These statements led to a discussion on the NativeCelebs page in Facebook with someone named Deejay Ndn:
As I've said before, would you have Denzel Washington play JFK or Oprah Winfrey play Sacagawea? Then why is it okay to trot out the "actors can play anyone" rationalization for Indians?
The article was well written for sure, but I feel like he was trying to say Aboriginal actors don't have it so bad and that they shouldn't whine so much when non native people steal Aboriginal roles. Maybe I should read it again.
Nope. Still offensive.
What's so offensive about this article is the fact that the author is basically saying we shouldn't whine about who gets to play Indian roles. That and Iron Eyes Cody is the most famous Indian of his time. That's really offensive. It's like saying Chuck Norris is the most famous Chinese person of his time.
Tavare calls himself Apache and Mexican, I think. Or a man of mixed blood, as he says at the end of this article. But some have questioned his Native heritage. One could read his statements as self-serving--justifying his casting in Native roles.
As someone else wrote:
I for one don't make distinctions between American, Canadian, and Mexican Indians. As I've said before, the ideal is for someone from a particular tribe to play a character from that tribe. So ideally an Apache should play the Apache Tonto.
Second choice is someone who has the blood, knows the culture, and has lived as part of it. If it's not someone from a particular tribe, a Canadian or Mexican Indian is as good as an American Indian. These artificial national borderlines shouldn't matter to Indians.
A distant third choice is someone who's Latino or mixed-race who knows little or nothing about his heritage. I'd put Robert Beltran (Chakotay) in that category; he declared he was part Indian only after getting the role. Same with Johnny Depp or Taylor Lautner.
An unacceptable fourth choice is a white guy like Iron Eyes Cody. No way should that happen no matter how much he lived like an Indian. You'd think we were beyond that, but white actors played Inuit characters in the 2010 movie The Last Airbender, so the problem continues.
Comment: For more on the subject, see Diamond on Hollywood Indians and Native Diversity 2010 Video.
Below: Jay Tavare.