Social Issues

Native Film “Winter in the Blood”: Spellbinding

June 26th, 2013  |  Published in Culture, Education, Social Issues  | 

Osiyo. Renowned Native author James Welch (Blackfeet-Gros Ventre-1940-2003) wrote the deeply moving and profound  novel Winter in the Blood (1974)  which tells the story of a Native Blackfoot man haunted by tragic childhood memories, destroyed by alcoholism, and torn by the dissolution of his heritage in the bleak, isolated lands of Montana. This  literary classic has been made into a film which is a winner. The following is a review by Native actor Sonny Skyhawk.

Chaske Spencer as Virgil First Raise Photo by Michael Coles, ICTMN.

Chaske Spencer as Virgil First Raise Photo by Michael Coles, ICTMN.

Excerpt: ‘Winter in the Blood,’ a Review by Sonny Skyhawk, ICTMN

“As an actor I find it a difficult task for me to talk about another actor’s work, and I don’t presume for a minute to be good at it myself. But I am an American Indian, and I do know something about acting and film, having been a working actor for the last 35 years.

Novel Winter in the Blood by James Welch. Amazon.

Novel Winter in the Blood by James Welch. Amazon.

Let me start by declaring that this film and the storyline, is not only a very difficult subject to translate into film, but to define in the context of a story. The story — complex, yet simple in nature — revolves around a Native alcoholic character named Virgil First Raise, played by Chaske Spencer of Twilight fame.

Julia Jones (Choctaw :Chickasaw ) as Agnes. Photo by Michael Coles, ICTMN

Julia Jones (Choctaw :Chickasaw ) as Agnes. Photo by Michael Coles, ICTMN

I found Winter in the Blood ( difficult to watch first of all, because in my own personal life I have had to deal with being exposed to the disease of alcoholism in my family and specifically, my mother.

Scene from Winter in the Blood. Photo-twitchfim

Scene from Winter in the Blood. Photo-twitchfim

Watching Winter in the Blood, I  experienced a kaleidoscope of visions and impressions of my own history growing up as a young Indian in that environment.  This is a very difficult story to tell, but the film’s Native actors pulled it off by virtue of their excellent performances.

Julia Jones (Agnes) also starred in the Twilight Sagas.

Julia Jones (Agnes) also starred in the Twilight Sagas.

 The casting, by Renee’ Haynes, who is always a total professional, was excellent. The film was shot in and around Havre, Montana, which had to be an experience in and of itself.

Please go see the movie when it comes to your area, and judge for yourself.” Read more… 

“I would hope that Hollywood and the writing community would explore and produce more Native themed story lines in the future… Until that happens, we will continue to remain invisible adversely relegated to the same old roles — the “ugh” roles, I call them — of the Western genre.” ~ Sonny Skyhawk~ Native Actor


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Some Natives UnHappy With Depp’s “Tonto”

May 16th, 2013  |  Published in Culture, Education, Social Issues  | 

O’siyo. The movie The Lone Ranger and Tonto starring Johnny Depp opens in theaters July 3, 2013. In the movie Depp portrays Tonto an American Indian who wears a stuffed crow on his head. When asked where he got the idea for a crow as a head piece, Depp stated his inspiration came from a painting by artist Kirby Sattler, entitled “I Am A Crow” (see photo below). The film’s Comanche  adviser, Two-Raven” Voelker stated, “There are a lot of people out there screaming who are not Comanche, as in this story Tonto is supposed to be. When we wear or use those feathers, we’re calling on the energy of the entire bird.” Still, many Natives who’ve seen the movie trailer are not happy with Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto.

I Am Crow (right) painting by artist Kirby Sattler via the artist's official site-

I Am Crow (right) painting by artist Kirby Sattler via the artist’s official site-

Excerpt: Johnny Depp & The Never Ending Hollywood Indian By -Michelle Shining Elk-The Last Real Indian
“Hollywood Baggage. This day in age, we still have Hollywood baggage that perpetuates American Indian stereotypes. We are in what century? Oh right…the 21st. Guess Depp didn’t get the memo when he was preparing for his role in The Lone Ranger.

Tonto talking to a horse. Photo- GeekPeeks.

Tonto talking to a horse. Photo- GeekPeeks.

