How many native American actors do you know? Can you name any? If you can't, it's about time for you to get an update on celebrity Native Americans. The actors on this list have done a fantastic job of representing the marginalized indigenous peoples of the United States.
While some people on this list are 100% native American, many come from mixed heritage. Let's explore the list and see who the famous native American actors are. Trust me; you'll be surprised by some!
Oh, can we get an amen! Jason Momoa, Hollywood heartthrob, and star of Aquaman, has openly talked about his background, which includes Native Hawaiian heritage from his father's side. Momoa honors his family's heritage with a shark teeth tattoo on his forearm. He's also joined protestors who were trying to protect Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain.
His grandmother is also Pawnee, and his dream is to share more indigenous stories on screen. "There's little to nothing, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to bring justice to a lot of stories and a lot of things people don't know about," he told Rotten Tomatoes. "It's what I find interesting, the disenfranchised and people that don't get to tell their story."
We've all seen the movie Pocahontas, but do you know the face behind Pocahontas herself? Character actress Irene Bedard has been in Hollywood for over two decades, playing Native American characters in shows such as Longmire and Westworld.
She's also appeared in films such as The New World and The Tree of Life. Naturally, her most well-known role is Pocahontas. Born in Anchorage, Alaska, her parents are Iñupiaq Eskimo and Cree. She's a true Native American right down to her core.
Actress Sacheen Littlefeather is Native on her father's side, as he comes from the White Mountain Apache tribe and the Yaqui tribe of Arizona. She's best known for appearing at the 1973 Academy Awards after Marlon Brando turned down his award for Best Actor.
Littlefeather delivered a powerful speech about the portrayal of Native Americans in cinema. She's had a successful film career, as she created the National American Indian Performing Arts Registry, helping native Americans get roles. She also won an Emmy for her part in Dancing in America: Song for Dead Warriors.
For a young 22-year-old man, Forrest Goodluck has created quite the film career for himself. He starred in The Revenant as Leonardo DiCaprio's son, had a role in the acclaimed comedy I Used to Go Here, and played a two-spirit character in The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
In other words, his Hollywood career is just starting. His native American heritage is diverse. Goodluck is Diné on his father's side, and Mandan, Hidatsa, and Tsimshian on his mother's side.
You probably won't notice, but Jackie Hoxie is the only actor on this list born before 1900. Hoxie's mother was half-Nez Perce Indian. Hoxie was born in Oklahoma, which was known as Indian territory. There, he became a cowboy and ranch hand who would compete in rodeos.
But in 1909, he received his chance to act in Dick Stanley's Wild West show. He would then go on to act in several Western shorts; however, he went on to full-length film in movies such as Where Is the West? But he stopped making movies in the 1930s and went back to work in rodeos.
Did you know that Angelina Jolie has a Native American heritage? Jolie's mother, Marcia Lynne Bertran, was of Native American Iroquois descent. Bertrand, her mother, was also an actress who founded the All Tribes Foundation.
This humanitarian program was inspired by Bertrand's partner, who was a Native American poet. Do you know who her partner was? It was none other than Native American poet, writer, and actor John Trudell. It really is a small world, after all.
William "Bill" Malcolm Hazlett
William "Bill" Malcolm Hazlett, aka Chief Many Treaties, was a Blackfoot Native American who was born in Montana back in 1874. Hazlett starred in various Hollywood Westerns during the 30s and 40s, appearing in movies like Flaming Frontiers, Guilty Trails, The Deerslayer, Go West Young Lady, and Black Bart.
However, you may know him best for his role in Buffalo Bill, which was filmed in Technicolor and starred Anthony Quinn, Joels McCrea, and Maureen O'Hara.
Oneida actor Graham Greene was born back in 1952 in Ontario, Canada. As a young adult, he worked as a factory worker, carpenter, and steelworker. But, by the mid-1970s, he decided to try acting. He ended up performing in various productions in Canada.
However, his first major role was in the movie Running Brave. This jump-started his career, and he went on to star in Revolution and Powwow Highway. He even received an Oscar nod for the best supporting role in Dances with Wolves.
Actress Tantoo Cardinal was born ins Alberta, Canada, back in 1950. She's of French and Cree descent. Cardinal, her last name, is known as "metis," which is the Canadian term for mixed-race indigenous peoples. She was politically active in the 60s and 70s and decided to enter into the acting world to change the public's perception of Native Americans.
