Introduction In 1992 Creek filmmaker and playwright Bob Hicks, fondly remembered as “Chief of the Hollywood Band of Indians,” launched the First Ameri- cans in the Arts Awards. The annual ceremony honored Native Ameri- cans in theater, film, television, stage, and music and took place in several venues across Los Angeles over the years before landing at the renowned Beverly Hilton Hotel, home to the annual Golden Globe Awards since 1961.1 Hicks believed that an awards show to honor Native Americans in Hollywood was long overdue. After all, he pointed out, African Ameri- cans had the NAACP Image Awards, Latinos had the Nosotros Golden Eagle Awards, and white people had the Oscars. “We didn’t have any- thing like that. . . . So I thought we should do something of our own,” said Hicks.2 Fourteen years later, the ceremony shut down.3 But the organization had left its mark on Native Americans in Hollywood. The tide had shifted, and Native American performers were taking more control of their images as they sought to identify their unique contributions within the industry. Native actors and filmmakers showed American audiences that they were advocates for their heritage rather than passive players. Indeed, American Indian actors and filmmakers have impacted movies for more than a cen- tury, but until recently their presence has passed largely unrecognized. While today’s audiences may be familiar with actors Wes Studi and Michael Greyeyes, other talented Native American artists remain buried in movie history. Ray Mala, for example, was the first Alaska Native movie actor in a lead role (most notably in MGM’s Eskimo in 1933), and he brought a unique heritage to his acting at a time when his culture was virtually unknown to American audiences. Edwin Carewe (Chickasaw) directed 58 movies during his long career including the popular Ramona (1928) starring Dolores del Río.
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