How we (as American Indian people) are described or portrayed, even this day in age, has a significant impact on how we are perceived, taken seriously, or respected…Like teachers influence their students throughout their scholastic programs, so do people in all forms of media and entertainment who misrepresent us as American Indian people and continue to perpetuate the stereotypes as they influence their fans, readers, listeners, followers and viewers. Thus…the perpetual cycle of stereotypes and misinformation continue seemingly without end…Scene from movie. Photo- The Durango Herald.Thanks Johnny Depp for not exercising your gifts of being an amazing actor who is typically able to bring amazing life to your characters using that talent. Sadly and so disappointing is seeing that all you have done here is simply mimic the pathetic speech patterns created and always depicted in the ridiculous stereotype plagued lot of Hollywood Spaghetti Westerns films…

An original version of the Lone Ranger from the 1950s. Tonto is played by Canadian Mohawk First Nations Jay Silverheels.  Photo- Crushable.

An original version of the Lone Ranger from the 1950s. Tonto is played by Canadian Mohawk First Nations Jay Silverheels. Photo- Crushable.

Sadly, it seems that until we rid ourselves of the “Hollywood baggage” that plagues the truth about who the contemporary, relevant, talented, thought leaders that we are, the room for us to get our messages across is the size of a matchbox. But, we’ll keep on fighting the good fight.” Read More…

Trailer for movie The Lone Ranger:

Trailer  Link

“ I’m glad so many American Indians garnered work and some income from this movie, but sadly there is no way I’ll be able to sit through 90 minutes of watching Johnny Depp act like an idiot and sound like a buffoon.” ~ Michelle Shining Elk~ (her opinion on the Tonto character in The Lone Ranger film- 2013)


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Beautiful Navajo Dreams Wrapped in Wool…

February 28th, 2013  |  Published in Culture, Education, Social Issues  | 

O’siyo. There are  so many wonderful events occurring this year in Indian Country  that we’ve decided to combine the updates of  the original Talking Feather  Tribal lesson plans with current news articles. We also wish to thank the teachers who have shown an interest in the new additions!

This week begins the 53rd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, where acclaimed Navajo weaver Florence Riggs will be  honored as this year’s Signature Artist. See some photos of her beautiful rug weaving below.

Excerpt: Tucson and Phoenix Prep for Major Art and Craft Fairs By Lee Allen ICTMN

“…the Heard Museum Guild in Phoenix will present its two-day Indian Fair and Market, the state’s largest such attraction, on March 2-3.  The theme for this year’s 55th annual event is Weaving Worlds with Wool– a celebration of the weaver’s art.

Navajo Weaver Florence Riggs. Photo:Facebook.

Florence Riggs (Navajo), a member of the Nez weaver family, has been named Signature Artist.  With nearly three decades immersed in the wool arts, Riggs has moved on from traditional tribal patterns characterized by non-representational geometric forms to weaving pictorial items that incorporate depictions of everyday scenes and objects. 

Hogan Lifestyle Rug woven By Artist Florence Riggs. Photo: Twin Rocks Trading Post.

Rare Dinosaur rug woven by Artist Florence Riggs. Photo: Southwestern Souvenirs.

Beautiful Rug woven by Artist Florence Riggs. Photo: R.B. Burnham & Company.

Some of Riggs’ work hangs in Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art, where its curator says Riggs has become known for her highly detailed and often whimsical representations of scenes from reservation life… In paying homage to the Navajo weaving tradition, Riggs will be one of more than 700 of the nation’s most outstanding and successful American Indian artists on hand to interact with the expected 20,000 visitors.

Collectors from around the world arrive early to be first in line to purchase many one-of-a-kind artworks that range from jewelry, pottery, baskets, kachina dolls, textiles, fine art, and more…

Special Event- R.C. Nakai Flute Workshop. Photo-Heard Museum.

Authenticity reigns in an array of American Indian music (including legendary Navajo performer R. Carlos Nakai and his trio that includes Will Clipman and William Eaton), cultural performances, and a variety of Native food favorites ranging from fry and piki bread to posole and Hopi stew.” Learn more…

We urge everyone to attend this wonderful and informative celebration!

“All of my worries ease off, and I’m relaxed and calm…I’m just concentrating on the piece that I’m making. The time that I’m sitting at my rug, that’s my world right there.” ~ Florence Riggs~Navajo Weaver

Related to Navajo Weaving.

Girl Rug Weaver and Her Goats By Arthur C. Begay, Sr., Diné (Navajo), b. 1932. Smithsonian Institution-MAI

Navajo girls preparing the wool for weaving. Photo: Dine Weaving/Vision Quest dvd.


Teachers will find free and Complete Lesson Plans with Answer Keys on the following U.S. tribes: Apache, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Choctaw, Crow, Iroquois, Kwakiutl, Mohawk (read about the fascinating “Sky Walkers”)  Navajo, Shawnee, Sioux, and Zuni.

We also offer our unique and informative Tribalpedia which offers concise historical and current material about many Native tribes.  Included are Discussion Questions for students.


