character's name.
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2008, 10:06:58 AM »

I have to go with RC's choices. I loved Dan George's un-stereotypical Indian character.
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2008, 10:16:56 PM »

Bangor, Tantoo Cardinal's character in WHERE THE RIVER FLOWS NORTH springs to mind.

On th opposite side of the spectrum, I was also very impressed with Raoul Trujillo's Zero Wolf in APOCALYPTO, a role built more on presence and a subtle touch than on dialogue.  He managed to convey quite a bit solely through facial expressions.  Though, having an aquiline prosthetic schnoz helped a bit, I'll confess.  His stunning physicality was a sight to behold.  If someone was going to give Studi a run for his money, it'd be this guy.

I liked George C. Scott's native American character in FIRESTARTER . . . . but it's been so long I don't remember the character's name.




John Rainbird.   An usual choice to play the character, it was clever of the production to play on the average person's innate fear of being relentlessly pursued by George C Scott.  While a bit hammy, it's one of my favorite King adaptations thanks to the incredible Tangerine Dream score and the eclectic(to say the least) casting.  Sadly, they sidelined a great deal of Rainbird's personal elements in the novel-to-screen process.  His motives for pursuing Charlie were much more fascinating in the book as opposed to the film, where he comes across as a borderline child molester.

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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2008, 10:12:01 AM »

johhny firecloud, apache chief, and the guy from "the manitou".


and the Manitou itself
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2008, 04:23:48 PM »

...While probably not as popular today, I still really enjoy Chief Dan George in "Little Big Man" -- "It's a good day to die . . . Sometimes the magic works, sometimes not . . .".  I just find him inherently likable & I really wanted good things to happen to him.
CHIEF DAN GEORGE as Old Lodge Skins was my first choice; he's also good in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES as BELA pointed out. 

Though I have lots of problems with this film, GRAHAM GREENE was very enjoyable as Kicking Bird in DANCES WITH WOLVES
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« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2008, 06:55:29 PM »

Hey!  Bad Movie Actor though I am, my major was in Anthropology, so not only do I know who the Tlingit are, but am a strong admirer of their art!
Your group has the wonderful stories about how the Ravens created Man with the help of a mermaid-like being, am I correct?
I have Shalish, Tlingit, Haida, and Kwakaiutul art in my study -- though I am told that nowadays "Kwakaiutul" no longer applies, and that this designation is more correctly broken up into more accurate sub-group names that I can't remember right now.
All those bold black and red and cedar depictions just move me -- ditto the soapstone seal-forms & etc.


I don't recall any mermaid-type characters, but there are a lot of stories about Raven, I don't pretend to know all of them. Here is a quick rundown.

The art of the Pacific Northwest is very distinctive, and a popular favorite of tattoo enthusiasts.



Since you are an Anthropology major and actor, this may be of interest to you: Tlingit Macbeth.
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peter johnson
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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2008, 11:34:10 PM »

That picture is wonderful!! That's the very thing I'm talking about.  It gives me chills -- THANKYOU for the terrific Raven story site -- I'll have to spend some time there --
Unfortunately, I have never been able to get anything made with Quicktime to play on my clone/computer.  All I ever get is a message that I've correctly installed everything & then nothing works & I can't see anything -- I'll try looking for "Tlingit Macbeth" in another format --
This is great stuff!!
merci --
peter johnson/denny i used to be a scholar --
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2008, 07:21:56 AM »

MOFO-On the right hand of the picture is a large human head resting on a pedestal...it looks real. That's pretty weird!
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peter johnson
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2008, 01:50:50 PM »

I went to the Morgan Howard Productions website, -- who produced the short film re. Tlingit Macbeth -- and strongly recommend that anyone here curious about Mr. MoFo Rising and the Tlingit people to go on over there & check it out -- I still can't get the Quicktime video to play, but they've got some beautiful streaming vids over there on general Tlingit culture that I couldwatch, including stuff about Raven & that fantastic striking, geometric art-work that is so intergal to who they are.  This is a site for and about Native Arctic and Northwest Coast native people.  Extremely interesting!!
And, oh, I was able to go to any number of other sites with production stills and stories about different versions of Tlingit Macbeth that have been performed all over the country in the last 4 years.  Very occasionally, things like this come to the Denver area, so I will be watching.
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