She's appeared in various Canadian productions and in films such as Dances With Wolves, Legends of the Fall, and Smoke Signals. Today, she continues her political activism and was even arrested in 2011 during an environmental protest at the White House.
We all know who Elvis Presley is, but did you know that he was also an actor? Of course, we all know him for his music, but he's been in a couple of films such as Flaming Star, Viva Las Vegas, and Change of Habit. And those are only a couple of examples.
Presley has starred in 31 feature films and two theatrically released concert documentaries. The King of Rock 'n' Roll was also part Native American. Presley's great-great-great-grandmother on his mother's side, Morning White Dove, was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian.
Political activist and actor, Russell Means was born in 1939 and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He passed away in October 2012. However, his legacy lives on.
His political activism eventually made him the leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and spearheaded the 711-day occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D. in 1973. But he returned back to acting after, starting in Natural Born Killers, Into the West, Pocahontas, Where White Men Fear to Tread, and Last of the Mohicans.
When Canutt was a teenager, he started to work as a rodeo cowboy in Colfax, Washington. At 17-years-old, he won the championship for the World's Best Bronco Buster. From there, he started his work as a stuntman. His first movie was Lighting Bryce.
He was then working as a stuntman for stars such as John Wayne and taught them how to act like a real cowboy. His most famous role as a stuntman was when he doubled for John Wayne in Stagecoach. If you see the movie, you'll see just how wild his stunts really were.
Now, Dolly Parton isn't necessarily an actress; she's known for her country singing. However, she has appeared in some movies such as Steel Magnolias, Joyful Noise, Rhinestone, and Straight Talk. Actually, now that we think about it, she's had quite a number of films over the years. So, ha! She is an actress, after all. Phew.
Growing up in Tennesse, Parton was from an extremely poor family but discovered her love of guitar. As you know, from there, it only went up for her. Dolly Parton has stated that she's part Cherokee.
Born and raised in Manitoba, Canada, Adam Beach didn't live an easy life. Of Saulteaux descent, he grew up on the Dog Creek Indian Reserve until his parents were both killed by a boating accident. He moved to Winnipeg to live with his aunt and uncle.
However, it was there that he discovered his love for drama class. Soon after, he would appear in local theatre productions and eventually Canadian and American TV programs. His major role was in Squanto: A Warrior's Tale and then went on to star in Smoke Signals, Windtalkers, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Flags of Our Fathers.
How can we forget about the one and only Chuck Norris? Martial artist and actor Norris has appeared in many films such as The Way of the Dragon, The Expendables, Enter the Dragon, and Lone Wolf McQuade.
And while he's well-known in Hollywood, did you know he's half Irish, half Native American? Norris's father was Cherokee, and his mother was Irish. Ironically, in all his western films, he never plays a Native American. He always sticks to Western characters.
Though his name is Jay Silverheels, you probably know him as Tonto on the Lone Ranger. The 1950s 30-minutes tv show starred Jay Silverheels, a Canadian Mohawk Indian. He was on the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, Canada, and began his acting career as an extra and stuntman.
His first movie was a musical comedy called Make a Wish. However, he went on to start in 79 movies and tv shows. The Lone Ranger included 217 episodes with Silverheels.
Alyssa Wapanatâhk hasn't been in many films; however, her career is just starting. She just landed a major role as Tiger Lily in Disney's Peter Pan & Wendy, directed by David Lowery. She shared on Instagram, "This just in... so excited for this new journey."
Besides her new role, Wapanatâhk also wrote and directed a short film called The Boy & The Braid, about a young Cree man struggling with his heritage in the modern world. Wapanatâhk is of Cree heritage herself, with her last name translating to "The first start in the sky or morning star."
If there's one voice we will never forget, it's Jennifer Tilly's voice. She's a legend within herself. An American actress and poker player, she's best known as Tiffany Valentine in the Child's Play franchise. Her role as Valentine became iconic among the horror film community.
However, she's also played in movies such as Liar, Liar, Bride of Chucky, The Haunted Mansion, Monsters Inc., and Stuart Little. However, it's important to not forget she's also of Native American descent. Tilly's father was Chinese American, and her mother was of Irish, Finnish, and Native American ancestry.
Born in 1966 in Denver, Colorado, McClarnon comes of Native American and Irish descent. He comes from the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe. He started acting in high school and appeared in various productions, including Westworld and Timeless.
