Indian Country Today
Today is May the 4th. To those of us Native Nerds out there who follow the world of the Star Wars movie franchise, May 4th has become a day well worthy of #MayThe4thBeWithYou trending on social media.
So that said, my fellow Native Nerds: May the 4th Be With You, Native style!
As a self-respecting Native Nerd, I am exceptionally proud of the fact that I have seen every single Star Wars movie more than a few times, and own a plethora of Star Wars paraphernalia (including the original Hans Solo figure — sans lightsaber) and once owned the original Star Wars comic book.
Sadly, like many comic book enthusiasts, a few boxes of my comics, complete with plastic covers and acid-free cardboard backings, made their way to a thrift store because they took up too much space in my parents’ garage. I still, to this day, occasionally feel the stomachache of that loss.
Remembering Peter Mayhew: The original one and only Chewbacca
Peter Mayhew died April 30, 2019, and had portrayed Chewbacca in every film from 1977 to the 2015 film "The Force Awakens" — he was a consultant due to ailing health in his last role. He died amidst family and friends at age 74. He was 7 feet 3 inches tall, and for his last role, fought back against being in a wheelchair, to get himself prepared to portray Chewbacca one last time. Blessings to you Peter.
And then there was Baby Yoda (Grogu)
Just like everyone else in Indian Country, I was flipping out over Baby Yoda. Yes, I know it's Grogu, but I like both names. A blizzard of Native memes, beaded medallions and earrings hit Indian Country when Baby Yoda sipped his soup, and I was right there applauding. I love you Grogu.
Akwesasne Mohawk Victoria Ransom drew Grogu in traditional Haudenosaunee regalia, sitting in a black ash splint basket in honor of her uncle Joe Barnes.
And I was there to congratulate "The Mandalorian" for their Golden Globe nomination.
May 4 begins a busy week
For me, May 4th is the beginning of an awesome few days. We celebrate Star Wars on the fourth, the celebration of our Mexican Indigenous brothers and sisters on the fifth, also known as Cinco De Mayo, and my birthday is on May 6. I personally celebrate #PositiveTweetDayMay6.
Please also join Indian Country in promoting the awareness of MMIW
Also in the one year since I first wrote this article, we can now all work together to generate awareness for MMIW on its National Awareness Day May 5.
A list of upcoming Star Wars projects
So how do we celebrate May Fourth in Indian Country? Simple...pretty much like everyone else. Perhaps we watch the movies (who doesn’t have at least one DVD of one of the Star Wars movies — or even VHS tapes?)
Here is a cool list of upcoming projects, including an unnamed project by Taika Waititi.
"Rogue Squadron" directed by Patty Jenkins
The "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins is going to take a plunge into the Star Wars franchise focusing on starfighter pilots. I am going to call it the "Top Gun" of Star Wars. “It’s been a lifelong dream as a filmmaker to one day make a great fighter pilot film,” said Jenkins to the press. Her father was a pilot of an F4 and Jenkins says she has always wanted to do a fighter pilot film and a Star Wars film ... what a way to make two dreams come true. Her tweeted video is truly inspiring.
Untitled Taika Waititi Star Wars Film
Welp, that's about all the info we have folks, except it's coming in 2023. Want my prediction? I think it could be the childhood or younger life of Yoda. Where else could Taika's humor really bloom in the Star Wars universes? That's my prediction. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said Waititi's approach would be "fresh, unexpected and unique."
Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series
Ewan McGregor will be returning as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hayden Christensen will be returning as Darth Vader. This special event series takes place ten years after "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" and the director is Deborah Chow, a director on "The Mandalorian."
Ahsoka Tano made a huge impact on me in "The Mandalorian." Played by Rosario Dawson, the character is making an awesome comeback. Ahsoka is written by Dave Filoni and executive-produced by Filoni and Jon Favreau.
Rangers of the New Republic
Not many details, but another live-action series from Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau set in the timeline of "The Mandalorian" series.