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A New Year…Happy Beginnings!

December 27th, 2012  |  Published in Community, Education, Social Issues  | 

O’siyo. Native people are known for their intricate ties to  Mother Nature and her animals. As 2012 comes to a close, and 2013 opens the new year, we decided on these wonderful photos of  new born baby animals from around the world (and a few closer to home) as the final Talking Feather post for 2012. The animal site posted photos of their most “adorable” exotic babies, who are also endangered species.  Indian Country Today  posted an article about this amazing site.

Arctic Fox Pup (

Marmoset (

Rare Sand Kitten (


“Arguably the cutest, most adorable publication to have ever been created, ZooBorns is a zoology website and educational book series that announces animal births born in zoos and aquariums around the world.

Last month, they released their latest book from their series, ZooBorns: The Next Generation, which features fascinating facts and endearing photos of exotic animals from all around the world.

To find out more about these wonderful animals stories and the # 1 most popular ZooBorn, click here.”

No, these cuties are not from the Zoo, but from Wylie’s Horse Nation site

3 Wylie at The Horse Nation


Photo-Wylie at The Horse Nation

Wylie at The Horse Nation

“When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear,when that happens, The Warriors of the Rainbow will come to save them.” ~Chief Seattle~

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are
so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.”  ~ Walt Whitman~

Wishing All of Our Readers a New Year Filled With Beauty, Happiness, & Prosperity!


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Native Bunky Echo-Hawk’s Warrior Painting Chosen By Nike N7!

September 8th, 2012  |  Published in Culture, Education, Social Issues  | 

O’siyo. Native artist Bunky Echo-Hawk, Pawnee and Yakama, captured the eye of the famous sportswear company Nike. On August 20, Echo-Hawk created a live painting at the Nike Factory Store in Oklahoma City.The event was to promote the new Nike N7 shoes and t-shirts that Echo-Hawk designed.

Dynamic Artist Bunky Echo-Hawk. Photo Echo Hawk site

Excerpt: Oklahoma artist joins NIKE to create Native inspired clothing By Dana Attockne,  Native American Times

“ An outline of a Native American warrior comes to life with layers of orange, black, yellow and red paint on a 36”x 48” canvas. With each brush stroke the warrior’s eyes show determination, and the only tangible weapon he carries is a basketball… Echo-Hawk, created a live art painting Aug. 20 at the Nike Factory Store in Oklahoma City…The shirts reveal a Native American warrior holding a basketball; the warrior spirit, halted in a strike pose…

Bunky Echo-Hawk painting from his website

Echo-Hawk said the series celebrates the student athletes in Indian country who are leading healthy lifestyles, accomplishing positive things and know they are students first and then athletes…

Nike Ad for Echo-Hawk’s N7 T-shirt.

The mission for Nike’s N7 collection is to inspire and assist Native American and Aboriginal people in North America to participate in sports because, involvement in sports and physical activity leads to greater self-confidence, enabling youth to be a force for positive change in their communities.

When one generation realizes its potential, future generations are much stronger for it… The intent of the collection is to raise awareness beyond Native American and Aboriginal communities for the N7 Program and the N7 Fund…

Bunky Echo-Hawk with his painting. Photo- Native American Times

Echo-Hawk said Nike N7 executives found him online through his Web site… In 2009 he was invited to the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. and met some of Nike’s top designers. They asked him to paint a live art piece and after seeing everything Nike was trying to do with the Nike N7 line, Echo-Hawk was impressed.

Bunky Echo-Hawk with his painting ‘Voice’ at 2011 Black Hills Pow Wow. – Paul Oddo.

He said the Nike leadership is amazing and it’s exciting to have a brand specifically for Native American people.”

Read this inspirational article and visit Bunky Echo-Hawk’s website.

“We all have a voice… As Native people it’s our obligation to use that voice, to be heard, to be seen … Find your passion … be heard and use your voice.”

~ Bunky Echo-Hawk~Native Pawnee and Yakama Artist

Teachers will find free and Complete Lesson Plans with Answer Keys on the following U.S. tribes: Apache, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Choctaw, Crow, Iroquois, Kwakiutl, Mohawk (read about the fascinating “Sky Walkers”)  Navajo, Shawnee, Sioux, and Zuni.

We also offer our unique and informative Tribalpedia which offers concise historical and current material about many Native tribes.  Included are Discussion Questions for students.

Visit some our reader’s favorite posts!  Many thanks.

Legend of the Talking Feather (also known as The Talking Stick): Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei Bestow the Gift of The Talking Feather

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!”


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