Native American Hollywood history has long been guilty for the misinterpreted and shallow perception that most people had, until recently, about the Native American movie industry. No one can argue with the fact that movies and the entertainment industry influence the way people perceive other cultures. That is why old Hollywood productions that involved Native Americans as characters are guilty of portraying American Indians as savages. The main image of Native Americans that Hollywood exported to the entire world was that of half-clothed beasts who ran on their horses screaming and carrying hand-made dangerous weapons.
Things started to change in Native American Hollywood when Jay Silverheels, a Native American from Ontario, Canada and member of the Six Nations on The Grand River reservation, became a TV star. He was the first American Indian actor. After the achieved fame he started helping other fellow Native American actors master their craft. That is why he founded the American Indian Actors Workshop.
The 1970’s marked the period when Native American actors began portraying American Indians more accurately and more authentically. One of the main films that showed First Americans as original and fascinating characters was ‘Little Big Man’. Chief Dan George was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for the part he played in that movie, making him the first American Indian to achieve such a performance.
Native American Hollywood has to focus in the future on more original Native American stories so that first American actors can receive opportunities for acting. Great American Indian actors such as Graham Greene, Wes Studi, Raoul Trujillo, and Adam Beach have become known because they were given the opportunity to play true-to-life characters that reflect the American Indian heritage. In the end, it is all about the fact that an Native American actor should receive an award for playing a Native American role.