“Suicide Squad” actor Adam Beach highlights the importance of having native actors portray native characters in an essay for Deadline.
“Natives have been fighting for centuries to preserve our lands and cultures and we are still working to reclaim our identities,” Beach wrote. “Our identity is our birthright.”
Beach, 44, explained how “for the past 200 years, Native peoples have been forced to assimilate.” Specifically how “Native spiritual practices were outlawed. Those Natives who continued to practice ceremony were jailed, and even killed.”
The Ashern, Manitoba-born actor tackled the whitewashing of Native roles in Hollywood.
“There is no need to cast non-Native performers and actresses in Native roles. This is not 1950,” he insisted. “The practice of whitewashing is unnecessary, unacceptable and discriminatory. It promotes the erasure of communities of color. Natives are often typecast in stereotypical roles or removed from the narrative entirely.”
And it isn’t just that non-Native actors are taking roles as Native characters. The Saulteaux First Nations actor argued many are falsely claiming to have a connection to Native ancestry. “Being Native is more than claiming your great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, or that people have told you that you look Native because you have high cheekbones,” he wrote.
“It’s more than a last-minute bullet point on your resume or Wikipedia page to qualify you for a role you wouldn’t otherwise receive. Incidentally, claiming Native ancestry without proof makes one a fraud.”
The issue is not one Beach, a successful actor with roles in “Windtalkers” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” faces alone.
“It is troubling to see roles meant for Native women being given to those who are not Native, especially when that character is the victim of violence,” he added. “One in three Native women are survivors of sexual assault, and while it hasn’t been publicized until recently, there is an epidemic of missing and murdered Native women on this continent.”
“Just a few weeks ago, a young Native woman in North Dakota who was eight months pregnant went missing and her remains were later discovered in a nearby river. Her child had been ripped from her womb and taken by her alleged killers,” he shared. “Her story is not uncommon.”
Beach finished his essay with: “We are tired of others telling us who we are. We know who we are and what we look like as Native people. After all we’ve overcome, being able to represent ourselves is not too much to ask.”