Actor, comedian Tatanka Means talks Hollywood stereotypes for Native American Heritage Month
Tatanka Means has turned the negative American Indian stereotypes he encounters in Hollywood into material for his comedy act.
As an actor, Tatanka Means often has to deal with a film industry that created and maintains many of the negative misconceptions regarding American Indian culture.
Means, a member of the Ogala Lakota, Omaha and Navajo tribes, spoke Tuesday night in Warriner Hall’s Plachta Auditorium for the Native American Heritage Month keynote speech. More than 500 were in attendance for the event, which was sponsored by Central Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Means spoke about stereotypes he often encounters as an American Indian and roles in American movies of American Indians. One member of the audience asked Means how he felt about the representation of American Indians in the “Twilight” movie series.
“Look at Indian people in (‘Twilight’), what are they? Are they people? Kind of — they’re half wolves,” Means joked. “It just bugs me that we’re still these mystical creatures. They’re those people on the other side of the island. They’re so creepy, and then they’re werewolves. What?”
One member of the audience asked Means how he felt about individuals dressing up as American Indians for Halloween and school plays concentrating on American Indians often seen near Thanksgiving.
“It’s making a mockery of our culture pretty much. That’s what I think it is,” Means said. “I mean, if they’re going to dress up like that, tell the truth. That’s what they should do.”
Native American Programs student assistant Kasey McCullough, an Escanaba junior, had the opportunity to introduce Means before his performance. McCullough, a member of the Hannahville Potawatomi Indian Community, said she enjoyed the American Indian humor and the serious topics Means addressed as well.
“I liked when he brought attention to the suicide rates and alcohol problems in our communities because it’s so evident there,” McCullough said. “Overall, I thought it was excellent and I really enjoyed the humor.
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