Hollywood Indians. For me, that term conjures up images from old movies of men dressed in buckskin loincloths, running around throwing plastic-looking tomahawks at cowboys.
Or perhaps it makes me think of movies with overly stoic men in warbonnets, saying "how" while holding their hands up to each other, in a weird prelude to the Vulcan greeting of "live long and prosper."
As a person of Native American descent (from the Comanche, Pawnee and Shawnee tribes), these portrayals in movies always baffled me. I certainly didn't know any people like that — and the only interaction I've had with a tomahawk is firing one in a video game.
But through the years, Hollywood changed the way native people were portrayed on-screen — for better and worse.
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This transformation is the focus of " Native American Images on Film," presented by Turner Classic Movies throughout May. It's the newest installment in TCM's acclaimed "Race and Hollywood" series.
Films are presented during themed nights. Programs that have already aired this month are "Directed by John Ford — An Evolution of Characterizations," "Non-Indians in Indian Roles," "Indians as the Enemy" and "White Men Among Indians."
Joining regular TCM host Robert Osborne for discussion each night is Hanay Geiogamah, director of the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA, who offers insight into the Native perspective (he also is a film producer).
The series is an interesting — and welcome — study, though it only skims the surface.
Other programs to air this month are (subject to change):
* "Indians as Noble Savages" (Tuesday)
7 p.m. —"Davy Crockett, Indian Scout" (1950): Phillip Reed plays Crockett's good friend Red Hawk.
9 p.m. —"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975): Will Sampson plays Chief Bromden, who befriends Jack Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy, and becomes the symbolic figure of the story. The film won five Oscars, including best picture.
11:30 p.m. —"A Man Called Horse" (1970): Richard Harris plays an English aristocrat in 1925 who is captured by Indians, but begins to understand and embrace their lifestyles.
1:30 a.m. —"Windwalker" (1980): Trevor Howard plays an Indian chief who must come back from his death to save his people from an enemy tribe.
* " Indians Dealing Wth Racism" (Thursday)
7 p.m. —"Devil's Doorway" (1950): Robert Taylor plays an Indian who won a Medal of Honor fighting at Gettysburg, and seeks to return to his tribal lands intent on peaceful cattle ranching.
8:30 p.m. —"Little Big Man" (1970): Dustin Hoffman stars as Jack Crabb, who tells of his life being raised by Indians and fighting with General Custer. Chief Dan George received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
11:15 p.m. —" Thunderheart" (1992): Val Kilmer stars as an FBI agent with a Sioux background who is sent to a reservation to help with a murder investigation.
* " Indians as Actors and Filmmakers" (May 25)
7 p.m.— "The Squaw Man" (1914): A British officer takes the blame for his cousin's embezzlement and journeys to the American West. Red Wing (from the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska), as she was known, played Nat-U-Ritch, the woman he would marry.
8:30 p.m. —"Lakota Woman" (1994): Irene Bedard (who would go on to become the model for the animated "Pocahontas") stars as Mary Crow Dog, who becomes an activist in South Dakota in the 1960s.
10:30 p.m.— "Smoke Signals" (1998): A Sundance Film Festival hit directed by Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne-Arapaho, and written by famed Spokane/Coeur d'Alene novelist Sherman Alexie, starring the then-blooming actor Adam Beach (Ira Hayes in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers").
12:15 a.m. —"Naturally Native" (1999): Valerie Red-Horse writes, co-directs and stars in this tale of three sisters who decide to sell a line of cosmetics they call Naturally Native, only to encounter racist businessmen.
* " Images From Outside Hollywood" (May 27)
7 p.m. —"Nanook of the North" (1922): Documentary chronicling one year in the life of an Eskimo and his family.
8:15 p.m. —"The Exiles" (1961): An account of 24 hours in the life of a group of young Native Americans living in downtown Los Angeles.
10 p.m. —"Incident at Oglala" (1992): Acclaimed director Michael Apted studies a day in June 1975 when a gunfight on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota resulted in two FBI agents being killed.
Midnight —"Broken Rainbow" (1985): A documentary chronicling the government relocation of 10,000 Navajos in Arizona. An Oscar winner for best documentary feature.