Last week, a dozen Native American actors and actresses who were working on the Adam Sandler film The Ridiculous Six walked off the set over insults to Native culture and Native women and inappropriate representations of Apache culture.
Two days after the walkout, Native Actors Loren Anthony (Navajo) and David Hill (Choctaw) appeared on the Native Trailblazers radio program to discuss their experiences and thoughts toward Native Americans in the film industry, the movie “Ridiculous Six” and how they hoped things would eventually change for the better for Natives in Hollywood.
The interview below is taken from that conversation; the show can be heard in its entirety in the Native Trailblazers archive on BlogTalkRadio.
What are your thoughts about bringing up Native rights in the context of the entertainment industry?
David Hill: I hope more people get on board for championing Native rights not just in movies or TV but wherever our rights are challenged. We have a non-Indian culture that complains about the rights that we do have. We have a non-Indian culture that pretty well complains about the rights we have that are different from theirs but the right to respect is something that exists through all cultures.
Our dignity is a right that we have to fight for. When you consider the suicide rates of our children, that is a direct result of destruction of culture, dignity, self image, and those things that make a person complete. We have to stand up somewhere, and what we did that day may not be much but it may have a butterfly effect to get people motivated to start and think that they can make a difference.
What do you say to the people who have expressed that this is a comedy and Native Americans are being too sensitive? Or to Netflix's statement that the movie is supposed to be ridiculous?
David Hill: When we were talking to them they said if you don’t like it, leave. We told them we will leave but this is not going to be the end of this. Them saying that this is a comedy and that this is a joke, that is nothing more than an excuse to perpetuate racism. It is a cover word to allow racism. The director said, "Adam Sandler makes fun of himself." But there is a difference between making fun of yourself and making fun of the people that are oppressed.
I also want to recognize Loren who really has stepped up to the plate.
So Loren, what has happened to you?
Loren Anthony: A little bit of everything. It started out with disrespect from costumes, there was a boundary that was drawn, and we knew this was going to be a comedy so we thought this is cool. But the Apache people are my cousin tribe, we share similar languages and I also have family members. But nothing was Apache. I was willing to compromise a little bit but after a while—things they had on set, and things used as props, they were taboo. Things were not right, including desecration of feathers.
At first I did not know what the script or the storyline was about.
People have criticized you, saying that this was an Adam Sandler movie and you should have known better.
Loren Anthony: The thing is, is that a lot of people didn’t know. There are a lot of elders who do not even know who Adam Sandler is, and have never seen one of his movies. The cultural consultant they hired had never seen an Adam Sandler movie.
I felt bad for them because they didn’t know and that was their bread and butter. A lot of people were misinformed.
Since the walkoff, it is clear that the script shows disrespect to native women, what are your thoughts?
Loren Anthony: As men, we are part of Mother—Earth. For me, I could just not let it go. I don’t know how I’d be able to live with myself. I don’t think I could sleep thinking that I would be okay with this. It felt right—it felt better walking off and doing what we did.
If I am going to be blackballed, then so be it, but at least I know where I stand. Where my heart is, and where I come from.
I thought about my sisters. I thought about, you know, the women in my life. I thought about, you know, if I had a daughter, would I want her to be called that?