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ONTD Original: 20 Native American Rising Stars

In honor of Powwow season (and a Native American woman starring in a new Netflix series - Chambers), I decided to make a post featuring rising Native American stars across different mediums since it seems like Non-natives struggle to name a single famous Native American, who isn’t Geronimo or Pocahontas. Using both Indigenous media mentions (like Indian Country Today,, Navajo Times, #NativeTwitter) and mainstream media, I focused on those who are recognizable within Indigenous country AND making waves on the outside, rather than just those who are semi-recognizable outside the community, but with no known ties inside (like Kaya Jones), those who are only primarily known inside Native media (like the amazing James & Ernie, Chance Rush) or non-Natives who pose in 'redface' (like Kelsey Asbille).  Featuring Martin Seismeyer, Devery Jacobs, Lily Gladstone, Forrest Goodluck, Sivan Alyra Rose, Grace Dove, Sharice Davids, Debb Haaland, Daunnette Reyome, Tommy Orange, Kahara Hodges, Robin Maxkii, Travis Thompson, Frank Waln, Jared Yazzie, Jaime Okuma, Charlene Holy Bear, B.Yellowtail, Steven Paul Judd, Anthony Seigler, Inez Jasper, The Bannock Brothers

Oh, and apologies for my writing style, I am not a pro at this. Alright, here we go:

1. Martin Seismeyer "The Action Star"

Martin Sensmeier is starring in an upcoming Angelina Jolie biopic about legendary athlete Jim Thorpe.

Sensmeier is an American actor and is of Tlingit, Koyukon-Athabascan, and Irish descent. He was raised in a Tlingit Coastal Community in Southeast Alaska and grew up learning and participating in the traditions of his tribes. He is also an ambassador for The Native Wellness Institute, as well as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and advocates for wellness among Native people of all Nations- focusing largely on youth.

In 2007, Martin moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. His job schedule working on an oil rig in Alaska allowed him to support his dreams, pay for acting classes and afford living in Southern California. In 2011, he quit working in the oilfield and began pursuing a career in the arts full time.

In 2016, he starred in the remake of The Magnificent Seven (2016), directed by Antoine Fuqua. He played one of the Seven, the role of Red Harvest, starring alongside Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Vincent D'Onofrio.

Martin Sensmeir Instagram

2. Devery Jacobs "The Actress"

Devery currently stars in American Gods and fun fact she received a callback from JJ Abrams for the roll of Rey in Star Wars (which eventually went to Daisy Ridley)

Devery Jacobs was born in the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk territory, in Quebec. As a young actress, she started making waves with roles on television shows such as Dead Zone, Being Human, and Mohawk Girls. It was her starring feature debut in Rhymes for Young Ghouls that won her critical acclaim and pushed her into the spotlight as an actor to watch. The role landed her a nomination for Best Actress at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards.

Jacobs has also ventured into directing and has released a couple of her own short films – Stolen, which was backed by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, and RAE. Both films had their premieres at the ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival in consecutive years.

A few years ago, Jacobs got a call back from J.J. Abrams regarding the role of Rey in the new Star Wars movies. The role went to Daisy Ridley in the end but the idea of Jacobs using the force and swinging a lightsabre out on the intergalactic battlefield sure got us excited for what could have been. Fans were both heartbroken and inspired when they heard.

Jacobs can next be seen in CTV’s third season of Cardinal, and a new Netflix Original called The Order. Next year you’ll also be able to see her in the second season of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods as Sam Black Crow. When Neil Gaiman first announced that the production was beginning to cast for the character and would only consider actresses of Indigenous background, she became a clear frontrunner with fans who took to Twitter to champion her.

Already, she’s become an inspiration to young actresses and Indigenous girls across Canada. We can’t wait to watch her work in these upcoming series and more!


3. Lily Gladstone "The Future Oscar Winner"

Lily Gladstone starred opposite Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams in Certain Women

Lily Gladstone is an American actress who has a few upcoming projects, including the first Native American action series for a major network.

Gladstone was born and raised in Browning, Montana. She is of Blackfeet and Nez Perce heritage. Her "great, great grandfather was first cousin to William Gladstone, the British prime minister - her great, great grandfather was Kainai Chief Red Crow. She graduated from the University of Montana with a B.F.A in Acting. As a child she performed with the Stone Soup Theatre Company in Seattle. She has also been a member of Living Voices, a touring theatre troupe. Gladstone starting acting as an extra when she was a teenager. She landed her first speaking part in Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, alongside Misty Upham.

In 2016, her breakout role came from Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women playing Jamie, a lonely ranch hand, for which she won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress and Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also received nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female and Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actress.


