December 29, 2009

Ponca actress has entertainment epiphany

Okla. actress always puts family first

By Christina Good VoiceCamp-Horinek’s acting roots began in Tulsa when she was a member of the American Indian Theater Company, and she even got her sons involved by urging them to audition for parts in the company’s production of “Black Elk Speaks.”

While she and her two sons landed small roles in the production, non-Indian actor David Carradine played the role of Black Elk. It was then that Camp-Horinek had an epiphany. She realized how underrepresented Native Americans were in the theater and movies, even in productions about their own people. And further more, she realized that avenue could be a medium for activism.

“It was a light bulb moment,” she said. “There were hundreds of people seeing ‘Black Elk Speaks’ at the PAC (Performing Arts Center,)” she said. “I was seeing these people impacted by entertainment and getting it--our holocaust. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this was a remarkable tool for educating the public.’”

Now, Native actors still only make up a sliver of a racial statistic pie graph compared to Caucasians, Hispanics, blacks and Asians, but they’re out there, she said.

“The struggles that people have gone through over the past 20 years to teach non-Natives that we are multidimensional, that’s paying off,” Camp-Horinek said. “We’re getting lead roles, but believe me, it isn’t enough if you look at the entire movie, TV and video industry. They show you the slices of the pie…Native Americans are a hairline.”

Now, years later after the veterans of theater and the movie industry like Will Sampson, Graham Greene, Wes Studi and Camp-Horinek paved the way, young Native actors are landing key roles in large productions such as the wildly popular Twilight Saga and primetime TV dramas.

Camp-Horinek’s been an actress for more than 25 years, with titles including “Lakota Moon,” “Geronimo,” “Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee” and “DreamKeeper” under her belt. She also appeared in “Goodnight Irene” and “Share the Wealth” and was one of the leads in the 2009 movie “Barking Water.” Her performance in “Barking Water” earned her the Best Actress award at the 2009 American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.
Comment:  Native in primetime TV dramas? I must've missed all those performances. I'm watching more TV than ever and I've seen fewer Natives than ever.

I guess my epiphany was similar to Camp-Horinek's. Namely, my idea of using comic books and other forms of entertainment, and reporting on them, as my route to activism. For someone with no Native credentials, it's worked out pretty well.

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

Below:  "Casey Camp-Horinek, foreground, plays Irene in Barking Water, directed by Seminole and Muscogee (Creek) director Sterlin Harjo."

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