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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 9, 2002 - Issue 54


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Following the Footsteps of His Grandfather

by Suzanne Westerly Canku Ota Correspondent
Photos of Roscoe and Eagle Young by Suzanne Westerly
"I got my big break as a dancer, and I worked my way into acting because it was my big dream, to act. I really love it here in Hollywood, it was something I always wanted," said Roscoe smiling. Sitting outside on a breezy balcony in a restaurant at the Beverly Connection, a shopping center on the edge of Beverly Hills, Roscoe talked about his journey to Hollywood. Roscoe's life revolves around auditioning for (and getting some) acting roles, dancing and writing, while also working in an exciting new Southern California Indian Center (SCIC) Employment and Training (E&T) Program in audio/visual production. "It's been a long road, but it's been a really good learning experience," he said in his soft deep voice as he sipped some water.

At the early age of ten, Roscoe found happiness singing and acting while his brothers and sister found happiness playing sports. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, Walla Walla and Cayuse People, Roscoe Patrick Pond, was a young boy with a dream and a lot of determination. Knowing how his son felt, one-day Roscoe's dad said to him, "if you want to perform, and if you want to see what it ís like out there, you should go [to the Chemawa Indian School]." I said, "okay I will. Actually, it was my grandfather's idea, and that's how my life began," said Roscoe.

Roscoe's grandfather wanted his son to go to the same boarding school that he went to, the Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon, but unlike his father, Roscoe's dad didn't want to leave the Reservation. Roscoe, though, was more like his jazz musician grandfather whose dreams were interrupted by WWII. Like his grandfather, Roscoe knew that leaving the reservation was the first step toward realizing his goals. Adventure and music beckoned him as it had his grandfather.

After graduating from Portland State University, Roscoe headed for New Mexico, where he joined the DayStar Dance Company run by Rosalie M. Jones. "I was with Daystar from 1990 - 1997. "Then I graduated from dancer to actor, then lead actor."

On the road performing with Daystar, a chance meeting changed his life. The Last of the Mohicans (starring Wes Studi) was being filmed in South Carolina. That was Roscoe’s his first audition for a Hollywood film. Although he didn't get a role, it was his start in "the business."

Roscoe arrives in Hollywood
Roscoe didn't know anyone when he first got to Hollywood, so like many struggling actors, he found a job in the fast-food industry. He later discovered there was a lot of help for Native Americans in LA. (See sidebar)

In 1998 Roscoe found an agent. After being with her for a year "she asked me to get all my hair cut off, It was down to my lower back." She felt his long hair only allowed him to be in Native American roles.

What about tradition? "Our people didn't have long hair. Except for my great great granduncle, who was a chief of the Umatilla's in the 1930's.” Roscoe didn't want to cut his hair, but he did. "So if I go on a Native American audition I can put the wig on and 'look' Native American. I just had to compromise, and that's what you have to do sometimes."

Southern California Indian Center Employment and Training Program (see sidebar)
Over a year in the fast-food industry was enough for Roscoe. A job search eventually led him to a great opportunity in his field at the Indian Center in LA (SCICLA). They offered him an internship in a new program they were trying to get off the ground.

SCIC and Eyapaha Institute (see sidebar) had formed a partnership to build a program that would teach all aspects of the film industry to Native Americans. Chuck Banner, Director of Entertainment & Multi-Media of the Eyapaha Institute and the Senior VP of Production & Development at Red Crow Creations is the curriculum's project director. The program includes learning "everything that goes with filming, producing and editing movies, ... including computer training. ... I never knew anything about computers until a year ago, and now I am just flourishing," Roscoe remarked with a grin.

Roscoe and Eagle Young (from Taos Pueblo, NM), also an actor, are the first two trainees in this new program. "We got to film all the Indian activities at SCIC, including the PowWow, projects like the FAITA (First Americans in the Arts) Awards web cast, and Floyd's (Red Crow Westerman) gala for "The Hoop of Life." Besides taping, Roscoe and Eagle also do the editing. "Paula Starr, the Executive Director of SCIC has been really supportive of us, and I am very thankful to her for that," said Roscoe enthusiastically.

What worked for Roscoe?
"I am proud to say that I've never done drugs, never smoked anything and stopped drinking alcohol over 10 years ago, because I thought - my career, my dreams, what about my dreams? And it was a really good decision for me, that's when I decided I had to leave the reservation."

Roscoe loves to learn. "An education at a major university was just incredible and it really did push me into what I wanted to do, you just can't ever let go of learning."

Also of importance to Roscoe is health. "It all comes down to what you're eating and drinking. I'm finding out that drinking water, about five glasses a day is important. Pop has so much sugar; it's so bad, like alcohol. Water is good," he said as he finished his glass of water and eagerly headed off for an audition.

Southern California Indian Center Employment and Training Program And the Eyapaha Institute
Places to Start In Finding Help When You Come to LA

Eyapaha Institute is a 501 c (3) non-profit corporation based in Los Angeles under the leadership and guidance of Floyd Red Crow Westerman who is the Founder and Executive Director.

The Institute produces and distributes audio visual and multi-media entertainment products deeply-rooted in American Indian culture and tradition. They place a strong emphasis on historical documentation, oral tradition and language recovery, education and grass roots community development, health and wellness.

The Institute saw a need to create a job training program and employment opportunities for American Indians in the entertainment and multimedia industry, so on March 24, the Eyapaha Institute, Red Crow Creations, The Southern California Indian Center, Inc. (SCIC) and Southern California Indian Centers Los Angeles, Inc. (SCICLA) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to address job training and economic development in the Southern California area. The Center for Community Change funded Syd Bean as a consultant for Eyapaha and SCIC, to give infrastructure to the work and Chuck Banner, the Director of Entertainment & Multimedia at Eyapaha Institute and Senior VP Production & Development of Red Crow Creations, is the curriculum director of the new program.

Eyapaha Institute training


Roscoe didn't know about the help available for Native people, so he wants to let others know.

Southern California Indian Center Inc. Headquarters
10175 Slater Ave
Fountain Valley, California 92708
(714) 962-6673 (Orange County Hdqrts)
(714) 962-6343 FAX
Email :
Los Angeles Office, (213) 387-5772

Los Angeles American Indian Health Project
(213) 353-9429
1614 West Temple St.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Senior Project is located at SCIC-Commerce:
6055 E. Washington Blvd #700
City of Commerce, CA 90040
(213) 728-8844.

Suzanne Westerly
POB 564
Malibu, CA 90265
mobile, 310-924-5522

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


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