September 09, 2009

Joe Falling Hawk in Time's Arrow

Here's a nice Native cameo in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

Joe Falling HawkJoe Falling Hawk was a Native American poker player in San Francisco in the 19th century and gambling partner to Frederick La Rouque, with whom he usually cooperated to fleece other players.

When Data traveled back to 1893, he wished to join a game to earn enough money to pay for a room, clothing, and parts for a triolic-wave detector. Falling Hawk believed Data was an easy mark. But Data apparently did so well that he won the clothes off the gamblers' backs. He returned to his room wearing La Rocque's vest and Falling Hawk's hat. (TNG: Time's Arrow)
Sheldon Peters WolfchildSheldon Peters Wolfchild is the actor who played Joe Falling Hawk in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Time's Arrow. His tribe is Lakota and resides in Morton, Minnesota. He starred in the motion pictures Dances with Wolves (1990), Squanto: A Warrior's Tale (1994), and The Scarlet Letter (1995).Comment:  Even this brief scene, which lasted less than a minute, demonstrates how to portray a Native right.

  • Falling Hawk is dressed in regular Western clothes. Only his Navajo-style hat with a feather in it suggests he's an Indian.

  • His face is easily recognizable as a Indian's. He doesn't have the Hollywood pretty-boy look of a Johnny Depp or Taylor Lautner.

  • His name isn't a total stereotype. Actually, "Wolfchild," the actor's name, sounds more clichéd than "Falling Hawk."

  • In his two lines, he talks like a normal person. His last line suggests a sense of humor.

  • Most important, he's playing poker like a normal person. And he's really one of a pair of con men, an unusual role for a Native.

  • All in all, it's a nice little bit. It's more evidence that creators can use Natives without using Native stereotypes.

    For more on the subject, see The Indian-Star Trek Connection.

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