July 31, 2011

Indians on TV talk shows

In Adam Beach on Jimmy Kimmel Live, I wondered when a Native last appeared on late-night TV. Someone suggested the answer was never. I said I thought Jay Silverheels had been on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and I knew Charlie Hill had been on David Letterman several times. So the answer wasn't quite never. It just seemed that way.

Activist Suzan Harjo provided a list of talk-show appearances:Charlie Hill was on Carson. Robbie Robertson on Letterman. Sherman Alexie on Ferguson and Colbert. If you count daytime talk, Will Sampson was on Dinah Shore and Rick West and I were on Oprah, separately, and I was on two of her shows. Vine Deloria, Jr., Frank Fools Crow, Matthew King, Larry Red Shirt were on Cavett (so was LaDonna Harris, on a separate show).I remembered Robertson on Letterman and Alexie on Colbert, but it was good to hear about the others. It's a drop in the bucket compared to the number of times Natives should've appeared, but it's not nothing.

More on Oprah

Coincidentally, someone else asserted that Oprah Winfrey had never done a show on Native Americans. I said she visited the Navajo Nation (in 2006), where she got in trouble. For staging a non-Navajo powwow, I think.

And there was this: Quileute Chairwoman Visits Oprah. Add these to Harjo's examples and Oprah has done at least five shows on Natives.

Still, the Oprah Winfrey Show did 4,561 episodes in its 25-year history. Given their percentage of the population, Natives should've appeared in 50 or more episodes. Five or 10 suggest Natives were grossly underrepresented.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.


Jet said...

Elaine Miles appeared on the Tonight Show Johnny Carson to promote Northern Exposure...she was invited by Carson himself.

Anonymous said...

During VH-1's I Love..., John Cullum was on, mostly reminiscing about and roasting his old role as Ed Chigliak.