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More Representation Needed

A new report shows that Indigenous actors are rarely represented in movies.
Lily Gladstone and three other actresses sit on a blanket wearing shawls and holding fans in a still from Killers of the Flower Moon.
© 2023 Apple Studios/Paramount Pictures

The actors (from left) JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers, and Jillian Dion, from the 2023 movie Killers of the Flower Moon, are all of American Indian descent.

American Indians, or Native Americans, make up 1.3 percent of the U.S. population. But a new report says that they are rarely represented in movies.

The report shows the results of a study done by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The study looked at the presence of American Indians in the 1,600 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2022. (The top-grossing films are the ones that made the most money.) It found that less than 0.25 percent (one-quarter of 1 percent) of speaking roles in these films went to American Indians, and only one of the films featured an American Indian lead actor. Only about one-third of the roles played by American Indian actors were important to the plot of the movie.

When American Indians did appear on screen, only 23 percent of them were female.

“Audiences would have to watch thousands of movies to see even one Native woman on screen, and very likely in a minor role,” said Annenberg Associate Professor of Communication Stacy L. Smith, the report’s main author. “This is a failure of imagination on the part of writers, directors, and casting directors.”

Smith said American Indians are nearly invisible in movies. She added that it would be difficult for American Indian actors to earn a living because there are very few roles for them.

The report says there are many ways to improve American Indian representation in Hollywood. It suggests supporting the work of American Indian filmmakers and actors. One way to do this is for movie studios to fund (pay for) movies that feature American Indian actors or those made by American Indian filmmakers.

Did You Know?

Scene from behind a movie audience with the flag of New Mexico shown on the screen.
© terra.incognita/stock.adobe.com; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Film Prize Junior New Mexico is a moviemaking competition for students in middle school and high school. Based in the state of New Mexico, which has a higher-than-average American Indian population, the prize helps encourage and support the work of young American Indian filmmakers.

Shaping the World

November is American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month (also known as Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month). The hundreds of American Indian nations in the United States have a huge range of histories, traditions, and cultures.

Here are just a few American Indians who are helping to shape the culture of the United States and the world.

AFF-USA/Shutterstock.com, U.S. Department of the Interior, Shawn Miller/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Cooper Neill/Getty Images Sport, Jeff Golden/Getty Images Sport, Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images, Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.com

American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Animated GIF with different summer and winter Olympic sports flashing on and off the screen.
Alamy: photo-fox, Pictorial Press Ltd.; Getty: Keystone—Hulton Archive, grandriver—E+,Carl Iwasaki—The Chronicle Collection, Joseph Prezioso—AFP; Pete Souza—Barack Obama Presidential Library/National Archives, Washington, D.C.; © Jose Gil/Shutterstock.com; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital no. cph 3b32945); Robert Markowitz—Johnson Space Center/NASA; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Did you know that people have lived in North America for tens of thousands of years? The descendants of those first arrivals are today’s American Indians, or Indigenous peoples.

Read more at Britannica!

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