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Annual First Americans in the Arts awards held

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The 14th Annual First Americans in the Arts award ceremony honored the stars of Indian country on March 25 at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

Numerous Native women donned glamorous evening dresses, reminiscent of the red-carpet stroll at the Academy Awards ceremony. And most of the men were dressed to the nines in suits or tuxedos, many showing their Native pride by wearing bolo ties clasped with a precious gem and wearing their hair with braids.

Traditional tones weren’t drowned out by the snazzy affair. Guests could bid on a silent auction that showcased the best in Native art, books, jewelry and assorted crafts. Funds from the auction will benefit production expenses for the First Americans in the Arts, a nonprofit organization created to recognize, honor and promote American Indian participation in the entertainment industry.

Following prayer and dinner, the event opened with the Native Star Dance Team of New Mexico. Men and women Fancy and Traditional dancers moved with ease around the banquet room to the drumbeats of Randy Brokeshoulder and Brent Brokeshoulder. When the ensemble made it to the stage, they continued to dance as singer Jana, Lumbee, took the stage and captivated the audience with her explosive vocals.

Wes Studi, Cherokee, known for his acting roles depicting the strong side of Natives, was the master of ceremonies at the gala and added lighthearted humor to the event. “I’ve been on the trail for many moons to arrive at this place,” he quipped.

On a more serious note, Studi said it’s important for filmmakers to work on separating fact from fiction when it comes down to telling stories about Natives. Studi is renowned for his portrayal of Magua in the epic film, “Last of the Mohicans.”

Between award presentations, Jana; Quese iMC, Pawnee/Seminole; and Arigon Starr, Kickapoo, rocked the banquet room with their charismatic musical styles.

Quese, born Marcus Frejo Little Eagle, picked up an award for outstanding musical achievement for his fifth album, “The Betty Lena Project.” “Native Americans can make their movies and music … now they have the money,” shared Quese, before breaking out into a hip hop song.

Plenty of thanks were given to people who helped the award recipients reach for the stars, and a few gave thanks to a higher power.

Already a champion Hoop dancer, Nakota LaRance, 16, Hopi/Assiniboine/Dine’/Tewa, received a statue for Outstanding New Performance by an actor in a film/TV show for “Into the West.”

“There is no greater honor than being under the guidance of the Great Spirit,” he said.

DeLanna Studi, Cherokee, captured the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress performance in a TV movie/special for “Edge of America,” produced by Chris Eyre. “First of all, I would like to thank Creator for this opportunity,” she said.

Studi, the niece of Wes Studi, added that she looks forward to playing more roles that portray Native women as strong role models, such as her current one-woman play called “Kick,” which explores Native image issues and stereotypes, including sports team mascots.

This year’s Humanitarian Award went to the series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” for its contribution to the Hopi Piestewa family. The Piestewas lost their 23-year-old daughter, Lori, in the Iraq War, the first American servicewoman to die in that combat. It had been Lori Piestewa’s dream to return to her home in Tuba, Ariz., to build a house for her parents.

“We see the world through their eyes to get a better understanding of their experience,” said a spokesman, who accepted the award on behalf of ABC.

The ceremony ended near midnight, but the party was just getting started. Musical talent must pump through the veins of Quese’s family, as his brother, Brian Frejo, known as “DJ Shock B,” spun the music for the after-party.

<b>And the winners are …</b>

Tyler Christopher, Choctaw/Seneca, for Outstanding Supporting Actor Performance in a TV Movie/Special: “Into the West.”

Kris Chenoweth, Cherokee, Outstanding Supporting Actress Performance in a Film: “Bewitched.”

August Schellenberg, Mohawk, Outstanding Supporting Actor Performance in a Film: “The New World.”

Nakota LaRance, Hopi/Assiniboine/Dine’/Tewa, for Outstanding New Performance by an Actor in a Film: “Into the West.”

DeLanna Studi, Western Band of Cherokee, Outstanding Supporting Actress Performance in a TV Movie/Special: “Edge of America.”

Zahn McClarnon, Hunkpapa Lakota, Outstanding Actor Performance in a TV Movie/Special (Lead): “Into the West.”

Tonantzin Carmelo, Tongua/Mexica, Outstanding Actress Performance in a TV Movie/Special (Lead): “Into the West.”

Quese iMC, Pawnee/Seminole, Outstanding Musical Achievement: “The Betty Lana Project.”

Elena Finney, Mescalero Apache/Tarascan/Irish, for Outstanding Actress Performance in Theater: “Kino and Theresa.”

Chris Eyre, Cheyenne/Arapaho, Outstanding Achievement in Directing (Film, TV, Theater): “Edge of America.”

Dutch Lunak, Blackfeet, Outstanding Achievement in Stunts.

ABC Television Network, Humanitarian Award: “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Will Samson Memorial Award for its contribution to “Extreme Home Makeover.”

Q’Orianka Kilcher, Trustee Award: “Pocahontas.”

Link Wray, Shawnee, Lifetime Musical Achievement.

Roy Track, Assiniboine Sioux, Legacy Award.

Stephanie Stonefish Ryan, Lenni Lenape, Outstanding Achievement in Technical Arts.