Like many entertainers of color, Native American actors have not received the recognitions they deserve. They've had to pay their dues in the world of entertainment, often playing stereotypical Indian roles. Many actors of Native American descent have played roles that show no indication of their native roots. However, despite the hard road some of them have faced, some of the most famous Native American actors have made an indelible impact in Hollywood.
Chief Dan George
The name may be unfamiliar to the general public, but his movie work has stood the test of time. During the 1970s, he made his mark in movie history with two movie roles, both of which showcased his quick wit and sense of humor. In 1970s "Little Big Man" starring Dustin Hoffman, he played Old Lodge Skins. The movie was a humorous look at Custer's Last Stand. He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this movie. In 1976, he starred alongside Clint Eastwood in "The Outlaw Josey Wales." He continued working in movies and television until his death in 1981.
This Native American actress is best known for her appearance at the 1973 Academy Award where she refused the award for best actor on behalf of Marlon Brando. It was a deliberate protest for the portrayal of Native peoples in the media. She went on to play in a few roles; however, she continues her activist activities. The Academy Award appearance will always be her claim to fame.
Although he has been acting for 30 years, he is best known for his Academy Award-nominated role as Kicking Bird in the 1990 film "Dances with Wolves." He has a recognizable face because of his long career in television and films. He even worked on the television series "Northern Exposure" and most recently guest starred on "Numb3rs." He has managed to play in a variety of roles and not fit into a stereotype.
She is best known for her role on the 1990s dramady "Northern Exposure," playing Marilyn Whirlwind. She earned her role on the show by accident. She actually brought her mother in for the role, but the show's producers wanted a younger woman. However, her mother goes on to play her mother on the show. Miles and the cast of "Northern Exposure" receive a Screen Actors Guild nomination in 1995. She still acts occasionally. She and other Native American actors took part in a documentary about stereotypes in entertainment.
There are other unsung Native American actors who endured rejection by the entertainment industry or only being offered roles that stereotyped them. However, some rose above the stereotypes to become the most famous Native American actors.