But in 2017, he ran into some trouble. He fell and ended up with a brain injury that needed him to be hospitalized. Thus, he needed to stop acting for a bit. However, after recovering, McClarnon got back up on his feet and continued to act.
Vivica A. Fox
When we think about Native American people, we expect them to have specific characteristics. However, that's a stereotype that needs to be broken. There are many people of Native American descent that don't necessarily look Native American. And Vivica A. Fox is a prime example of this.
The American actress, producer, and tv host has starred in many films such as Kill Bill, Boat Trip, Independence Day, Ella Enchanted, and Batman & Robin. However, did you know she's half Native American? Yes! Fox is half Native American and half African American.
Some people go into acting straight away, and others take a different route. Ned Romero started show business as an opera singer, appearing in musicals such as Oklahoma! and Kiss Me Kate. However, it wasn't long until he made the transition into movies and tv.
He appeared as an opera singer in the show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and went on to act in various movies such as Mark of the Gun and Winchester 73. Romero's ancestry is Chitimacha Native America, French, and Spanish.
A Muscogee Creek American Indian, Will Sampson, was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Before Sampson went into acting, he competed in rodeos for 20 years. While on a rodeo circuit, film producers discovered Smpason since they were looking for a large Native American man to play a supporting role.
He had never acted before; however, he played amazingly in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He continued his luck at acting and appeared in many other tv shows and movies such as Black Elk Speaks.
A Santee Dakota Native American, John Trudell, was born and raised on the Santee Sioux Reservation. He served for the US Navy during the Vietnam War but later became an activist for Native American issues. He went on to join the American Indian Movement and the Alcatraz Red Power Movement as well.
However, in the 90s, he decided to take a shot at acting and appeared in various films such as Thunderheart, On Deadly Ground, and Smoke Signals. Trudell is also a songwriter, poet, and musician. On his deathbed in 2015, he said, "My ride showed up. Celebrate Love. Celebrate Life."
Now many of the actors on this list are of an older generation; however, there are younger Native American actors making their way through Hollywood. When you first look at Rosario Dawson, you don't assume she's of Native American descent, but she is.
Dawson is of Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican, Irish, and Native American descent. The actress has starred in a variety of Blockbuster films such as Rent, Seven Pounds, Sin City, Zookeeper, and Men in Black.
Born on the Osage Indian Reservation in Oklahoma, Johnson's mother was Cherokee, while his father was Irish. During his childhood, he became a champion rodeo performer and would move on to do stunt work in movies. However, his first acting job was in the film The Outlaw.
Ironically, Johnson never played any American Indian roles and would stick to Western character roles. He acted in many well-known westerns such as The Wild Bunch, as well as contemporary dramas like The Last Picture Show.
Steve Reevis grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, and during his teenage years, would earn himself an AA degree at Haskell Indian Junior College in Kansas. But Reevis wanted to try his luck at show biz. He worked as a stunt rider in the movie War Party.
However, his first time on screen as an actor was in the film Twins, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reevis won FAITA awards for his role in the movie Fargo and tv show Crazy Horse. Since then, he's appeared in various productions such as The Longest Yard, Walker, Crazy Horse, and Malcolm in the Middle.
Tommy Lee Jones
Ah yes, Tommy Lee Jones. Most of us know him for his grumpy-grandpa-like demeanor and for his appearances in several Blockbuster movies such as Men in Black, No Country for Old Men, The Homesman, Jason Bourne, and Space Cowboys.
There's no doubt the man has been in many successful movies. But did you also know he is of Native American descent? In various interviews with Tommy Lee Jones, he's stated that his grandmother is Cherokee.
You know the movie Twilight; everyone knows the movie Twilight. That means you know exactly who Gil Birmingham is. Of course, he's played other roles than Billy Black; however, for younger generations, this is the role he's most known for. Born in San Antonio, Texas, his family moved many times throughout his childhood due to his father's military career.
However, after getting a Bachelor of Science, he decided to go into acting. Since then, he's been in a variety of movies such as Twilight, Hell or High Water, The Space Between Us, and Night at the Museum. Birmingham is of Comanche ancestry.
All the ladies reading this certainly know who Channing Tatum is. All men know who he is too, but probably don't want to admit it. How could we forget him in Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street? Tatum is not only a Hollywood heartthrob; he's also quite the actor.
In an interview with GQ magazine, he revealed that he's actually part Native American. Well, this is one actor we certainly didn't know was of Native American descent. Looks can be deceiving!
