Are the roles for Native American actors better now than when you first got into the business?
I would love to say things have changed over that time, that there are more mature Native American characters being written, but I’m not sure that’s happened. I can say that at least Native American characters are allowed to think now instead of being the old sidekicks like Tonto, where the Lone Ranger asks “Are those four men on horses?” and Tonto says, “Yes. There are four men on horses.” Our characters now are a little deeper. They’re allowed to have their own thoughts. Sometimes non-Native American writers have us doing things we wouldn’t do or saying things we wouldn’t say — stuff that’s just not in our DNA — but at least we’re getting to think now. I’m still riding horses, shooting arrows and killing white people, so a lot hasn’t changed since I got into the business, but at least it hasn’t gotten worse.I started watching the Ken Burns 'National Parks' documentary, subtitled America's Greatest Idea. "First," it seems to say, "you get rid of all the Indians." It's a history I've been delving into with increasing purpose. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is a beautiful book celebrating Native American relationships with the land. I found it really nourishing, with useful meditations on the concept of home. Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a collection of short stories with a visceral, freewheeling style. I've only known his poems before, but this anthology makes me want to delve more into his prose. (hashtag tbt but i found myself wondering if candle-beck read and loved sherman alexie, back in the day. their styles felt similar.) I recommend both these books. Kimmerer and Alexie have vastly different styles, but there is something elegiac in both their works, her longing for a golden past and his anger at the current scars.
I don't know. I'm an immigrant in this country. I've had my green card for only a year and a half, and now I find myself wanting to know more about this place, especially the parts of it history has tried to stamp out. I'm on the lookout for more works by Native Americans, so if you have recommendations, let me know.