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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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20 Best Native Movies of All Time


by Roscoe Pond

20. Black Robe (1991). 19. Fish Hawk (1980).

This is a very underrated film that over time has stepped out of the shadow of "Dances with Wolves." We follow a priest who's mission is to convert Tribes to the church. It is seen through his eyes but in the end we see him through them and the world they all live in.

Will Sampson portrays a raging alcoholic who befriends a young white boy and passes down his knowledge of life and wisdom. This is a stereotypical film about how Indians are seen as Savages. Yet, it is saved by one of the best Native actors ever. Mr. Sampson.

18. Skins (2002). 17. Windtalkers (2002).

Graham Greene gives an Oscar worthy performance here as a tormented Vietnam veteran on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Through it all we see a torchered human being who once was a vibrant young Indian who had big dreams. Greene is funny, touching at times and a deeply loving brother.

The star may be Nicolas Cage but the center of this war drama is the Navajo Code talkers. Adam Beach gives his most charismatic performance yet but it's newcomer Roger Willie who sticks in your mind. He goes down in hand to hand combat to protect the code. A true Veteran Warrior.

16. Thunderheart (1992). 15. Dreamkeeper (2003).

Val Kilmer an Indian? Unbelievable! Yet, around him is a wonderful supporting cast including Graham Greene, Sam Shepard and Sheila Tousey. A first rate Native mystery that echos back to the siege at wounded knee.

Filled with wonderful special effects centering upon many Indian myths. My favorite is the Blackfeet story about a son who cannot let go of his father who died years earlier. Yet, his father comes back to lead him to food and the survival of his people.

14. Little Big Man (1970). 13. Windwalker (1980).

Chief Dan George will forever be remembered as the grandfather of Little Big Man. And why not? George is the best thing about this story that leads through the battle of the little bighorn and the massacre of the Sioux people. George is the first Native American to be nominated for a supporting Actor Oscar.

Trevor Howard gives his best perfomance here after decades in films. Yet, the cinematography is the star as it captures a wonderful level of spirituality to bring twin sons back together after one was kidnapped by an enemy tribe. Whatever happened to the lovely actress Serene Hedin?

12. The Dark Wind (1991). 11. Running Brave (1984).

There was a big uproar from the Navajo people when this film came out back then. Yet, it has more tension, drama and mystery than it's recent Hillerman counterparts. Gary Farmer has a wonderful supporting role as a Tribal cop who befriends Jim Chee.

No one could've played Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills other than Robby Benson. This Biography is crackling with high energy through to the glorious Olympic finale. Graham Greene portrays the jealous older brother who comes to support Billy in an early career performance.

10. The Last of the Mohicans (1992). 9. The Doe Boy (2001).

Forget the over the top perfomances by Day-Lewis, and Wes Studi. The Quiet but tragic love story here between Uncas (Eric Schweig) and a white slave girl is the more engaging. They both become the sacrifice of their older siblings in this sprawling Epic.

Growing up a Halfbreed Cherokee isn't easy and the struggle to live in two worlds is much worse. James Duval gives a touching perfomance as a confused yet determined young man struggling to balance both worlds.Every halfbreed and mixed blood Indian should watch this movie.

8. The Emerald Forest (1988). 7. I will fight no more forever (1975).

A father searches for his only son for ten years after being kidnapped by Indians. When his search is over he finds that his son becomes a part of a rich Tribal Culture. Finally, he realizes that his son has found more meaning in a tribe than in white civilization.

Young Chief Joseph and the plight of the Nez Perce is dramatized beautifully here. Ned Romero gives a fine performance as Joseph. His most hearfelt and saddest moment comes when he finds his own brother among the dead after a fierce battle with soldiers.

6. Legends of the Fall (1994). 5. PowWow Highway (1989).

Tristin played by Brad Pitt couldn't control the grizzly spirit that lived next to his soul. Some Tribal cultures believe that a spirit follows each one of us and so it did with Tristin. That grizzly came for him as a child and then claimed him at the end of his life. It certainly was a good death.

Two Montana Indians played by Gary Farmer and A. Martinez take a road trip to Santa Fe and find that there are many Indians who are more lost than themselves. Through it all they find friendship, brotherhood and alittle bit of spirituality.

4. Dances with Wolves (1990). 3. Smoke Signals (1998).

" is to be the best human being." This line said from Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) is what this whole movie is all about. To live among the Sioux people that rome the great plains completely free is wonderful. Sadly, chasing the buffalo is now just a memory..

"Do we forgive our fathers?" In the end, two boyhood friends have to forgive no matter the abuse or neglect. The father here played by Gary Farmer couldn't win over his demons. Yet, he finally finds some peace in the Southwest with a lovely neighbor played by Irene Bedard. He stopped running from the past and then moved onto the other world.

2. I heard the Owl call my name (1973). 1. Grand Avenue (1996).

A legend of the northwest Indians has it that if you hear an Owl calling your name you will soon die. A young Vicar is sent to live among a Tribal people who finds some peace and dies among those who accepted him as their own. A remarkable movie.

This is a groundbreaking inner city urban Indian drama that deals with the struggle to hold onto dying Traditions. Sheila Tousey gives a powerful performance as the lost Mollie who is forced to grow up after a gang shooting of one of her own.

Because of the great response I’m receiving over my List of Best Native Movies, I’ve added 21-35.

These films are the most favorites from the emails I’ve received.

Little Big Man
Smoke Signals
The Broken Chain
The Fast Runner

Windtalkers ... This film has received several bad responses from some Navajo elders. They feel Director John Woo has terribly represented all CodeTalkers and should have cast an Indian in the lead.

Feel free to tell me your favorites ...

Roscoe Pond

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