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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Oklahoma Actress Always Puts Family First
by Christina Good Voice - Native American Times Correspondent

Casey Camp-Horinek embraces multiple roles in life's work

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Casey Camp-Horinek can sum herself up in five words: wise, mother, grandmother, traditionalist and environmentalist. The 61-year-old Ponca woman credits these attributes for the woman she is today, who is a long-time Native rights activist.

Camp-Horinek is also a Native American actress, and although she has embraced the opportunity to share her talents, she also utilizes the trade to set the record straight about Indians.

"Among all of those components, part of being a traditionalist is my spiritual self," Camp-Horinek said. "I feel like a lot of times when you pray for guidance you receive it in the most odd ways."

The guidance she received led her into acting.

"I was able to work from my own home and not be away from my family very much while also being able to contribute to the changing image of Native America," Camp-Horinek said. "Many people still see us very one-dimensionally."

Camp-Horinek gets her traditionalist roots from her parents and grandparents. She has lived in and around Ponca City, Okla., as well as other areas around the country, but has lived in Ponca country for the last 40 years with her husband, Michael Horinek, who is from Newkirk, Okla.

Camp-Horinek is a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all in one, and she credits all of them for contributing to molding her into the strong Native woman she sees in the mirror each day.

Camp-Horinek and her husband have four adult children: Julie, Mekasi, Suzaatah and Jeff.

"My first mission was being a good companion and to raise capable children," Camp-Horinek said. "They were raised in a traditional way of life and are wonderful parenting children.

"They all raised their children in a good manner, they all lead lives of sobriety…that means a lot to me. It means I've done my job."

Camp-Horinek said the traditional red woman puts her family first and Nation next.

"Because we're raising children and grandchildren to be part of that Nation," she said. "We have to be leaders in our own family before we can expand out into helping in the general society."

Another form of leadership Camp-Horinek's tackled is as a Native actress.

Camp-Horinek's acting roots began in Tulsa when she was a member of the American Indian Theater Company, and she even got her sons involved by urging them to audition for parts in the company's production of "Black Elk Speaks."

While she and her two sons landed small roles in the production, non-Indian actor David Carradine played the role of Black Elk. It was then that Camp-Horinek had an epiphany. She realized how underrepresented Native Americans were in the theater and movies, even in productions about their own people. And further more, she realized that avenue could be a medium for activism.

"It was a light bulb moment," she said. "There were hundreds of people seeing "Black Elk Speaks" at the PAC (Performing Arts Center,)" she said. "I was seeing these people impacted by entertainment and getting it – our holocaust. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this was a remarkable tool for educating the public."

Now, Native actors still only make up a sliver of a racial statistic pie graph compared to Caucasians, Hispanics, blacks and Asians, but they're out there, she said.

"The struggles that people have gone through over the past 20 years to teach non-Natives that we are multidimensional, that's paying off," Camp-Horinek said. "We're getting lead roles, but believe me, it isn't enough if you look at the entire movie, TV and video industry. They show you the slices of the pie…Native Americans are a hairline."

Now, years later after the veterans of theater and the movie industry like Will Sampson, Graham Greene, Wes Studi and Camp-Horinek paved the way, young Native actors are landing key roles in large productions such as the wildly popular Twilight Saga and primetime TV dramas.

Camp-Horinek's been an actress for more than 25 years, with titles including "Lakota Moon," "Geronimo," "Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee" and "DreamKeeper" under her belt. She also appeared in "Goodnight Irene" and "Share the Wealth" and was one of the leads in the 2009 movie "Barking Water." Her performance in "Barking Water" earned her the Best Actress award at the 2009 American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.

Camp-Horinek insists that her acting career just tells a small story of who she is.

"It's only a fraction of me," she said. "I definitely consider myself an actress, and it's something I feel is important to change the portrayal of Native Americans.

"I've worked hard to portray Native women in their true life. I'm proud of the ability to do that. I do understand that acting is hard work and an art. Technically I'm not the first, and I thank God I'm not the last."

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