The Native American population has a rich and diverse cultural heritage that has been preserved for centuries. Despite the impact of colonialism and the ongoing struggle for recognition and representation, Native Americans have made significant contributions to American society and culture.
In recent years, several celebrities have come forward to proudly embrace their Native American ancestry, highlighting the importance of acknowledging and celebrating indigenous culture. In this article, we will explore the lives and careers of some of the most notable celebrities with Native American ancestry.
From Hollywood actors to political activists, these individuals have used their platforms to raise awareness about indigenous issues and advocate for greater representation and recognition. By examining their stories, we can gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which Native American heritage has shaped American identity and culture.
- Johnny Depp is a prominent celebrity with Cherokee ancestry who supports Native American causes.
- Angelina Jolie has faced criticism for cultural appropriation despite her Iroquois and Métis heritage.
- Wes Studi and Irene Bedard are highly acclaimed actors and advocates for Native American rights and representation.
- Graham Greene and Adam Beach are well-known actors who advocate for Indigenous representation in the entertainment industry.
Johnny Depp: Cherokee Ancestry
Johnny Depp’s Cherokee ancestry is a topic of interest for many, as the actor has often spoken about his connection to his Native American roots. Depp has stated that his great-grandmother was a Cherokee woman, and he has expressed pride in his Native American heritage. Despite not being enrolled in any tribe, he has actively supported Native American causes, such as the preservation of their culture and the protection of their lands.
Depp’s connection to his Cherokee ancestry can also be seen in his work as an actor. He has portrayed Native American characters in films such as ‘The Lone Ranger’and ‘Dead Man,’and has been involved in the production of the documentary ‘Into the Light: An Exploration of the Native American Spirit.’
Although there has been some criticism of Depp’s portrayal of Native American characters, his connection to his Cherokee ancestry and his advocacy for Native American causes demonstrate a genuine interest and respect for the community.
Angelina Jolie: Iroquois and Métis Ancestry
Angelina Jolie’s Iroquois and Métis heritage has been a subject of interest among those curious about the actress’s familial history. Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand, was of French-Canadian and Iroquois descent, while her father, Jon Voight, has Slovak and German ancestry.
Jolie has spoken about her connection to her Indigenous roots and has mentioned that her mother’s Native American heritage had a significant influence on her upbringing.
Despite her strong connection to her Iroquois and Métis ancestry, Jolie has faced criticism from some members of the Indigenous community. Some have accused her of cultural appropriation and using her Native American heritage for personal gain.
However, Jolie has also used her platform to draw attention to issues facing Indigenous communities, including the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She has also worked with Native American organizations and has supported efforts to preserve Indigenous languages and cultures.
Wes Studi: Cherokee Ancestry
Wes Studi, a highly acclaimed actor and activist, has been open about his Cherokee heritage and has used his platform to promote Native American representation in the entertainment industry.
Studi was born in Oklahoma in 1947 and grew up in the Cherokee Nation.
He served in the Vietnam War before becoming involved in the Native American Theater Company in California.
His breakthrough role came in the film ‘Dances with Wolves'(1990), where he played the villainous Pawnee warrior, and he has since appeared in several other films and television shows, including ‘The Last of the Mohicans'(1992), ‘Geronimo: An American Legend'(1993), and ‘Avatar'(2009).
In addition to his acting career, Studi is also an advocate for Native American rights and representation.
He has served as a board member of the Indigenous Language Institute, which aims to preserve and promote the use of indigenous languages, and has spoken out about the need for more authentic representation of Native Americans in media.
In 2019, he became the first Native American to receive an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement, acknowledging his contributions to the film industry and his advocacy for Native American causes.
Irene Bedard: Inupiaq and Métis Ancestry
Irene Bedard, an accomplished actress and producer, has been recognized for her contributions to promoting indigenous stories and voices in the film industry. Beyond her successful career, Bedard has also been an active advocate for Native American rights and representation.
Here are four noteworthy facts about this talented artist’s heritage:
Irene Bedard is of Inupiaq and Métis ancestry. The Inupiaq people are indigenous to Alaska and Canada, while the Métis are a distinct Indigenous group in Canada with mixed European and Indigenous heritage.
Bedard’s father was a renowned Inupiaq artist, and her mother was a Métis social worker. Growing up, Bedard was exposed to both her Native heritage and the realities of social injustice faced by Indigenous communities.
