February 10, 2003

Stars Shine at First Americans Awards


(BEVERLY HILLS) — Reflecting a strong year for Native-themed productions,
First Americans in the Arts (FAITA) bestowed their coveted feather awards
on a wide range of movies and TV shows. The winners included
“Skinwalkers,” “Windtalkers,” “The Business of Fancydancying,” and
“Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner).”

The mood was festive as the stars gathered Saturday at the Beverly Hilton
for the 11th annual FAITA awards. Among the luminaries were master of
ceremonies Wes Studi, Adam Beach, Michael Horse, Irene Bedard, and Gary

A heartfelt Navajo prayer and delicious chicken dinner set the stage for
the evening. As they ate, attendees could read projected quotes from such
historical figures as Chief Joseph (Nez Perce) and Chief Oren Lyons

A Six-Pack of Movies

“Skinwalkers,” the Tony Hillerman novel turned PBS-based movie, was the
night’s biggest winner. FAITA saluted Wes Studi (lead performance in a TV
movie), Sheila Tousey and Saginaw Grant (supporting performances), and
Chris Eyre (directing). Grant spoke for many when he said, “This award
wasn’t for me. You’re honoring yourself because you support this work.”

Fan favorite Adam Beach was named the outstanding lead actor in a film for
his portrayal of a Navajo codetalker in the World War II adventure
“Windtalkers.” Joining him was Navajo costar Roger Willie for his
outstanding performance by a newcomer.

“The Business of Fancydancing,” the literary rumination on tribal ties, won
for Sherman Alexie (outstanding achievement in writing) and Michelle St.
John (lead performance in a film). In a written statement, St. John noted
that she and costar Evan Adams were tiny actors while Alexie was “a giant.”

“Atanarjuat,” the acclaimed Inuit film, was honored for the supporting
performances of Sylvia Ivalu and Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq.

DreamWorks SKG received the Trustee Award for “Spirit: Stallion of the
Cimarron” and its message of living with the land rather than conquering
it. Studi told the audience he was proud of his son Daniel, who brought
the Lakota character Little Creek to life.

FAITA recognized “Skins,” the powerful film about two Pine Ridge brothers,
for Chris Eyre’s direction. Some in attendance wondered why the disturbing
drama didn’t win more awards. Studi alluded to this when he asked people
to applaud the performances of Eric Schweig, Graham Greene, and Gary

TV and Music Recognized

Besides his award for “Skinwalkers,” Studi won for his guest performance in
the TV series “UC: Undercover.” He thanked the trustees for “giving me
awards for what I enjoy doing. There’s really nothing else I want to do.”

Gil Birmingham was commended for his acting in the series “Body & Soul” and
Stepfanie Kramer for her acting in the TV movie “Hunter: Return to

On the musical front, Derek Miller received the Outstanding Musical
Achievement award for his debut CD “Music Is the Medicine.” The program
described it as “some of the hottest guitar music to ever be merged with
Native American themes.” Miller also performed a song.

FAITA honored Tom Bee with its Lifetime in Musical Achievement award for
his career as a recording artist, songwriter, and record producer. Noting
the strong role of Native women, Bee said his wife should really get the
award. She not only stood behind him but in front of him and all around
him. Studi later joked that “Mr. Bee is going to have a good night

Danny Tucker, chairman of the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians and
accomplished lounge singer, and the Black Lodge Singers offered more
musical entertainment. The svelte Tucker had the crowd swaying with his
rendition of “On Broadway.”

Attendees also enjoyed two stirring performances by the Eagle Dance troupe.

Fighting the Good Fight

One of the highlights was the Humanitarian Award given to journalist David
Robb for his 20 years of reporting at Daily Variety and the Hollywood
Reporter. Robb earned special praise for his article on the US military
order to kill the codetalkers if they fell into enemy hands, which the
Pentagon initially denied.

Robb related a story that Floyd Red Crow Westerman told him. Westerman was
at the airport when he encountered a boy who had never met a real Indian.
The boy’s first words to the actor were, “Do you still kill?”

Because of such deep-seated stereotypes, said Robb, “it’s vitally important
that Indians be portrayed accurately.” They’re the most underrepresented
minority on the screen, he noted.

I was only doing my job,” he concluded about his award. “You are doing
God’s work.”

Comedian Charlie Hill had people roaring with a hilarious standup routine.
He began with a commercial for the New Age tonic Generokee. “One sip and
your Native roots will start to grow back.”

Hill gave the evening a political edge with his comments on Washington
DC–or “Washington Deceit,” as he called it. He said he had done a show
for the American Indian Republican Party–“three of the nicest gentlemen”
he ever met.

He also tackled the war on terrorism and racial profiling. On an airplane,
he said, he saw two white men who made him nervous. “I know they didn’t
steal my land, but they look like the guys who did.”

But Hill told the Anglos in the audience not to worry about terrorists
because Indians have their back. “Indian people have been fighting
terrorism since 1492,” he said.

Perhaps the most moving moment came when codetalker Joe Morris Sr.
accompanied stuntman Juddson Linn to present Roger Willie his award. The
audience gave Morris a warm standing ovation for the heroes he represented.

As Charlie Hill said, these are the people who saved America, not Nicolas


AUTHOR: Rob Schmidt

For more information on FAITA, visit

© 2003 Pechanga.Net

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