May 21, 2009

Martin's letter to Mizuo Peck

After reading about Mizuo Peck in Night of the Museum, correspondent Melvin Martin e-mailed the following note to her:Ms. Peck,

My name is Melvin Martin, I'm 56 years old and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, Pine Ridge Agency.

I am writing to express my most heartfelt belief that in the future that you (as an actor of good conscience and a strong ethnic awareness) should decline any roles that call for you to portray a Native American (aka American Indian) woman as the Hollywood film industry has a very lengthy and sordid history of utilizing non-Native American actors in Native roles, thus brutally depriving actual Native actors of the exceptionally rare opportunities to truly represent Native people on film.

Hollywood has always been destructively rife with non-Native frauds of a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds who assume Native roles and the net effect of this type of gross misrepresentation is that we as actual Native people are perpetually denied our basic humanity to the rest of the world--we are living, breathing human beings who are still very much here and nowhere near "extinct" as many non-Natives, throughout this country especially, actively believe.

Therefore, as an actual "Native American" person and one who has had to endure a lifetime of race-based indignities, I call upon you to "do the right thing" for the remainder of your acting career which I sincerely hope will be a most successful one.

Melvin Martin
Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota
Comment:  I did a bit more research and found two people who claimed Peck is "part" or 1/16 Cherokee. I couldn't find any sources that supported these claims.

But suppose the 1/16 claim is true. To me, that would put her in the same category as Johnny Depp, Taylor Lautner, Lynn Collins, and Summer Glau: a non-Indian with a few drops of Indian blood.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.


Unknown said...

Hollywood will never stop tampering with creating stereotypes. It is up to us as individuals to begin to take the responsibility of breaking them down by not allowing ourselves to be spoon fed them. Instead we need to constantly question those who manufacture them. We need to ask why? Why? and Why?

I like Mr Martin's approach. Perhaps appealing to actors who take roles that were written with specific ethnic group in mind that they have no connections to will make them stop and consider the power they have to change our perception of people and begin open doors to Native actors.

Of course their argument could be a role is a role is a role, but at this point in time Natives don't have the luxury of picking and choosing roles that aren't about being Indian. One Day.

Curious - Were the casting agents questioned? Did they explain why they "couldn't" find an Indian actress to play the role?

Rob said...

I don't know anything about how Peck was hired. I don't think people raised much of a fuss at the time. It was a minor role and Peck claimed to be part Native, so it wasn't worth the effort.

Melvin is welcome to try his luck. But it seems inefficient to me to ask actors one by one to refrain from taking Native roles. I prefer to educate the public and hope the message trickles down to filmmakers.

Unknown said...

Rob, wouldn't it be a combination of both? Him writing this letter and you posting it a start. Perhaps the continued public request making aware and appealing to individuals to make a choice to offer roles to Indian actors first is what is needed to begin to address the issue. Maybe a campaign to publish such letters in papers that list casting calls or on billboards around studios and such, but ultimately it is the/an individual's choice/decision that makes change happen regardless of the method.

Anonymous said...

As a Native American of Aztec descent, I did a DNA test. It came out that I was 52% D-1 haplogroup that originated from Mongolia/Siberia (common among many Uto-Aztecans tribes, in particular among the Shoshone-Paiute tribal nations). I also had 5% North East Asian DNA. I also was 7% SouthWest Asian (Middle East), 20% Mediterranean, 12% Northern European, and 3% Subsaharan African.

Anyway, to get to the point. We don't need to listen to the rant of what is probably some unemployed Lakota Sioux Native American. Those who are directing, producing have their right to hire who they seem best fits the role.

Also, many of those on these Native American reservations are not genetically Native American by blood quantum, such as many of the FAKE Cherokee in North Carolina, Tennessee or FAKE Shinecock in Long Island. Why do Fake Indians, with tribal ID cards, like these deserve to question who is Indian and who is not. What gives them the freaking right?

Anyway, this is the an opinion from a TRUE INDIAN who looks INDIAN and has significant Native American DNA.

Rob said...

Melvin Martin is probably 3/4 or more Native by blood, if not a full-blood. I believe he's semi-retired. Your arguments are contradictory. Either his "blood" or his employment matters, so which is it? Pick one and stick with it.

If it's his blood, I'm pretty sure he's ahead of your 52%. So he wins. His opinion is more valid than yours is.

Actually, neither factor matters. You don't need some set of qualifications to express an opinion on this subject. It's open to anyone. It's ridiculous to think otherwise.

Producers and directors can and will do what they want. And we can and will criticize them for it. If you or they don't like that, too bad. We're not planning to stop, so you can a) grin and bear it or b) change your behavior.