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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 15, 2002 - Issue 63


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Celebrating Outstanding Achievements by Native Performers

by Suzanne Westerly, Photojournalist
All photos copyright © 2002 of Suzanne Westerly

As the sun melted into the ocean, people began gathering at the ritzy Century City Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills for the 10 th Annual First Americans in the Arts (FAITA) extravaganza on February 2nd. Beautifully attired women and men greeted old friends and caught up on what had been happening in each other's lives, exchanged business cards and talked about future events.

Inside the beautiful room where dinner was served followed by the award show, were three large IMAX screens which allowed everyone unrestricted visibility of the presenters, award winners, the entertainment, and the wonderful film clips that preceded each award winner.

Over ten years ago, FAITA Vice Chairperson Dawn Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa), and Chairman Bob Hicks (Creek/Seminole) saw the importance of recognizing "Native performers in the arts; representing theater, stage, film, television and music," explained Dawn. They felt Native performers weren't getting the recognition they deserved. Thus FAITA was born.

The evening was hosted by the irrepressibly charming Wes Studi, (Cherokee), who had the audience laughing throughout the night. Later, Charlie Hill (Oneida) who was one of the presenters, had everyone laughing too, as seen in the accompanying photo.

Here are just a few of the happenings from the recent evening at the FAITA's.

Irene Bedard (Inupiat Eskimo/Cree), received the award for Best Guest Performance by an actress in her role as a CIA agent in the TV show, The Agency. Upon accepting, Irene laughed and said she had fun playing one of the roles many actors hope to play -- a CIA agent.

Presenting the award for best actor in a TV series to Mitch Longely for his role in Judging Amy, was actor, Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Dakota Sioux), and actress Kateri Walker (Ojibway/Odawa/Potowatomi), both previous FAITA winners.

Among the entertainment of the evening was two-time Grammy winner and musical legend, Rita Coolidge (Cherokee/Scottish). Introducing the song she would sing, Rita said, "I'm going to do just a couple of versus from a song that is considered the Cherokee National anthem, because it was the song most sung on the Trail of Tears." With her beautiful velvety voice, Rita sang Amazing Grace acappella in Cherokee.

Later that evening, Rita was honored with FAITA's Lifetime Achievement Award. But prior to her introduction, a wonderful film collage highlighting Rita's 30 years as a singer was shown on the big screens.

Introducing Rita, Mary Youngblood (Chugach Aleut/Seminole), Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chad Smith, and his wife Bobbi, articulated Rita's many accomplishments.

The beautifully elegant Rita Coolidge then walked on stage smiling as the audience applauded. With a laugh, she said, "My gosh, when I look at that footage it makes me feel like I've been around a lot longer than I remembered."

Talking with Rita before the FAITA ceremony, she said she would be leaving the next Tuesday to sing at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics where Rita, her sister Priscilla, and Priscilla's daughter Laura Satterfield, performed along side Robbie Robertson.

Recipient of the award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance was the very exhilarated Marla Bingham (Wampanoag from Mashpee/black), who seemed to float as she came across the stage. Marla is an internationally known dancer and choreographer, and the founder of the Marla Bingham Contemporary Ballet Company.

After the show, Kateri had fun posing for photos with N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), who expressed himself "artistically" with his outfit, as you can see in the photo. "I wanted to reflect the surroundings from the world we live in today," he explained. "Floyd told me he liked the outfit, and asked what it meant. I told him, it's sort of a new take on the shades-and-braids look," said Bird laughing. "The term apple (in rhinestones on his shirt) is such an ironic and contradictory term that Indians use against each other. Nobody ever publicly references it; it's a colloquialist term. I wanted to be thought provoking, not to rebel against anything -- I just want to raise individual consciousness." He continued, "I think we are naturally philosophers and thoughtful people, and I want people to think about language." Bird's other persona is as the person who runs the Native American Program at the Sundance Institute, and programmer for Sundance Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The band Redbone played at the party following the award presentations. Those who wanted to be able to actually hear each other talk, mingled outside the party room. Reluctant to let the night end, and not wanting to leave friends they rarely get to spend time with, some people stayed up all night and welcomed in the new days sun.

Click on the thumbnail image to view a larger image.
(Use the back button on your browser to return to this page.)

Actor Zahn McClarnon (Hunkpapa Dakota/Irish)

Veteran actor Saginaw Grant (Creek), and Tim Sampson (Creek), who is appearing in the Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo¹s Nest, received a FAITA award for Theater.

Comedienne Charlie Hill (Oneida) and actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Dakota Sioux)

Actress Kateri Walker (Ojibway, Odawa, Potowatomi), past FAITA award winner and a presenter this year with actor, writer, publisher Harrison Lowe (Diné)
Actress Kateri Walker (Ojibway, Odawa, Potowatomi) with N. Bird Runningwater (Mescalero Apache, Cheyenne)
Apensanahkwat (Menominee Chief), Max¹s date, Steve Reevis (Blackfeet), actor and activist Max Gail, and Macile Reevis
What Bird looks likes most days as the chairman of the board for Native Americans in Philanthropy, and advisor to the Sundance Institute's Native Film Program.
Actor Miko Hughes (Chickasaw)
Stuntman David Alvarado (Karankawa/Tonkawa)
Award winner Molly Culver (Choctaw)
Stuntman and actor Henry Kingi, Sr. (Cherokee/Black/Anglo) received a FAITA award for Lifetime Achievement in Stunts
Melonie Mathews and Miss Indian World, Ke Aloha May Cody Alo (White Mountain Apache/Hawaiian)
Choreographer and dancer Marla Bingham (Wampanoag from Mashpee) received the Award for Technical Achievement, with actor Andrew Roa (Shasta and Oaxaca)
Actor Steve Reevis, (Blackfeet)
Steve and wife, Macile, clothing designer
Actor Timothy Vahle, (Choctaw)
Actor Mitch Longely - FAITA Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a TV Series
Michael Horse (Zuni, Yaqui, Mescalero and Apache)
FAITA Vice Chair Dawn Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa), Chairman Bob Hicks (Creek and Seminole) and FAITA producer, Jackie Kane
(The photos of Rita and Priscilla (bottom) and Laura Satterfield (top) were taken in November at the Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, NM)
Actor Apensanahkwat (Menominee Chief) with actor Michael Greyeyes (Cree)
Flutist Mary Youngblood (Chugach Aleut/Seminole) Rita Coolidge (Cherokee) with friend, talking with Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chad Smith
Actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman, (Dakota Sioux) Actress Sophia Gerodimous, James Main Jr. (GrosVentre), Actor Steve Reevis (Blackfeet) and wife Macile, and friend

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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