“When a row erupted over the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominations, nobody was more surprised – or pleased – than Sonny Skyhawk. An actor for almost 40 years and the founder of the advocacy group American Indians in Film and Television (AIIFT), Skyhawk may also be the first and only Native American member of the Motion Picture Academy…He intends to wear his war bonnet on the red carpet.” T. Walker Independent News-UK
Excerpt: Sonny Skyhawk…vows to give his people a voice in Hollywood by Tim Walker, Independent News-UK
“We’ve become used to hearing the same boiler-plate answer from people high up in Hollywood: ‘Yes, we understand; we’re going to make changes,’ Skyhawk said of his own efforts to promote inclusion in film. But those changes were minuscule, if they were made at all. Now, at last, it has become a crisis in the entertainment industry, which is more than I could have wished for.
Native Americans remain the only major ethnic group in the US never to have won an Oscar. Just two native performers have ever been nominated, the last being Canadian First Nations actor Graham Greene in 1991, for Dances With Wolves.
Skyhawk was invited to join the Academy in 2015 and this will be his first Oscar ceremony…American Indians are better represented than usual at this year’s awards: several native performers appear in the Best Picture nominee The Revenant.
Skyhawk voted for the film and its star, Leonardo DiCaprio, but native people have always been secondary characters. Dances With Wolves was supposed to be about natives, but ended up being about Kevin Costner. The Revenant’s the same.
Now in his sixties, Skyhawk, a citizen of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux tribe, began acting as an extra on television Westerns such as Bonanza, in an era when many American Indians were played by white people in make-up, speaking gibberish instead of genuine tribal dialects.
He has appeared in more than 50 movies, but for the past 35 years has channelled much of his energies into activism. The AIIFT was founded in 1980, when the Western genre was going out of fashion and the number of jobs for Native American actors was dwindling. The organisation’s mission, he said, is to give his people a voice within the industry.”
“Everyone sees us as heathens on horseback, when in reality we’re doctors, lawyers, cab drivers – the same as mainstream America… But young people [in the native community] say they don’t see themselves represented on screen, so when I talk to them about becoming lawyers or getting a college education, they can’t imagine themselves in that mainstream. That’s unacceptable.” ~Sonny Skyhawk~
Don’t Miss Sonny Skyhawk on the red carpet: