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Famous Native Americans | 10 Native American Celebrities You Should Know

Posted By PowWows.com October 1st, 2018 Last Updated on: July 14th, 2022

Who are the most famous Native Americans?

Over 5 million people across the United States are of Native American descent, and many celebrities come from lines of deep Native American ancestry—and are especially proud of their heritage.

With Hollywood's slow, yet steady move toward inclusivity and greater representation of marginalized groups, many Native American actors, singers, and entertainers are getting the opportunity to step into the spotlight and show their skills.



Here are 10 of the most famous Native American celebrities:


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10 Famous Native Americans

Wes Studi

studi

No list of famous Native Americans would be complete without mention of one of the all-time great Native American actors, Wes Studi. After discovering his love for acting—on the stage, (in “Pow Wow Highway,” his debut) and on TV (in the TV movie “Longarm”)—Studi moved to Los Angeles. In the early 90s, things took off as he starred in “Dances with Wolves” with Kevin Costner, which earned 21 Oscar nominations. Then in 1992, he starred in “The Last of the Mohicans” with Daniel Day-Lewis. He's since earned roles in about 80 more films and TV shows—including playing Geronimo in “Geronimo: An American Legend” (1993), as well as “Heat” (1995), “Deep Rising” (1998) and “Mystery Men” (1999). Wes Studi is a living legend and undoubtedly one of the most famous Native Americans.

Irene Bedard

Famous Native Celebrities - Bedard

Irene Bedard is much more than “the voice of Pocahontas.” This Anchorage-born Native American is the daughter of an Inupiat Eskimo and a French Canadian/Cree. She belongs to the Koyuk, which is a federally recognized tribe in Nome, Alaska.



Her acting career took off after starring in “Lakota Woman,” which the events of the 1970s standoff between Native citizens and the US government at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Her stellar performance won her a Golden Globe for best actress and the rest is history. After she starred in role for “Wounded Knee” and “Squanto,” her biggest gig yet came to focus. Bedard was not only chosen to play the voice of Pocahontas, but she was also a physical model for the actual character in the 1995 Disney animated film. Her performance reverberated across the country as audiences could finally witness a Disney woman with the female lead who was also a person of color. Since her Disney debut, she has played over 60 characters in movies, TV shows, and video games. 

Adam Beach

Adam Beach Powwows.com Famous Native

Adam Beach has his stamp all over a slew of hit movies through the 90s and 2000s. Born in Manitoba, Canada, Adam Beach grew up on the Dog Creek First Nation Reserve, and is Anishinaabe. He starred alongside Irene Bedard in “Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale” in 1994. He went on to claim Native roles in a variety of shows and movies. One of his biggest roles was in “Smoke Signals,” a critically acclaimed buddy film and a distinguished winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Adam Beach is a terrific Native American actor who deserves your attention.

Jana Schmieding

Jana Schmieding

Jana Schmieding previously hosted a podcast called “Women of Size,” in which she discussed body image and its impact on herself and her guests.

Jana Schmieding, who is of Mniconjou and Sicangu Lakota descent, isn't just a terrific actress and a hilarious comedian, she's also a brilliant writer. After spending several years honing her craft, Schmieding was brought on as one of a dozen writers on the Peacock original sitcom “Rutherford Falls,” which she also stars in opposite Ed Helms. The former New York City schoolteacher is a creative force, and yet it feels like she's just getting started. 

We recently had her on the PowWow Life podcast. You can listen to the episode HERE.

Michael Greyeyes

Famous Native American Greyeyes

If you've watched “Rutherford Falls,” you might recognize Schmieding's costar, Michael Greyeyes, who's built a remarkable acting career of his own. While he might not come to mind as one of the most “famous” Native American actors, anyone who's been paying attention will tell you: Michael Greyeyes has the chops to warrant full-blown superstardom.  

Alaqua Cox

Alaqua Cox Native America Actress - famous Native celebrities

You may not have heard the name Alaqua Cox much unless you're a Marvel Cinematic Universe junkie. But this upstart Native American actress deserves your attention. Cox was born deaf on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Keshena, Wisconsin, and is of Menominee and Mohican descent. She landed her debut role (it was actually her first acting gig ever!) as Maya Lopez/Echo in the Disney+ series “Hawkeye” and soon, you'll be able to catch her as the titular character in the spin-off series “Echo.” 

