This installment -- our fourth -- of the 2015 50 Faces of Indian Country might be the most diverse yet, at least in terms of occupation. Here we have a chef, a government official, an actor, a designer, and an athlete, all at the top of their resepctive games. It is a microcosm of the list as a whole, and proof (as if any were needed) that Turtle Island's Indigenous people are as dynamic and driven a group as any other demographic. For the previous handfuls of Native American movers and shakers, visit these links:
photo: Heidi Ehalt
Sean Sherman, affectionately known as the “Sioux Chef,” is an Oglala Lakota chef who has been lauded as a culinary virtuoso. His creations in the kitchen, which are both rustic and elegant, are an affirmation that Native American cuisine endures and still delights more than 500 years after the European invasion of the Americas. Born on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, Sherman, 41, uses only the ingredients indigenous to the area when he cooks. What’s more, Sherman says he does not incorporate any colonialist European influences into his Native dishes. This summer, Sherman and his team are zipping around the Twin Cities passing out his edible masterpieces from his recently unveiled food truck, which he named, “Tatanka Truck.” “We’re kind of doing these indigenous tacos,” he told ICTMN. “They’re corn-based, wild rice-based. [There’s also] bison and rabbit and turkey and duck and walleye, pure maple soda, and cranberry and sage iced tea."
Kevin K. Washburn
photo: Maryanne Batlle, Cronkite News Service
Kevin K. Washburn, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, became the U.S. Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs (AS-IA) in October 9, 2012. From day one, he has been a smart and dogged advocate for Indian country, even sparring with Congressional subcommittees looking to curtail the rights of tribes. He has been particularly busy the past six months. Most recently he and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released a new “final rule” that would give federal acknowledgment regulations a major overhaul. Shortly after that, Washburn announced the federal recognition of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. (The Virginia tribe became the 567th federally recognized tribe in the U.S. and the first in the state.) In February, he announced the Bureau of Indian Affairs had released new Indian Child Welfare Act guidelines to ensure the rights and protections of Native families and children under ICWA.
photo: Matika Wilbur
A son of the late Lakota leader Russell Means, Tatanka has his father’s taste for showbiz, and ample talent to back it up. Tatanka is an actor, standup comedian, dancer and model. He’s also a skilled horseback rider and former boxing champ -- really, there doesn’t seem to be much Tatanka Means can’t do. In 2013 he was a film festival star, winning Best Actor awards for his work in Tiger Eyes (adapted from the novel by Judy Blume) and the short film “Derby Kings.” In the last two years, Means has had recurring roles on the TV series Banshee and The Night Shift. He’s currently commuting to South Africa to film Saints and Strangers, a scripted miniseries that tells the story of the British separatists and adventurers who crossed the ocean on the Mayflower to settle on Turtle Island.
Megan Bowers Avina
TV audiences got to know fashion designer Patricia Michaels, Taos Pueblo, on season 11 of Project Runway, where she made it to the final two. But Michaels’ crowd-pleasing, judges-pleasing Indigenous style was well-established before reality TV came calling. She’s been a fixture on the Santa Fe scene for over 20 years, and her PM Waterlily brand continues to show all over the country. In November 2014, she was honored by the National Museum of the American Indian with an Art & Design award as part of NMAI’s 20th anniversary. Michaels is now not only a hot designer, she’s also a source of inspiration and wisdom for a younger generation of Native American fashion talents. “You can be contemporary, but be part of your culture or you’ll end up being like everyone else in the world, and lose all that our ancestors fought for,” she tells them.
photo: Mike Groll/AP Images
Two-time Tewaaraton Award winner Lyle Thompson had one of the biggest years of his life in 2015. In addition to ending his college lacrosse career as the first men’s repeat winner of that award, Thompson was chosen No. 1 overall in the Major League Lacrosse draft by the Florida Launch. That reunited him with his older brother Miles Thompson, with whom he played at the University of Albany. Lyle’s final college numbers there were 175 goals and 225 assists; his total of 400 points is a career record in collegiate lacrosse. Thompson is a N7 Ambassador for Nike, and hosts lacrosse camps for Native youth with his brothers. At home, Thompson, who was born on the Onondaga Reservation, has two young daughters with his fiancée Amanda Longboat. “Every game I play, I am thinking of my tradition, and the Creator, and why I am playing this game,” Thompson told ICTMN in 2013. “To us, it’s a lifestyle and not just a game."