Frustrated by not being offered legitimate roles as an actress
in Hollywood or roles that didn't perpetuate stereotypes associated
with Native Americans, Valerie Red-Horse wrote and starred in
a movie after her husband suggested she write her own.
of Los Angeles, showed her 1998 Sundance film "Naturally Native"
at the University of Redlands' Orton Center Thursday evening. In
it she portrays Vickie Lewis Bighawk, one of three sisters who struggle
to launch their own business selling herbal medicines based on formulas
passed down by their ancestors.
film, based on some of Red-Horse's own experiences, offers insight
into tribal infrastructure in America, the categorical treatment
of Native Americans by the federal government, as well as gaming
issues, sports mascot controversy, alcoholism and portrayal of Native
Americans in film.
balanced filming the movie, under budget and in 19 days, while she
was pregnant with her third child with starting up a Native American
Investment Bank and actually coming up with some of the products
created in the film.
said that her herbal shampoos and medicines now sell on QVC and
"make far more than the movie did."
her film, she touches often on the government's insistence that
all Indians have a number associated with them for identification
and tracking purposes.
the movie, she and her sisters are adopted. Through a series of
family relationships, they are not members of a specific tribe,
makings it difficult for them to receive loans. They are accused
by members of other tribes of wanting to be part of tribes that
have become financially-stable through casino income.
frustrating is it for us to have to prove our heritage to a country,
run by immigrants, that we're Native Americans?" she told the
MadhavaRau, director of diversity affairs at the university, brought
Red-Horse to campus after seeing the film at a college in Michigan.
brought her out because of the way she blew away a lot of stereotypes,"
MadhavaRau said. "It was a very conscious decision because
I knew what she was going to talk about."
Bernardini, an archaeology professor at UR who accompanied his wife,
Liz, offered extra credit as incentive for his students to come
to the convocation.
wasn't sure what the quality of the film was going to be like when
it first started," he said. "But by the end of the story,
you sure felt for the characters. She touched on four hot button
Native American issues."
was glad that they put it in a setting that was unfamiliar,"
said his wife. "It wasn't filmed at a reservation. It was at
a real house. She did a good job blending Native Americans and non-Native
Americans and how they deal with the same challenges of being a
mother as anyone else more so than the obvious issues they dealt