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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Native American Exhibit Makes It's Mark In Hollywood


by Priscilla Hwang SoCal Online


It's a funny thing in Hollywood scores of actors have played the part of American Indians in big budget films, and yet the real Indians are hardly ever seen. Actor Roscoe Pond revealed to the public the true Indians in the film industry in his new exhibit, "Natives In Hollywood: How Far Have We Come?" this past weekend.

So exactly how far have the American Indians come in Hollywood? According to Pond, not very far at all. "A lot of Indians are really angry about being portrayed as just savages and evil people," Pond said. We've all seen it cowboys in their leather chaps shooting away at the Indians with their bows and arrows. And we've certainly heard the word "savage" being used to describe the Indians once too many times. Pond's exhibit depicts exactly this, as dozens and dozens of movie posters out on display reveal white men chasing out the Indians. The wide range of posters puts on view Hollywood movies dating back from the 1930s up to the present. There is an undeniable theme running through films such as Tomahawk Territory (1952), Mohawk (1956), and Navajo Joe (1966). "All the Indians are white actors," Pond noted. "My parents never raised me to be racist, so we just had to look at it as actors playing natives," Pond continued saying while pointing out actors such as Charlton Heston and Pierce Brosnan, who have all played Indians in their careers at one point. "Film has been around for years and Hollywood still it has that image of us," Pond stated.

Fortunately, things started to take a brighter turn in 1990 when the movie Dances With Wolves was released. According to Pond, Dances With Wolves was the first to open the door for native Americans. "In the nineties, things started coming to us to portray natives in a good light," Pond said. As the story goes, a civil war veteran, played by actor Kevin Costner, befriends a native tribe and sheds his white-man's ways. Yet the true portrayal of native Americans are not found in big name Hollywood films, rather, they are illustrated in Independent films where celebrities such as Robert Redford have supported and opened doors for native American independent film makers. Native Americans make up only about 2 percent of the population, and Pond notes that "we do not have a very big audience, but it's growing through independent film." One of the most celebrated independent film in their industry is Smoke Signals, released in 1998, which portrays natives as real people dealing with real life issues. "Smoke Signals saw natives as normal and not just the average savage or scalp hunters," Pond stated amusingly. Grand Avenue, released in 1996 on HBO, is another independent film which received rave reviews and placed number one on Pond's list. Grand Avenue portrays a native American family living in an urban city who deals with issues such as alcohol and murder. As Pond puts it, "it depicts natives in modern society."

Pond's exhibit truly captures the essence of Native Americans . His positive energy penetrates deep into his work and his enthusiasm reminds us that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Hollywood still has a long way to go, but it is only a matter of time before Hollywood starts taking notice of all the talented native American actors and filmmakers. Native Americans may have not come as far as they wanted, but at this rate Hollywood better watch out because soon they'll be the ones trying to catch up.

Roscoe Pond's exhibit will be open to the public until August 29, 2004. Visit his website at

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