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SMH Adam Sandler Wake Up and Smell the Refreshing Aroma of Equality!

Another blip on the otherwise bland radar of white middle class Eurocentric sensationalist information, that is really pabulum for the masses, and passes for news was recently seen. Apparently calling a female names like Beaver Breath and having them urinate while holding feathers is not to the liking of American Indian actors or their Cultural Consultant as they walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie. As my Great Aunt would say, “Bully for them.” Kind of ironic that she played a non-stereotyped version of herself in the little0known TV pilot, Climb An Angry Mountain, starring Fess Parker of the television show “Daniel Boone.”

Even the promise of a nice paycheck does not make up for the sting of mockery and racism. Boo on you Adam Sandler, This is 2015, let’s get past the “it is all in good fun” argument. No matter how you want to paint it you are just making another attempt at sophomoric humor that falls way, way, way short. Hear the crickets chirping?

Natives have always been an easy target for Hollyweirds wild lack of imagination of who we are as a people. Everything from offensive movies such as 1491: Conquest of Paradise or Mel Gibson’s travesty Apocalypto to mildly amusing offerings such as little Big Man. For every good character like Philbert in Pow Wow Highway there is Johnny Depp as Tonto. For every Thomas Builds-the-Fire, as seen in Smoke Signals, there is an Iron Eyes Cody weeping his way into 16 mm lore. There is a good documentary you can get that annotates the history of Natives on the big screen that edifies you on the role we have played in Hollywood, Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian.

Probably the most famous clash of Native versus cinematic cultures was seen in 1973. That was when Marlon Brando refused the academy award for best actor for his unforgettable performance as Don Corleone in the Godfather. Instead of attending the event he sent his emissary, an unknown native woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, to explain Brando’s protest of the depiction of Natives in the movies. While making a big media splash there was no lasting impact, obviously considering Sandler, on the romanticized, stereotyped and bigoted depiction of American Indians in popular media.

One of my favorite movies with an American Indian Theme is Black Robe. It is the story of a Jesuit Priest who is out in the wilderness trying to perform two miracles, save the souls of the savage Natives and survive the brutal Canadian winter. SPOILER ALERT- he ends up doing neither. One reviewer summed it all too perfectly in his thumbs down review by saying, akin to I didn’t like it-everyone died in the end. Gee imagine that, a historical picture that contains some actual historical accuracy.

I am tired of being “whitewashed” by movie directors and producers. So just say no thank you to Irishman Daniel Day Lewis as Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans. Adios to vile visuals such as the lost boys of Peter Pan. Let’s see some real American Indians on our digital screens. You can watch reruns of Daniel Boone, where Native sidekick Mingo was portrayed by non-Indian actor Ed Ames as almost a real person who lived as an Indian but speaks with an English accent from his days at Oxford. (Hey maybe Fess Parker is the key to accurate portrayal of Natives in cinema). Also notable is Clint Eastwood’s feature film Flags of Our Fathers, which offers a no holds barred look at Ira Hay’s played by Adam Beach.

Native Americans have long been the silent minority. But this is slowly changing. The Idle No More events have shown that Native peoples are not going to sit back and take it anymore. Almost like an Indigenous version of Arab Spring or the Occupy movements, NDNs are saying enough is enough. Be careful we may ask for more than just our share of respect as you are all on stolen Native lands.

 Andre Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California and the Operations Director of the Northern California Indian Development Council. He lives with his wife Wendy and son Kyle in Arcata, California.