All of the actors on this list have a strong understanding of their Native American ancestry. But Johnny Depp's background is a little murky. In a 2002 interview, he claimed to be Cherokee.
He said, " My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek." Though this claim has yet to be verified.
Gary Farmer is best known for his work in First Nations media in Canada and is one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network. Born and raised in Ohsweken, Ontario, Farmer is a member of the Cayuga Nation of the Wolf Clan.
In 1982, he started his acting career on the tv show Spirit Bay and would later appear in Forever Night and The Rez. Naturally, he didn't stop there. He's played in various movies such as Dead Man, A Theif of Time, and Coyote Waits.
Rodney A. Grant
Rodney A. Grant didn't have an easy start to life. Abandoned by his parents when he was an infant, he was raised by his grandparents on the Omaha Reservation in Macy, Nebraska. However, he didn't let his misfortune get in the way of his dreams.
He has acted in many movies such as Dark Blood, Son of the Morning Star, Wild, Wild, West, Dances with Wolves, and War Party. We're only listing a few - he's been in many more.
Eric Schweig is a mix between Inuvialuk, Chippewa-Dene, and German. He was born in Inuvik of the Northwest Territories in Canada. He and his six siblings were adopted by a white family, as at the time, the Canadian government wanted Canadian Indians to become integrated into Canadian society.
At 16, Schweig ran away and started a dangerous life of violence and unstable relationships. However, he found his passion in acting and landed a role in The Shaman's Source. From there, he went on to play various Native American characters, both historical and fictional, such as Tom and Huck, Into the West, and The Grizzlies.
Chief Dan George
Actor Dan George was actually chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in British Columbia, Canada, between 1951 to 1963. Aside from acting, he was also a writer and poet.
He didn't receive his first acting job until he was 60-years-old, appearing in the Canadian tv show Caribou Country. But it wasn't until years later that his career would peak when he starred in Little Big Man, where he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
When it comes to Cameron's background, there are many surprising factors about it. When you look at her, you see an All-American blonde woman; however, she comes from a diverse background of ethnicities. Who would have thought?
Cameron Diaz is part Native American. Her dad is Cuban-American, but her mom is Native American, Italian, and German. She's an A-list Hollywood actor who's been in The Mask, In Her Shoes, Charlie's Angels, and Bad Teacher.
Wes Studi was born in 1947 in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, and was an internationally acclaimed and known actor and musician. He appeared in numerous films and would always deliver a powerful portrayal of the character he was playing, which helped change the perspective of Native Americans.
Throughout his career, he starred in over 80 movies and tv shows. Some of his well-known features were Dances With Wolves, A Dog's Way Home, and The Last of the Mohicans. Studi comes from the Cherokee tribe.
Many of Twilight actors were of Native American descent, as they wanted to stay genuine for specific characters. Spencer was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and is of Lakota, Nez Perce, Cherokee, Creek, French, and Dutch descent.
He's also a member of the Fort Peck Tribe. If you recognize Chaske Spencer, it's probably from Twilight. However, he's also been in other productions such as Banshee, Dreamkeeper, Into the West, and Woman Walks Ahead.
Beloved American actor Kevin Costner has certainly developed a name for himself in the acting world. He's an actor, director, producer, and winner of two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Let's just say he's good at his job.
Though you've seen him on the big screen in films such as Dances with Wolves, The Bodyguard, Waterworld, and Perfect World, did you know he's of Native American descent? Kevin Costner's heritage is Cherokee, German, and Irish.
American heartthrobs change with time, but back in the day, women were flocking for Benjamin Bratt. American actor, producer, and activist, Bratt was in major Blockbuster hits such as Bright Angel, Demolition Man, The River Wild, Miss Congeniality, and Traffic.
However, he's deeply connected to his ancestry. His mother was born in Lima, Peru, and is an indigenous Quechua. The Bratt family participated in the 1969 Native American occupation of Alcatraz. To this day, Bratt has a strong connection to his heritage and continues to fight for Native American rights.
A multi-talented man with a Master's degree from the Theatre of Fine Arts and Dance at Kent State University, Michael Greyeyes is a Plains Cree Indian from Saskatchewan, Canada. He performed ballet and other styles of dance in various theatre production.
However, in 1993, he decided to start acting and appeared in TNT's Geronimo. Since then, he's acted in a variety of movies and tv shows, including Crazy Horse, Woman Walks Ahead, and True Detective. Now, this is a man of many talents.
Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman
Floyd Westerman, also known as Kanghi Duta, was a Sioux Native America who was born as raised on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation in South Dakota. While a child, he was forbidden to grow out his hair and speak his native language.
After college, he joined the Marines for two years and started a career as a country-western singer. It wasn't until 1989 that he started to act in movies. He was in a variety of films such as Renegades, Tillamook Treasure, The Doors, and Dances with Wolves.
One of Hollywood's most respected directors is actually part Native American. Did you know that? Tarantino's mother is Cherokee and Irish. Of course, you probably know Tarantino's most noteworthy films such as Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight, Inglorious Bastards, and Pulp Fiction.
Tarantino grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is the only child. It was his mother's second marriage that would bring him to live in Los Angeles and start his fascination with movies.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Julia was raised in a diverse home. Her mother is of English descent, and her father is of African-American, Choctaw, and Chickasaw descent. By eight-years of age, she was working in commercials and local theatre.
Jones was in many films before being cast in Tarantino's Hell Ride. She went on to play in Honah Hex, The Twilight Saga, The Mandalorian, and Longmire. She continues her career in film to this day.
Chenoweth may be a small woman, but she packs a serious punch. Chenoweth is an American singer and actress, starting her career on Broadway. It wasn't long before she went from Broadway to film, as she starred in movies and tv shows such as Bewitched, Rio 2, Ugly Betty, The West Wing, and The Good Wife.
Raised in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Chenoweth has stated that she's one-quarter Cherokee. Who would have thought? She looks like an all-American country girl at first glance.
James Garner is an American actor and producer that was in the hit show Maverick and The Rockford Files. He also played in over 50 theatrical films such as Grand Prix, Murphy's Romance, The Notebook, Space Cowboys, and The Americanization of Emily.
He was a hit in Hollywood, but did you know he is part Cherokee? Yes! Garner's maternal grandfather was a full-blooded Cherokee. Garner has a tumultuous childhood; however, he found himself in the world of acting.
Actress, model, producer, and singer Jessica Biel is a one-woman show. She began her career as a vocalist until she was cast to play Mary Camden in 7th Heaven. Since then, she appeared in several Blockbuster movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade: Trinity, The Illusionist, Valentine's Day, and Hitchcock.
She was born in Ely, Minnesota, and came from a diverse family. Her paternal great-grandfather was Hungarian-Jewish, German, French, English, and Scandinavian. Her mother's side is part Native American, which explains Biel's high cheekbones.
If there was one man everyone was charmed by, it was Burt Reynolds. He was a sex symbol and icon of American pop culture. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Reynolds came from a mixed family. His family descended from Dutch, English, Scots-Irish, Italian, and Cherokee roots. His Cherokee roots came from his father's side.
His film career was extremely promising as he appeared in countless films such as Smokey and the Bandit, Gunsmoke, Hawk, and The Cannonball Run. He also was nominated twice for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Everyone knows Armie Hammer for his outstanding role in The Social Network. However, many of us don't know much about his life. Armie Hammer is the son of influential businessman Michael Armand Hammer. He started his acting career appearing in several tv shows.
He would continue to appear in hit movies such as J. Edgar, The Lone Ranger, Call Me By Your Name, Hotel Mumbai, and Nocturnal Animals. He was born in Santa Monica, California, and has a diverse background. His paternal side is Ukrainian Jewish, as well as Hammer being the descendant of Cherokee leader Chief Kanagatucko.
When it comes to energy, authenticity, and spirit, no one can beat Earth Kitt (1927-2008). She was an American singer, actress, activist, author, and comedian known for her distinct voice and her song "Santa Baby." Though she was known for her voice, she also went into acting in movies such as Dr. Faustus, The Mark of the Hawk, St. Louis Blues, and Anna Lucasta.
She was born on a cotton plantation near North, South Carolina. Her mother was of Cherokee and African descent. However, she has very little knowledge of her father. Though she believes he was the son of the plantation owner.
Lou Diamond Phillips
La, La Bamba. How can we forget the classic movie La Bamba? Phillips is an actor and film director. It was La Bamba that was his breakthrough role and put his name on the map. Since that role, he continued to act and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Stand and Deliver.
Phillips was born in the Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines, as his father was a Marine crew chief. His mother was a native of Candelaria, Zambales is Filipina with Spanish ancestry. His father was an American of Scots-Irish and Native American descent.