As Vietnam Vet Wesley Studi introduced a montage of military movies, he said in Cherokee language “Hello. Appreciation to all veterans & Cherokees who’ve served.
“I see it as an acceptance of my participation in the business over a number of years,” Studi said this week from his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “It’s like being invited to the party.”
It also signifies something larger, said Studi, whose credits include “Avatar,” ”The Last of the Mohicans” and “Dances with Wolves.”
“It’s a time when we’re all hopefully embracing the diversity of the world we live in, and Hollywood has a way of reflecting that,” he said.
He may be the first American Indian presenter at the Oscars, Studi said, a possibility echoed by Sonny Skyhawk, an actor and longtime activist. Academy librarians were unable to confirm that because presenters aren’t tracked.
But the academy acknowledged that a scant number of Native Americans have taken part in the ceremony since it was launched — although famed humorist Will Rogers, who was of Cherokee heritage, did host in 1934.
Nominations have gone to three Native Americans, all Canadian, including actors Chief Dan George in 1971 for “Little Big Man” and Graham Greene in 1991 for “Dances with Wolves” and musician Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1983 for the original song “Up Where We Belong,” which won the Oscar.
When “Dances with Wolves” won for adapted screenplay, writer Michael Blake invited film consultant Doris Leader Charge to join him onstage. She also translated his remarks into Lakota Sioux.
There was one unexpected appearance: In 1973, actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather subbed for Marlon Brando at his request, rejecting his best-actor award for “The Godfather.” Brando had said his decision to refuse the trophy was, in part, to protest the depiction of Native Americans on-screen.