Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 9, 2002 - Issue 54


pictograph divider


Native Voices Are Heard At the Autry Museum of Western Heritage

by Suzanne Westerly Canku Ota Correspondent
credits:Photos by Suzanne Westerly

Los Angeles, California - If your burning desire is to become an actor, screenwriter, director, or producer, you will probably find yourself on the road to Los Angeles, generally referred to as LA. Some people feel an irresistible magic and excitement in LA, for as everyone knows, it is the entertainment capital of the world.

It is said that Hollywood is a state-of-mind. A place where your dreams can become real-life adventures, mixed with sunshine, sandy beaches, palm trees, and possibilities. But the road isn’t always smooth, and after awhile, you may come to realize that your dreams of becoming an actor, writer, producer or director are filled with barriers - more for some than for others, it appears.

Once Upon A Time
Native Americans have always been a part of Hollywood movies, but if you look carefully at some of those old movies, it will become obvious to you that non-Indians wearing a lot of make-up and black wigs got the lead roles. Getting a role was hard enough for early Indian actors, but many were also determined to open industry-minds to the facts that the old stereotypes of Indians that Hollywood couldn’t seem to let go of, were quite incorrect, as they explained that no, Indians don't all live in teepees, wear feathers in their hair or ride horses while dressed in a loin cloth.

Today, although LA County has the largest urban concentration of intertribal American Indians in the U.S., only 0.2% of those on the [entertainment] working force are Native Americans. That tells you that something is going wrong,” said Marjorie Tanin (or Kasaweh), a dynamic Tewa, Hopi, and Kiowa woman who grew up on the Pueblo of Santa Clara in Northern New Mexico. Marjorie is an actress, a technical consultant and casting director determined to find jobs for Native actors.

Native Voices and The Autry Museum of Western Heritage
On a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon last fall, a majority of the Native Voices Board members gathered around a large wooden table in a conference room at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, located adjacent to the tree-laden hills of Griffith Park in Hollywood, to strategize for year 2002.

Native Voices was founded by partners Randy Reinholz, Choctaw, and Jean Bruce Scott, in 1993 at the University of Illinois in Normal. "It began on a very small scale with no budget, very grassroots," said Jean, Executive Director and Cofounder of Native Voices and a prolific actress. Randy, who has worked in theatre, film, and television as an actor, director, producer and script developer over the last twenty years was working in a play in New York, and couldn’t be at the meeting.

Native Voices Theatre Company, led by Randy and Jean began producing plays and workshop festivals, eventually finding themselves in California. In 2000, a collaboration between Native Voices Theatre Company and the Autry Museum of Western Heritage was formed, and Native Voices at the Autry was born. Today Native Voices at the Autry is a three-year theatre initiative enabling Native American writers and theatre artists increased opportunities to refine their craft and gain access to producers, casting directors, and the general public by putting on free performances.

First Americans In the Arts Award Presentations
On Saturday, February 2nd, the Tenth Annual First Americans in the Arts Award (FAITA) Presentations will honor the Autry Museum of Western Heritage by presenting them with the Humanitarian Award for providing opportunities to the Native performing arts community.

Scott Kratz, Assistant Director of Education at the Autry Museum is enthusiastic about Native Voices and expressed the happiness of all of the people at the Autry, from the Director on down as to how honored and thrilled they were to be receiving the Humanitarian Award at this years FAITA’s.

"What has been crucial to the strength and success of this program is the Board of Advisors, who have been providing leadership, advise, and insight in how to cultivate audiences, work with playwrights, and how to make sure that this program is successful in the long-term," said Scott.

Marjorie also expressed the happiness and satisfaction she felt from working with Native Voices. Before being asked to sit on the board of Native Voices two years ago, Marjorie had worked with the Screen Actors Guild for six years as their vice-chair on the Native American subcommittee, (developed through an affirmative action program). Disheartened, she came to realize that Native Americans "progression [in Hollywood] was practically stagnant." Today, she is more optimistic, “I think that Native Voices Theatre Productions will certainly enable our actors to further their careers.”

Currently, Marjorie is playing the lead role in the play, "We Are Still Here," based on the life of a wonderfully inspirational leader and elder, Katherine Siva Saubel of the Cahuilla Indians of Southern California.

Sitting next to Marjorie was another outstanding, energetic, and hardworking woman, Paula Starr, (Cheyenne), who is the Executive Director of the Southern California Indian Center (SCIC), and a newcomer to the Native Voices Board. Paula brimmed with enthusiasm as she talked of her plans to bring more Native youth into the program. "This dynamic group is exactly what the community needs because if we donít write our own history someone else will write it for us. Native Voices gives us an excellent opportunity to get not only our young people involved, but all ages involved. So, this is a perfect vehicle for it to just fly. I'm excited, she said with a smile."

The Youth and NAFATA

"The primary focus of the Native Voices project is to develop plays by and about Native American experiences, and it really focuses on the playwright developing these plays," said Scott.

Native Voices plans to work closely with the SCIC on a youth educational outreach program that will include a series of workshops about play development and character development with the hope of encouraging young Native playwrights to submit their written pieces. The top three pieces that are chosen, will then be produced by Native Voices.

The Autry has also opened their doors to Native American Film and Television Alliance (NAFATA) which meets at the Autry regularly about once a month. They have had several screenings of film shorts that are produced by members in the group.

Sponsors of this year's FAITA are:
  • The Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians,
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe,
  • Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, and
  • The Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma

To contact Native Voices, call 323.667.2000, ext. 243.
For more info on NAFATA go to

pictograph divider


Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


Canku Ota Logo


Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Thank You