By Christina Radish
Alex: During the process of casting, when I was waiting to hear word if I got a role or not, there was a through-line where I prayed, every night. I was asking for permission, even to represent the Quileute tribe. I was putting out a lot of good thoughts. In essence, even though we're taking some of their mythology and their creation story, it's mixed in a fantasy, but we're still taking from the culture. Being Native, we needed to be conscious of that and ask permission to the people of the past, present and future for it. It's a very conscious thing. Native Americans have a right to be protective of their stories.
Chaske: He was very open about that. He understands. We did the best we could with him, and he's the right guy for the part. I'm very protective of him.
Kiowa: He's like our brother.
Chaske: We have nothing but mad love for him. He asked a lot of stuff about the tribes, and we would talk to him and tell him about stuff. There are certain things that I do in my culture that I told him about, and he was really open to it.
Alex: The thing is that we're not even Quileute. So, for us to represent that tribe, it was as if we weren't even Native. It wouldn't really matter because they have different customs than all of us do. It wasn't like we had to teach Taylor how to be a Quileute Native because we don't know how to be that either. All we had was our culture to bring into the filmmaking. We just knew how to respect the mythology of the tribe, and Taylor was definitely receptive to it.
Chaske: He has his own culture, and he could draw from that.
Q: How did you learn about the Quileutes? What do you now know about them?
Alex: During the process of auditioning, I did as much research as I could about the Quileutes, knowing that they're whalers and they inspired the shape of their canoes to be pretty much clipper ships. They were really fast, and they were able to go from the Washington area, all the way down to San Diego, hunting whales. I learned about the mythology and their creation story. The Quileute came from wolves and transformed into people, but they don't go back. That's the thing. That's the aspect that Stephenie changed, when she took some things and put it in this fantasy realm.
Chaske: I was amazed by the storytelling. I was really attracted to that.
I think Meraz gave about as good an answer as he could. But the most interesting things are what he didn't say. He asked permission to represent the Quileute tribe and tell their stories--if only in his prayers. Stephenie Meyer didn't. He researched the Quileutes in depth when he auditioned for his role. Stephenie Meyer didn't when she undertook the much more arduous task of writing four books about the tribe.
There's the difference between someone who respects Native people and culture and someone who doesn't. Meraz does; Meyer doesn't.
For more on Meyer's lack of respect, see Meyer Violated Quileute Etiquette and Twilight vs. Quileute Legends. For more on the Wolf Pack, see Wolf Pack on Stereotypes and Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.