Uproar after Asian American is Cast in TV Show to Play Native

Posted By Jazmyn Espinoza-Church September 11th, 2017 Last Updated on: September 11th, 2017

The Paramount network recently came under fire for casting Kelsey Asbille to play the wife of the character Cory on its new TV show “Yellowstone”.

The problem?

Kelsey is a member of the Asian American community.

The 25-year-old “Teen Wolf” actress previously went by the last name Chow.

The character?

Is Native.

The actress, cast to play a Native American woman living on the reservation with her husband, is actually a mix of caucasian and Taiwanese. Recently it became known that she may be part of a band of Cherokee descent far back in her lineage, but that was not a deciding factor in the casting process.

After the casting was announced Native American actor Adam Beach clapped back across his social media channels expressing his outrage at the lack of diversity and white washing done by Hollywood.

He urged fellow Natives to boycott the project.

“I'm asking my Native Actors to stay away from this project.”Yellowstone” is telling the world that there are no Native Actresses capable of leading a TV show. Unless your great-great-great grandparents are Cherokee.”


While some may think the issue is a small one it's, unfortunately,  a piece of a bigger picture. Racial diversity in media and literature is a huge issue, often leaving Native American's as the “forgotten people”. Most major projects portray us in an inaccurate, often harsh light.

And Now they couldn't even get an authentic Native actress to accurately portray us?

What happens when a little Native girl watching the show wonders why she doesn't look like her? Or thinks there's something wrong with her because that's what a “real Native” is supposed to look like?

The situation over all is disrespectful and shows the casting team doesn't see a difference between the Asian and Native communities.

What are your thoughts?

Are people over reacting or did the network go a step too far, contributing to cultural appropriation?


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About Jazmyn Espinoza-Church

Jazmyn Espinoza-Church is a bestselling Native American Author, advocate for Native youth, and freelance journalist. When she's not writing or mentoring she can be found in her Michigan home, hanging out with her fiance and two sons.

TAGGED:    adam beach    Culture    Events    Indian Country    Indigenous    Native    Native American    native movies    native news update    Reservation    yellowstone  
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Normandie Kent

Having Taiwanese Southeast Asian mix playing a Native American is as realistic genetically as having a European person play a Native American. They have been separated from Asia for at least 30,000 yrs, and are just as distant from East Asians as they are to Europeans. What people don’t seem to understand is that Native Americans are not descendants of any living populations known to man, because their ancestral population died out in Northeastern Asia after Native Americans left to the Americas. They just don’t exist anymore anywhere. Native Americans are more genetically closer to each other and were isolated as a breeding population in the Americas and have no closely related cousins population in the world. They have been isolated for far too long.


Only the Navajos have that close genetic relationship to the Mongols as they (Navajos) arrived to the Americas 500 years before the Spanish. Other Native groups split off 10,000 years ago and aren’t related to modern-day Asians.

China Mike

I lived in mainland China for several years. I didn’t live with the expat community, but with the actual locals. I also grew up around New Mexico/Texas. My mother grew up near Santa Fe, so when I was young, we would often visit the pueblo. Our family has a blood relationship with the Navajo as well, on my mother’s side.

The reason I am putting that info out there is, there have been decades of research regarding the similarities between Chinese/Asian culture to that of Native Americans. It’s been proven that Native American’s ancient bloodline comes from an area just above China–pretty much Mongolia/Siberian Russia. I often noticed many physical similarities to Native Americans among the Chinese I met, many of them from different regions of that vast country.

I get that the Native American acting community would be up in arms about this, especially when you see many Canadian actors with a whole lot of Native American blood, appearing in TV series like “Frontier”.

But to play “Devil’s Advocate” here, with their being an honest to goodness ancient blood relationship between Asians and Native Americans, it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.


The “Hollywood” native has been defined by colonizers as “what is native.” But unfortunately many natives or people of native descent have bought into this programming, as well. Even though I am native, if I was cast in that role, there would be protests. Why? Because according to Hollywood & possibly my fellow natives, I would be asked to “prove” my nativeness or heritage because I look more Black/Latino. But there is no one on this Earth who can tell me who I am. Why have we become so “entrenched” in DNA tests & the “Hollywood” Indian anyway? This has never been part of our culture historically. Your spirit and and ancestral connection determined who you were and no one could tell you otherwise. We have lost a lot of that, as we have lost who we are in the process. If this woman doesn’t identify herself as native that is one thing. But if she did, are we questioning her because she doesn’t “look” native? And what does a real “native” look like? Again, I ask for self-examination of this mindset and ask are we victims of false imagery programming? Have we gotten too far away from who we were, that we have bought into and share responsibility in this mindset? I think so and I am living proof… Know yourself.


I think they should cast Tia Woods, she has many talents and for sure Native!

Amigo Kandu

Shades of Iron Eyes Cody, the Italian Stallion Chief! But wait, I heard no Native actress was interested or available for the part. Hmmm… smoke screen, not smoke signals!
So now what? Risk a lawsuit from Chow (Asbille)? Yes, Paramount should have done better job actually Scouting (sorry!) a tenured Native actress for this part, if it is turned down, the open field. Now, Radmilla is Afro-Navajo, and sings & speaks fluent Dineh language. Qualified?


that’s Hollywood for you, if you are not in the “elite circle” in Hollywood unfortunately you are not favored or picked for major roles, basically if they don’t own your life, you are often over looked, and for others who know what I’m really talking about, this was the watered down version of explaining it. But one day our native people will naturally rise in hollywood and in society and be acknowledged for who we really are through gods blessings ☺

C. Carson

This is really nothing new, Native American parts have been played by Italians, Mexicans, South Americans, Indians from India, and any other browner or olive skinned actors, or any popular actor with enough makeup on, for decades. Is it right, no, will the Hollywood execs change their tactics, probably not. As long as the movie makes money they really don’t care what anyone thinks.

TL. Eveningdawn Ehrlich

Well, here we are again. Native American Women are the single most disrespected, over sexualized, unrepresented group in the world today. We are strong, smart, beautiful, talented people who never even get asked if we could fill the role or the job. We are still looked at as the chattel, the stupid squaw. God, I hate that word. We have had the civil rights movement and yet we natives were not even considered as a part of that process. It is time to wake up and realize you didn’t destroy us all. We are Here. We are EQUAL and we are proud people who deserve our chance at a life and a career and the chance to follow our passion. just like everyone else. A beautiful Native woman in a movie! These Hollywood idiots need to understand that their prejudice is unacceptable!

Beverly Fry

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that some Native Americans do have physical
facial characteristics akin to Asian people. Just because there is a similarity doesn’t mean movie moguls should overlook the possibility of talented Native Americans. I’ve seen plenty young women (now older women) who could handle such a role. There are so many more young Native American women who are up-and-coming actresses. Give them a chance.


Well yea some look akin to each other. They ARE! There are Native Americans that get genetic diseases typical of people of Asian descent. Plus in case you forgotten the native Americans came here across the Bering Strait from Asia!

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