Bedard is best known for her voice acting work, including her portrayal of the title character in Disney’s Pocahontas. She has also acted in a number of films and TV shows, including Smoke Signals and Longmire.
Bedard has used her platform to advocate for Indigenous representation in the media. She has spoken out against cultural appropriation and has worked to encourage the creation of more authentic and diverse roles for Native American actors.
Graham Greene: Oneida Ancestry
Graham Greene, a well-known actor, is of Oneida heritage and has made significant contributions to the film industry through his memorable performances and advocacy for Indigenous representation.
Born on June 22, 1952, in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada, Greene grew up on the Six Nations Reserve and attended the Mohawk Indian Residential School.
He began his acting career in the late 1970s and has since been recognized for his outstanding performances in various films and television shows, including Dances with Wolves, The Green Mile, and Longmire.
Apart from his successful acting career, Greene is also known for his activism and advocacy for Indigenous representation in the entertainment industry.
He has been vocal about the need for Native American actors and filmmakers to have more opportunities and control over their own narratives.
In 1990, he co-founded the Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto, which focuses on promoting Indigenous theatre.
His contributions to the film industry and advocacy for Indigenous representation have earned him several awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ImagineNative Film Festival.
Adam Beach: Saulteaux Ancestry
Continuing our discussion on celebrities with Native American ancestry, we now turn our attention to Adam Beach, who is of Saulteaux descent. Born in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, Beach grew up on the Dog Creek First Nations Reserve. His heritage has played a significant role in his life, and he has been vocal about his pride in his ancestry and the importance of preserving Native American culture.
Beach is a well-known actor, having appeared in numerous films and television shows. He is best known for his roles in the movies Windtalkers, Flags of Our Fathers, and Suicide Squad, among others.
In addition to his acting career, Beach is also an advocate for Indigenous rights and has been involved in various charitable organizations that support Native American communities. His work both on and off-screen has made him a prominent figure in the Native American community and a source of inspiration for many.
Jim Thorpe: Sac and Fox Ancestry
Renowned athlete Jim Thorpe, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, left a lasting legacy in the world of sports. Born in 1887 in Oklahoma, Thorpe excelled in multiple sports, including football, baseball, and track and field. He won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, setting records in the pentathlon and decathlon events.
Later that year, he played professional football and baseball, becoming one of the first Native Americans to achieve success in these sports. Despite his success, Thorpe faced discrimination and racism throughout his career. In 1913, the International Olympic Committee stripped him of his medals due to his previous semi-professional status, although they were eventually reinstated in 1982.
Thorpe’s accomplishments paved the way for future Native American athletes, and he has been honored with numerous awards and statues, including the Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually to the top college football player in the United States.
Sacheen Littlefeather: Apache and Yaqui Ancestry
With her Apache and Yaqui roots, Sacheen Littlefeather made history by refusing Marlon Brando’s Academy Award for ‘The Godfather’ in 1973, bringing attention to the mistreatment of Native Americans in the film industry. Littlefeather, whose birth name is Maria Cruz, was an actress and activist who used her platform to advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples.
She gained national attention for her bold move at the Oscars, where she appeared in traditional Apache clothing and delivered a speech on behalf of Brando, who was boycotting the ceremony to protest Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. Littlefeather’s refusal of Brando’s award was a powerful statement that brought attention to the ongoing struggles faced by Native Americans, and her legacy continues to inspire Indigenous activists today.
Littlefeather’s activism extended beyond the film industry, as she was also involved in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and fought for the rights of Indigenous peoples in various arenas. She was a vocal critic of the government’s treatment of Native Americans, particularly in regards to land rights and the forced relocation of Indigenous communities.
Littlefeather’s refusal of Brando’s award was not the first time that she had used her platform to advocate for Indigenous rights. In 1970, she appeared on the television show ‘The Hollywood Palace’ and performed a traditional Apache dance, using the opportunity to speak out against the government’s treatment of Native Americans.
Littlefeather’s activism was not limited to the United States, as she also traveled to other countries to speak about the struggles faced by Indigenous peoples around the world. She was particularly involved in the fight against the construction of the James Bay hydroelectric project in Quebec, which threatened the traditional lands and way of life of the Cree and Inuit peoples.
Littlefeather’s refusal of Brando’s award was met with both praise and criticism, with some applauding her bravery and others accusing her of being a publicity seeker. However, her actions brought attention to the ongoing struggles faced by Native Americans and helped to spark a larger conversation about representation and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in the film industry.