Originally played by Billy Dee Williams, the story of Lando Calrissian and the former owner of the Millenium Falcon who lost it in a game of sabacc to Han Solo, is getting his own series. Justin Simien, the creator of "Dear White People" and an admitted longtime fan of Star Wars, is working to develop the project.
Actor Diego Luna will be portraying the role of the rebel spy Cassian Andor, and it will be a prequel to 2016's "Rogue One." Production started last December in London and is directed by Toby Haynes. The film will stream on Disney+ in 2022. The sizzle reel says there are 12 episodes, 12 scripts and over 200 named cast members and 6,000 in the crowds as well as lots of creatures and droids.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch
A computer-animated series following the batch of experimental clones first introduced in "the Clone Wars." The unique aspect of the series is the unique qualities of each clone, almost like a crew of soldiers, each with his own superpower.
According to Disney+, “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” makes its debut on Tuesday, May 4, with a special 70-minute premiere, followed by new episodes every Friday starting on May 7.
Other named projects include, "The Acolyte" a mystery-thriller Disney+ series on the dark side powers emerging in the final days of the High Republic, "Star Wars: Visions" a series of animated short films from some of the world's best Japanese anime studios and anime creators, and "A Droid Story" a story that introduces a new hero, narrated by the iconic duo R2-D2 and C-3PO.
My first Star Wars experience
I remember watching the first Star Wars movie in the theatre. I remember those huge yellow letters scrolling away from me in my pre-teen years as the now all too familiar Star Wars theme played through massive speakers. I remember the blasts of the x-wing fighters and the pure beauty of the scenes fought on the Death Star. The ominous flowing black cape of Darth Vader, his explosive voice and sounds of his breathing through his mask.
As kids, we replayed these scenes ad infinitum.
One exciting memory for me was when I was in my mid-twenties and I was working on a movie set as a video assistant and began speaking with one of the x-wing fighter pilots who appeared in the original Star Wars. He explained how all of the pilots shot their scenes in the same x-wing cockpit and they collectively stated they needed something to occupy their hands to shoot the scenes. The film crew installed - of all things, a normal calculator with buttons on the side of the cockpit to occupy the actors’ hands.
I was aghast and thrilled. I had found out some insider information. Few in life could ever receive such a precious gift.
Here’s a quick story about a previous article I posted in Indian Country Today.
In 2016, I worked with a former correspondent Dr. Coyote to post a Native Humor piece entitled: Native Humor: The Rez Force Awakens – You Might Be a Star Wars NDN Jedi If.
I created the feature image of the article by combining a Darth Vader / Stormtroopers image, with an overlay of eagle feathers. On the ICT Facebook page, there was a comment similar to “Native people can just throw a feather on something and call it Native?”
I understand the sentiment. But the idea goes much deeper than people might expect - and in my view underlies the importance of regalia, feathers, ornamentation, etc.
You see, I didn’t just throw any feather onto the helmet of Darth Vader.
The eagle feather I used was a photograph I took of an eagle feather that was presented to me by a close family friend.
This family friend has just lost their son, Summer Sky. He was a beautiful young man with so much to give this world, but as a result of a very sad accident, he died. I helped the family as much as I could - as a result of my support in their time of loss, I was given one of the eagle feathers that had lain across Summer Sky’s chest before he was laid to rest.
I used this eagle feather as the image for Darth Vader’s feathers.
Everything in Indian Country in terms of regalia, ornamentation, decoration and more - has meaning. That is why we as Native care so much about appropriation.
So how is this connected to Star Wars?
Because Star Wars is so much more than just a bunch of robots, aliens and the dark or light side of the Force. It is about the beauty of imagination. It is evident that no matter how far your mind can go, it can be re-created for the benefit of accelerating the imaginations of other people in life.
Star Wars taught me that it was ok to dream big. I laughed, cried, and applauded like crazy during these movies. I have loved Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Chewbacca, and so many others.
And one more blessing to the beloved actress Carrie Fisher, she will always be Princess Leia to me.
I have read the comics, listened to the records, watched the movies and have always dreamed with tremendous expectations and intrigue about the place that took place ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
May the Fourth Be With You, Indian Country.
This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated.