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On the Celebrity Trail from Hollywood: First Americans in the Arts Awards

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - The 11th Annual First Americans in the Arts Awards ceremony was held Feb. 8 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The event was hosted by eight-time FAITA recipient Wes Studi, who received two acting honors for his work in film and TV. According to Vice Chairman of FAITA Dawn Jackson, the awards show was created for Native artists after Wes Studi failed to receive a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his role in "Last of the Mohicans" (1991).

The five most talked about films of last year garnered numerous awards. "The Business of Fancy Dancing" took home outstanding achievement in writing for first-time Director Sherman Alexie and Michelle St. John received best actress for her role in the film.

Supporting acting honors were won by Sylvia Ivalu and Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq for their performances in "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner." This sub-titled Inuit language film won the prestigious Golden Camera Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The film "Skins" netted best director for Chris Eyre, but failed to earn any awards for acting performances by Eric Schweig or Graham Greene, who were praised by Wes Studi from the podium.

"Skinwalkers," a PBS mystery, executive produced by Robert Redford took home four awards including best director in a TV movie for Chris Eyre and a lead acting honor for Wes Studi. Stage actress Sheila Tousey and Saginaw Grant also received best supporting actor awards.

"Windtalkers" was the popular winner of the night with the presence of actor Adam Beach, who received best actor in a leading role for the feature film. Roger Willie took home the newcomer award for his supporting performance as one of the Codetalkers. A surviving Navajo Codetalker presented an award with Willie and received the evening's only standing ovation.

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The ceremony's entertainment featured a diverse group of performers. The popular pow wow drum the Black Lodge singers were in attendance along with the Eagle Dancers ensemble. Daniel J. Tucker, chairman of the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation, sang a rendition of "On Broadway." Outstanding musical achievement award recipient Derek Miller also graced the stage with a performance of an original song.

One highlight of the evening was comedian Charlie Hill. After a stint in the hospital almost a year ago, he has emerged with fresh and contemporary new material. The main target for his jokes this evening was Indian casino humor. Hill brought down the house with laughter in a welcome return for a pioneer Indian comedian.

Long time reporter David Robb received the humanitarian award for his journalistic support of American Indians. The Will Sampson Award went to the Thunderbird Theatre. The Theatre has served Indian students since 1974 at Haskell in Lawrence, Kan. Miss Sammy Thurman received the lifetime achievement in stunts for her work as a stuntwoman in countless films and television programs over the past 30 years.

Tom Bee received the lifetime musical achievement award for his contributions to music that date back to 1970.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community received the trustee award for their sponsorship of FAITA. They hold one of the biggest pow wows in the mid-east and the popular Native American Music Festival at their Mystic Lake casino. A second trustee award went to DreamWorks for their animated Film "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron."

Gil Birmingham took home the prize for best actor in a television series for his role in "Body n Soul" on PAX. The lovely Stephanie Kramer received best actress in a TV movie for her role in "Hunter: Return to justice" on NBC.