Sivan Alyra Rose

Sivan Alyra Rose - Native Celebrities

Sivan Alyra Rose is an Apache and Puerto Rican actress, artist and model. She grew up on the San Carlos Apache reservation just outside of Phoenix, Arizona. She was discovered modeling at the Santa Fe Indian Market at just 16 years of age. Sivan starred in the Netflix hit series “Chambers” in 2019, acting alongside Hollywood powerhouses Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn. 

Joy Harjo

Harjo, Famous Native Americans

What can we say about Joy Harjo? She's a national treasure. Joy Harjo was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a Muscogee Creek father and a Cherokee, Irish and French mother. Joy Harjo adopted the name “Harjo” from her grandmother after becoming an official member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. One of Joy Harjo’s loftiest accomplishments is her appointment as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She's currently serving her third term and remarkably, Harjo is the first Native American woman ever to be appointed.

Want to learn to write like Joy Harjo? You're in luck. The acclaimed indigenous poet, playwright and musician is now teaching her very own course on the popular e-learning site Masterclass all about Poetic Thinking. You can access the course HERE!

Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is a Native American writer, economist and environmentalist. But she's so much more than that. Over the years, she's worked to advance tribal land claims and preservation. She also serves as the executive director of Honor the Earth, a Native American environmental advocacy group, which was pivotal in generating awareness of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. LaDuke has also made appearances in multiple documentaries.

Notably, she's earned the Reebok Human Rights Award and the BIHA Community Service Award. And she's also one of our 20 Native American Women You Should Know.

Zahn McClarnon

Zahn McClarnon - Native American Celebrities

Denver, Colorado-born Zahn McClarnon has made his mark in Hollywood. He's carved out an impressive niche as a character actor, starring in such films as “Into the West,” Doctor Sleep,” and “Strike One.” He's also starred in “Longmire,” the second season of “Westworld” and the second season of the critically acclaimed drama “Fargo.” He's certainly one of the more famous Native Americans, and he's got the talent to back it up.

Famous Native Americans  – Honorable Mention:

Graham Greene

Eddie Spears

Michael Spears

Tantoo Cardinal

Rene Aranda

Chaske Spencer

Will Sampson

Gil Birmingham

Julia Jones

Q'orianka Kilcher



Home » Blog » Famous Native Americans | 10 Native American Celebrities You Should Know


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Sade McMurrin

Did you guys fact check this article? According to people in the comments Carrie Underwood has insisted she is not Native American, for example. I would genuinely like to know who is and who is not Indigenous (to be clear, like Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller I recognize people with Indigenous ancestry as being Indigenous themselves).

Paul G

She did claim it when we wrote the article. We are working on an update.

Sade McMurrin

Thanks for your response. I guess the only people who would know for sure are the people at the museum and the Creek tribal leaders.

Bert Olio

Carrie Underwood herself debunked the myth of her supposed Native ancestry. Someone came up with the whole thing on Wikipedia and the rumor blew up. She said she tried to have her Wikipedia entry changed many times but only after speaking about it in many interview was the entry changed. All mentions of Native ancestry were removed by Wikipedia.

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Sheela

For so long, mainstream America didn’t allow “black” people to acknowledge their Native American heritage. The U.S. census listed a lot of Native Americans as “white”, “black”, or “mulatto”. Native Americans pretty much lost their tribal identity when they left & stayed off the reservation. If they married a “black” person, the U.S. government & pretty much mainstream America said that they can’t be “Indian”, only “black” or “negro”. So there are a lot of people who are part Native American & can’t find out the tribe unless one of their elders told them before they died. I imagine there were a lot of people passing for all “white” who were part Native American, but wanted to live freely in mainstream America. A lot of our past is undocumented or purposely documented incorrectly. Just check the older U.S. census rules. This was done in some cases to steal land.

Patricia Davis

Wh

Valerie J. Phillips

Benjamin Bratt is obviously Native American and identifies as such. It is very odd that you include him in this group of people. His mother was an Aymara Indian and an activist in California.

Garlynne

The only people here with a significant percentage of Native DNA are Lou Diamond Phillips and Jessica Alba. Elvis was only 1/32 Native. I am certain the remaining 5 have none or less than 1/32. These claims of being part Native American is a big scam and lie people are claiming. Elizabeth Warren is among the thousands making these false claims. They don’t have the facial bone structure, skin tone or hair color to support it from the physical standpoint.

Christie Lundblade

Look if they want too believe and can actually prove Indian descent then who are you to judge?

R.U. Kidden Me

You mean Benjamin Bratt? … because Lou Diamond Phillips is not on this list…

🤣🤣🤣🤣

Sade McMurrin

Plenty of Indigenous celebrities are missing from this list.

