Native actress, veteran television host, professional lawyer and mom of four Stacey Thunder has not shown any signs of slowing down since her starring role in the Jingle Dress, alongside Chaske Spencer.
She will be traveling to the Sundance Film Festival with Heather Rae this Saturday to cover the festival and Sundance’s Native American and Indigenous Film program. In a conversation with ICTMN, Thunder talked about her experiences in the media industry, including her newest online news series, Indigenous With Stacey Thunder, and how a lawyer and mom of four can continue to serve as an amazing and sacred voice for Indian Country.
You are also producing a web series entitled Indigenous With Stacey Thunder. What has the response been to your series so far?
Well, nobody has said anything negative. (laughs) The response has been amazing and positive overall. I’ve received many comments such as, 'this is a great way to tell a story, thank you for getting our stories out there, the episodes look so cool…’'. I’ve also been invited by leaders and other folks to visit their homelands to cover their stories.
Also, one thing I like about the response to the first episode was that some of my non-Native friends (and a lot of non-Native viewers) who did not know anything about the mascot issue, (of the Washington Redskins football team) and were really blown away with that new knowledge.
I was like, 'Well now you know, and that’s great!!' (laughs) It just confirms that we are doing something good, to help change perceptions and break down stereotypes, and turn those into something positive.
I have been doing television for almost 12 years, and I’m always grateful to be a part of or a conduit to sharing our stories. “Indigenous” is an online series so we hope that these stories will have a global reach, and that they will inspire other Indigenous peoples to tell stories on their own platforms as well.
See our related story covering the mascot issue: Stacey Thunder's 'Indigenous' Series Is Here! Watch the Premiere Episode
Stacey Thunder interviewing Billy Mills
What is the importance of bringing awareness to Indigenous issues to the world?
There are a lot of reasons because it can be complex, but I think it’s important to have a voice. For too long our people have been treated unfairly and negatively portrayed, and I’d love to help change that. When others hear our voices and get to truly know us and our stories, wisdom, and issues, then those misconceptions or any negative (or lack of) information will hopefully disappear and perceptions will shift into a positive and loving one. I’d love to see that in my lifetime, and I certainly hope that for my children.
Are there issues you'd like to address that you haven't yet?
Yes, definitely! As you asked that question, my mind exploded with so many thoughts all at once! (laughs) There are so many issues I’d love to cover, but I think one example, is to share our ancient wisdom as stewards of the land, which is incredibly important. For example, one great leader in this effort is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. They have great healthy food and green initiatives that not only serve their community but the surrounding areas.
Along the same lines is the importance of health and fitness in our youth, and what the Nike N7 Fund does to help our youth achieve healthy lifestyles. Other examples are the violence against Native women, and everything and anything that will share the true history, issues, and stories of Indigenous peoples.
Who is Stacey Thunder?
I always like to say I am a person with multiple hats….I’m a mother of two girls and two boys ranging from ages 15 to 4, a lawyer, producer, host and actress. My life has been crazy busy, but I just keep going because I’m doing what I love. I hope that by doing this, it teaches my children they can do whatever they want to do in their lives - that they don’t have to choose only one thing, but can do whatever they are passionate about. They are all so creative, and I always encourage them to tap into their individual forms of art and story-telling.
I’m also the oldest of eight children, and already at this point in my life, I am the matriarch of mom’s side of the family. My father, who is from Red Lake, is a retired Minneapolis police officer, and my mother, who is from Lac Courte Oreilles, mostly stayed home to take care of us and later worked as a receptionist at Upper Midwest American Indian Center in Minneapolis. My family is incredibly important to me, and I’m always grateful for their love and support.
Stacey Thunder (Photo: Cameron Pashak)
Anything we missed?
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota, who have been supportive since the beginning of my television career, and Vision Maker Media have both made it possible to do Indigenous. They share the passion to get our stories out there, and I am thankful for that.
Follow ICTMN's Vincent Schilling on Twitter @VinceSchilling