Early Trailblazers 3 stories were indeed versatile with no consistent thematic pattern: Tales of hostile warriors would parallel those of ruthless whites, lasting Indian/ white marriages would complement those that ended in tragedy, and sympathetic “half-breeds” would offset the treacherous ones. While many films showed the stereotypical “savage warrior” who thwarted westward expansion, others delivered a sharp indictment against civilization and its problematic treatment of Native Americans.6 The prominence of short Indian-themed tales had spotlighted a num- ber of Native American artists, none of whom would rise to Young Deer’s stature. Jesse Cornplanter (1889–1957), descendent of the eighteenth- century Seneca war chief and diplomat Cornplanter, starred in Frank E. Moore’s Hiawatha (1913). Cornplanter was also the author of Legends of the Longhouse (1938) and collaborated as an illustrator with renowned arche- ologist Arthur C. Parker.7 Although Cornplanter appears to be the first Native American to star in a feature film, Hiawatha was his only movie role. Noted Oglala Lakota author Luther Standing Bear (ca. 1868–1939) was an outspoken critic of the movie’s Indian depictions and briefly served as an advisor to producer Thomas H. Ince. Standing Bear’s promi- nence as an author, however, would eclipse his work in minor Hollywood roles. Dark Cloud (1861–1918), an Abenaki leader from Canada, also led a distinguished career. Dark Cloud (Elijah Tahamont) first toured with his own vaudeville company in 1904 before entering Hollywood and posing for artist Frederic Remington.8 He began working with D.W. Griffith in 1910, and by 1915 the Mutual Film Company had touted him as their scenario writer for The Huron Converts.9 His acting roles were diverse: a Sheik Achmed in The Dishonored Medal (1914), a Hindu in The Mystery of the Hindu Image (1914), and an Ethiopian Chieftain in D.W. Griffith’s Intol- erance: Love’s Struggle (1916). But Dark Cloud’s career in Hollywood was cut short in 1918 when he became a victim of the Spanish influenza.10 A few Native American women performers briefly emerged during this era. Columbia Eneutseak (1893–1959), also known as Nancy Eneutseak or Nancy Columbia, was an early Inuit actress who appeared in Selig’s The Way of the Eskimo (1911), which she also wrote. Her mother Esther Eneutseak appeared in Edison films as early as 1901 and may have been the first documented Native actress in the movies.11 In the Land of the Head Hunters, a 1914 feature-length silent film written and directed by Edward S. Curtis, featured nonprofessional actors from the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) communities in British Columbia. Margaret Frank (Wilson) was one of three Kwakiutl actresses to portray “Princess Naida” in the film in which she performed a dance for the story’s evil sorcerer.
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