David Rosoff

1. If you’d bothered to read the article (plus the comments), you’d know that most of these celebrities are 1/4 Indigenous. Carrie Underwood is both listed as Creek at an Indigenous museum, AND was active in Native American groups in college.
2. Indigenous people come in all colors, shapes, & sizes. Between the kidnapping & brainwashing of so many indigenous children, the coercion of so many indigenous individuals & families to abandon indigenous life & move to cities (to then be abandoned & left to become impoverished), & just natural intermingling of peoples over hundreds of years, not all indigenous people fit your racist stereotype of what a Native American should look like.
3. It is up to each nation (not you) to decide how much indigenous blood makes one a member of that nation.
4. Elizabeth Warren DOES have a distant indigenous ancestor, just as her family lore said, & a DNA test proved. She doesn’t claim membership in any particular nation, which, without that nation’s approval, would be fraudulent.
Maybe, if you actually took the time to learn something, you’d stop spouting false, racist garbage.

Scott

There was no racism in Garylynn’s post, and people like you throwing that term around without any discretion whatsoever is watering the term down and making it meaningless. Yours is a particularly insideous form of censorship: calling everyone you disagree with “racist”. You might not agree with Garylynn, but a personal attack like yours shows a lack of control. Whoever Garylynn is, they do have a point, as unattractive it may be: celebrities do jump on the “I’m Indigenous, you can’t touch me” bandwagon all too easily. Look at Johnny Depp. He’s one of my favorite actors, but he’s about as Taylor Swift. My maternal grandmother is full-blooded Arapaho, but it’s not on my resumé.

Scott

PS: I am all about First Nation rights, and our treatment of Native Peoples is (along with slavery) one of the biggest pockmarks in American history. I just think people today should be alot more careful how they throw words like “racism” around. Happy 4th Everyone!

Sade McMurrin

Garlynne was certainly being racist. Also, I’ll just say here that the requirements many Indigenous Nations have for prospective members is too strict and so many true Indigenous people are excluded from their community. As if Indigenous people don’t already struggle enough.

Christopher OBrien

Republicans lied and scoffed about Elizabeth Warren’s claim. It was disgusting.

Coco

Sorry to break it to ya but many people lie about being part native, sometimes unknowingly because of their family. Also Carrie Underwood said herself she’s not part Native American & she’s not listed as such by any Native tribe in a museum either. She said her & her team kept trying to have that made up stuff removed from her Wikipedia but they kept changing it back. Anyone can edit Wikipedia. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/mar/14/carrie-underwood-private-jet-american-idol

Last edited 9 months ago by Coco
Liz Presley

I am happy I am home to show the facts from DNA. I am aware that this DNA is not considered by the Cherokee nation, but the fact is it’s there anyway. My DNA! My Dad’s pretty much a copy.

Screenshot 2021-05-27 4.09.46 PM - Display 2 (2).png
Last edited 1 year ago by Liz Presley
Marie

You have been Ripped off Not enough DNA to determine tribes for any company to be able to break it down

Liz Presley

My other report.

Marie

Sorry but my friends who are Citizens of the Federally Recognized Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma who Research the genealogy of people to determine that someone is Cherokee Clearly Deny that Elvis is Cherokee. You may wish to contact that group

Paul G

Thanks for writing. Here is our source for the information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley
Wikipedia lists Cherokee as part of his ethnicity.

Marie

The Certificate That so called Presley person is showing is not worth the paper its written on There is not enough Full blood Tribal Members left to be able to identify what Tribe a person belongs to You need a certain percent of of the population to be able to do that and No tribe has that.

Marie

Anyone can write what they like on those sites. Its like the DNA Genealogy trees Someone added the name of a Fictional Character to a family tree Cornblossom I cant remember the Name of the book but will let you know when I find it

frances

one of the “blinding white” Cherokee types. she has the bone structure; her mother’s family is Reed; Reed family Cherokee-look it up.

Sade McMurrin

Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller said, “An Indian is an Indian regardless of the degree of Indian blood or which little government card they do or do not possess.” It’s discrimination to say someone is not Native enough. If a person can prove their Native ancestry then they should be considered Native. By the way, Elizabeth Warren has since proven she is of Native ancestry. She does not deserve the hate she gets.

David B

email code duplicate from a previous day

David B

Email code 7787, 23 May duplicate of a code previously used on the site.

Deborah Collier

The code here is from last year’s blanket. Does not accept it for this year’s blanket. The post was sent to me on May 17, 2020

Paul G

If you have a problem please email us.

The codes do work, check your entries and make sure you don’t already have credit for it.

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