Spotlight on Wes Studi.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Wes Studi Graces Fort Lewis College
By Rachel Beckelhymer

Wes Studi strutted onto the stage with all the air of a true movie star. He had every reason to feel proud, as the honored lecturer at the 2009 Fort Lewis College Native American Presidential Lecture Series, at the Community Concert Hall in Durango, Colorado. The annual lecture in honor of Native American Heritage Month highlights a Native American luminary, and Wes Studi was up to the challenge as he spun yarns for a packed house on Thursday evening, November 5. After sharing the colorful stories from his life, he stayed to pose for numerous photographs with school children, Southern Ute Royalty, and many happy fans.

The Cherokee actor, activist, author, and Vietnam War Veteran, sauntered to a generous black leather chair, his black leather jacket glistened in the bright lights as he went. “I’d like to make myself more comfortable,” he said as he began to disrobe. He ceremoniously unbuttoned his white shirt and slowly undid his black silk neck scarf. Lounging casually with crossed legs and a microphone poised for storytelling in his left hand, he began.

“Some of you may remember the days when the only phones we had were attached to walls.” Wes Studi shared experiences from his life, like his years in Vietnam, “Not a pleasant experience.” And what it was like when he returned. “I came back at a time where there was a lot of unrest.” He said, but he found welcome in the Indian community. “I think that’s something Indians do well. No matter what people thought about the war, they welcomed us back and realized that, ‘these are our young men’ ”

Born in Oklahoma, at No Fire Hollow, in the Cherokee Nation, his family moved around frequently, “I became a wondering man at that point, at [age] seven.” After the war he attended Bacon College. But, “I never had a passion for what I did…then I discovered acting.” It was in Tulsa Oklahoma, at the American Indian Theater Company. “I went, and I looked in and saw like eight women and two men. “Hey, I like these odds,” and that’s how I got started.”

His first of 60 films was, Powwow Highway. He can be seen as Magua, in Last of the Mohicans, and in the films Geronimo, The Only Good Indian, Avatar, and Dances with Wolves. When asked if he could make any movie, he said he’d like to try Othello, on the Rez. After answering audience questions, he left the stage with a command, “Go out, and live your dreams.”

Visit the latest Southern Ute Drum Newspaper Online HERE to see more on Wes Studi.