Native American Comic Living The ‘Indigenous Dream’, By Elizabeth Blair, NPR
O’siyo. Charlie Hill is an Oneida-Mohawk-Indian, and a famous comedian. He feels fortunate to have “achieved the American dream” but realizes that for many of his fellow Native Americans the dream is still out of reach. Charlie has helped diminish the stereotypes of Indians through his style and humor, and focuses on issues of human dignity and spirit. To many American Indians, Charlie Hill is a true hero.
“Native American comedian Charlie Hill says he’s living the American dream.
Actually, make that the “indigenous dream,” which he prefers to call it.
In many ways, Hill’s comedy is about how native people weren’t even allowed to have an American dream. Hill, from the Oneida tribe of Wisconsin, quips in one of his routines: “We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem.”
Hill made his TV debut on The Richard Pryor Show in the 1970s, and has been on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show. While he may not be very well known to the general public, to Native Americans, he’s a hero.
Take the fact that Native Americans have been the source of endless mockery, he says. “They make fun of the way we dance, we sing, our drum, our names, our religion, our rituals — you name it.”
So one of Hill’s dreams was to turn that humor around. “My whole thing is to get people to laugh with us, not at us,” he says.
Hollywood stereotypes have offered Hill a deep well from which to draw jokes. He re-creates the dialogue from old Westerns, but always gives the Indians the last laugh.
But he also stresses that it wouldn’t have been possible for him without help from other comedians, as well as other prominent Native Americans like the late writer Vine Deloria Jr., and singer Buffy Sainte-Marie.
He still travels to Los Angeles for work, but his home is on the Oneida reservation in Wisconsin…”
Read (and listen to ) his entire uplifting story at NPR.org.
See segments of Charlie Hill’s comedy on LOL Comedy TV
“I feel strongly that laughter is one of the ultimate forms of quick healing.”~Charlie Hill~
“He who has the courage to laugh is almost as much a master of the world as he who is ready to die.” ~Giacomo Leopardi~
There are many legends about how the Indians learned about the Talking Feather”. Here is one of them…
Long years ago, when gods walked this earth and the land beyond, Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei, were together enjoying the warm summer day. It was a day when the crickets chirrupted in the waving, green grass,when they noticed a figure moving towards them.
As the figure approached closer Kanati said “Look, that woman is crying, what could be the matter?” “I can not imagine why anyone would cry on such a glorious day.” Replied Asgaya Gigagei. “Let’s ask her.”
As the woman drew nearer, they could see her buckskin was decorated with beautiful designs and colors. She carried a bundle filled with leaves, sage, and colorful stones and feathers. They knew immediately this woman was a holy being.
Kanati asked her “Holy mother, why are you crying so?” The woman looked up in wonder, because she had been walking with her head down. “I’m crying because the men of my village are fighting constantly! Each thinks his ideas for leading the tribe is the best!” Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei glanced at one another, in perplexity. “Why, if there are so many good ideas for leading your tribe, why are the men fighting? And why aren’t you and the other members happy!” The poor woman shook her head sadly and replied, “Yes, you are right, the men do have very good ideas, but every man wants to speak his own ideas, and not listen to anyone else. They all shout and scream at one another so loudly, that it frightens the children who run and hide behind their mothers. The women are sad because their husbands come to the house upset and angry. Furthermore, the tribe is suffering, because no one can seem to make a decision.” Just then a beautiful Eagle was soaring overhead, Kanati called out “Brother Eagle, may I have one of your feathers, there are poor humans in desperate need!”
Bother Eagle replied “Yes” and shook himself until a single iridescent, large feather fell to the ground. “Many thanks and Blessings on you” said Kanati. Kanati made secret signs and prayers over the Feather. Asgaya Gigagei helped him with the blessings. Kanati then said to the woman “This is the sacred Talking Father, it holds great power for the one who holds it. Go back to your people, hold this feather up in the air, all who see it will fall silent, and listen to what you have to say. Tell all who listen that from now on, who ever holds this feather, all present within the Circle Council must listen to his words. The feather must then be passed on to the next speaker.”
The woman thanked Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei and hurried back to her village where there was total chaos!. Everyone was talking at once, children were crying, men were screaming at each other. As soon as she held the feather over her head, all became quiet! No one could utter a sound! the holy woman proceeded to give the directions given to her by the gods. She then passed the feather to the first man. He called the Talking Circle together, and each man had his say as he held the feather. From that time on that tribe flourished because they now had direction, and each person could hear and understand what their peers said. The people worked together, to build a great nation. Along the way, they shared the wonders of the Talking Feather with other tribes they met. “And that my friends is the true story of how the Talking Feather came to be!”