Natives, Let's Put Our Money Where Our Mouths Are: Support Tatanka Means in 'Tiger Eyes'

Gyasi Ross

I’ve heard many Natives complain, time and time again, about the lack of Native imagery in pop culture.  If we want to see Natives within the mainstream, we don’t have a lot of choices.  We used to could look forward to seeing the lovely and funny Elaine Miles showing up every week in Northern Exposure.  Now?  There’s not a lot.  I mean, thank God for Adam Beach.  He stays consistent—constantly making new product.  Other than Adam, we’ve been pretty much left to cheer for John Redcorn screwing the white dude’s wife on King of the Hill and/or to pretend Jonny Depp is really an Indian.  Alternatively, a few folks like to argue about Indian mascots, as if most Native people are actually concerned about this topic.  Still, those folks see this as an important usage of their time because sports are, indeed, another time that many people see Native images.

Yo Gyasi, what do you mean 'new guy'?

But as for seeing Natives, it’s pretty slim pickings.  Therefore, some Natives become so desperately thirsty to see us on TV, we start making up Indian people, like mirages in the desert.  “You know that she’s part Indian, ennit?”  Some examples of illusory Indians are Lou Diamond Phillips, Jonny Depp, Val Kilmer, etc…there were plenty before the current imposters too—Iron Eyes Cody, Chief Jay Strongbow, Burt Reynolds, etc…

But we have some good news; there is a new guy. Yes, you heard right: there is a new young and talented Native actor we can cheer and support, in addition to Adam and John Redcorn.  This young man is now officially "mainstream"; his name is Tatanka Means.  He has a big movie that came out on Friday called Tiger Eyes, based upon Judy Blume’s book (remember Superfudge?), and the movie and he are both getting some really good reviews.

“The gamechanger for Davey is meeting Martin (Tatanka Means), a Native American known as Wolf. He calls her Tiger. And their romantic connection is handled with rare delicacy by both actors. Wolf is also dealing with sorrow, his father Willie is battling cancer in a local hospital. That Willie is played by Russell Means, the noted political activist and Tatanka's real-life father, brings their scenes together a touching gravity. That Russell Means died shortly after filming is beyond reckoning.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Billy Wirth: Look at how mystically Indian I am.

Tatanka is a stud.  A long-haired, bushy-braided, pow-wow dancing, cow-roping, rez-boy stud.  He’s not a Hollywood Indian who walks around with his hair hanging loose and egregious amounts of leather on (I call it the “Billy Wirth” syndrome—how many Native men actually wear their hair like that except when they’re trying to impress upon white people how mystically Indian they are?).

No, no, he is the real deal.  He is one of us.  He is a Native person I would love for my son to emulate.  He “gets it.”  We need to support him as he supports our communities.  He’s starred, for free, in tons of small-time productions for independent Native filmmakers.  Whether it’s helping out at ceremonies or speaking to Native youth or helping small-time filmmakers, he’s constantly available for our communities.

Tatanka Means with Willa Holland in 'Tiger Eyes.'

Now, we should likewise be available for our Native folks who do well and serve our communities.  We have to support our people—they gotta know that when they take a leap of faith, we will be there to help.  This is a perfect opportunity.

Please take your family to go see Tiger Eyes.  Or download it from iTunes for $14.95. Support talented and hard-working Native artists.  Support Tatanka Means.  Love Native people better—love ourselves better.


Gyasi Ross
Blackfeet Nation Enrolled/Suquamish Nation Immersed
Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



Aria's picture
Submitted by Aria on
You're a little mean to people who are quarter blood aren't you? I mean I get it that it is powerful to see Native people who represent the culture, the rez, and the life and Native people should support them. I'm going to support them even if I am quarter from the Indiana Miamis who never went to the rez. I'm just saying do we have to call people imposters, you know I am sure Depp's ancestors wouldn't appreciate it. (P.S. Johnny's one rez film nearly got him shut out of the business.)

Be'so 's picture
Submitted by Be'so on
What daddy and his self proclaimed empire did not leave a dime to his son? After all those moves from reservation to reservation and women to women, I guess there was no money passed on. He needs to get an education and a job and not try to live off a name and looks , like.... Be a real Indian roll model for the youth and put his money where his mouth is. not some holly weird BS

glamorella's picture
Submitted by glamorella on
"oh yea" Alrighty then; looking forward to it Tatanka! From a new fan i'm sure..

Inyan Hoksicila =Rockchild's picture
Inyan Hoksicila...
Submitted by Inyan Hoksicila... on
I was born in the beginning of the Hottest month of the Season during the moon of the Ripened Berries In which the lakota people call Wasuton Wi..........Sakpe Wasuton Wi in the land of my mothers people the Sicangu Brule Sioux. I come from Cheif Conquering Bear & Cheif Crow Dog My Name is Rockchild. I sport my hair out not for whitepeople or trying to be mystical. Ill leave that up to you. I had the Dream of the Wakinyans & I was blessed by a Star. I could get involved in Hollywood i can use my Grandfather Crow Dog to do it. Im not a Watered Down Indian. my Grandfather is the real thing & im proud of it. Lakota people are very jealous some cant pray with eachother thats why they have there own Sweatlodges & Sundances even Siouxsan has three seperate firepits when theyre should only be one. I dont know Russell Means to be Traditional. they praise him more than CrazyHorse hes more important to me anyway. Russle left quite a few people out in the cold & theyre more Lakota than he is. They were full-bloods he did that too. when your watered down & have the money he doesnt have too care. I look up too the Real ones those ones are not even well known they dont NEED to be. those people certainly dont SPEAK for me............ I have my own Mind,Heart & Spirit. I hope people can look up to the real ones with Wisdom & Knowledge those with a Good Heart .........Rockchild the oldest God of the Wild

tesmith47's picture
Submitted by tesmith47 on
As a Black person I know exactly what you mean about "faces" in the public eye. but do be carefull, racist hollywood will try to promote a indian version of that despicable ass, tyler perry. (damn but i hate that person)

Audrey Calavaza
Audrey Calavaza
Submitted by Audrey Calavaza on
I don't know..this movie seems cheesy haha what about that Irene..whats-her-name as well??

Audrey Calavaza
Audrey Calavaza
Submitted by Audrey Calavaza on
I don't know..this movie seems cheesy haha what about that Irene..whats-her-name as well??

Gulag Irkutsk
Gulag Irkutsk
Submitted by Gulag Irkutsk on
I love it! But go bigger. How about snowboarder Callan from bush Alaska? Hey, 'Skins, how about maybe buy _her_ hoodies, instead of Shaun White's, ennit? She's got an X Games win, too, and a contemporary Native Olympian. (Not that there's anything wrong with Billy Mills and Jim Thorpe.) There are just two U.S. indigenous women ever to compete in the Olympics. One of 'em is Callan. That should count for something iconic.