4. Sivan Alyra Rose “The Breakout Star

Sivan Alyra Rose is the first Native to lead in a major Netflix series 'Chambers'. Sivan Alyra Rose, born Sivan Alyra Rose Rambler, is an Apache/Puerto Rican actress, runway model and exhibited artist. She was raised just outside of Phoenix, Arizona on the San Carlos Apache reservation by her mother and grandmother. She was discovered modeling at the Santa Fe Indian Market at the age of 16.

Sivan's personal alternative aesthetics highlight her glam goth style and affinity for the style of abstract art. Sivan exhibited her own skateboard art titled "Hypnotize" at the Silver and Turquoise Ball in April 2016 benefiting the Phoenix Indian Center. Sivan has been inspired by Marley Mitch (MUA), Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In August 2017, Sivan attended the Institute of American Indian Arts studying Studio Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There she would meet student director Mark Lewis filming the short film "The Entrada" who would cast her as the lead in a horror story about a museum holding Native artifacts. By December 2017, Sivan would move to Los Angeles to transfer college, pursue her acting and modeling career.

In March 2018 casting director Rene Haynes, who Sivan met in high school, would reach out to her to audition for the lead of an American Film Institute project "Running Shadow" directed by Carlos Betancourt. "Running Shadow" is a short fiction film about a young Lakota woman battling grief over her sister's suicide and pursuing competitive running. The film releases in Fall 2018.

Sivan also served as an intern at Native Americans in Philanthropy in Spring 2018, which has inspired her to use her platform to raise awareness about Native American issues especially the need for mental health care support and resources for Native American youth.


5. Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids “The Politicians/The Leaders

Democrats Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Sharice Davids of Kansas won their House races ― and made history.

By winning in Kansas's 3rd District, Sharice Davids, 37, also became the first openly gay woman elected to the House. An Ivy League-educated attorney, she served as an Obama White House fellow in 2016. The former mixed martial arts fighter went viral with an early campaign video in which she posed in boxing gear and spoke about being raised by her mother, a veteran. When polls closed out West a few hours later, Deb Haaland had been elected from New Mexico's blue-leaning 1st District. A member of the Pueblo of Laguna, the attorney and community organizer formerly chaired the New Mexico state Democratic Party and ran for New Mexico Lieutenant Governor in 2014. She won handily over her Republican challenger Janice Arnold-Jones, 59 to 36 percent.

Deb Haaland pledged to make sure "Congress recognizes the fact that the United States has a trust responsibility to Indian tribes," she said in an interview with Vox last summer. "So at every possible opportunity, I’ll work really hard to make sure tribal leaders have a seat at the table when there's issues of importance." During the campaign, she advocated a $15 federal minimum wage, more environmental protections and the development of a renewable energy infrastructure.

Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, defeated four-term Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder. The district, which Hillary Clinton won by 1 point in 2016, encompasses the affluent Johnson County suburbs of Kansas City, in a state that is steadfastly conservative. Although Davids might have seemed an unlikely candidate, she ran comfortably ahead in polls from the beginning, ultimately besting Yoder by 53 to 44 percent.

Sharice Davids Twitter
Deb Haaland Twitter

6. Tommy Orange “The Writer

Tommy Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California. He wrote the incredible debut novel "There There"

Tommy Orange is the Cheyenne and Arapaho author of the New York Times bestseller 'There There' Published in 2018, it opens with an essay by Orange as a prologue, and then proceeds to follow a large cast of Native Americans living in the area of Oakland, California, as they struggle with a wide array of challenges ranging from depression and alcoholism, to unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome, and the challenges of living with an ethnic identity of being "ambiguously nonwhite." All coalesce at a community pow wow and its attempted robbery.

The book explores the themes of Native peoples living in urban spaces, and issues of ambivalence and complexity related to Natives' struggles with identity and authenticity. There There was favorably received, and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. He teaches creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

There There is about urban Native American lives. Are these lives and experiences under-represented in fiction?
Yes, you already find Native people in fiction, but there aren’t many representations of us as modern, contemporary and living in cities, so that was definitely something I saw lacking.

What made you decide to have 12 narrators?
I really liked what a chorus of voices could do. I like, within a novel, to jump around and see how the different voices connect. It gives the reader a lot to do. And when the reader gets the connection, something really special happens: like a clicking in place. It gives it a kind of propulsion and makes it a really active reading experience. Read the rest here:

Tommy Orange Interview

7. Kahara Hodges “The Influencer

Kahara Hodges, Navajo, is a model for numerous brands and Kahara is an original and current member of the Phoenix Indian Centers Navajo singing class known as Dine’ Urban Voices. Since 2007, the group has promoted the preservation and beauty of the Navajo culture and language throughout the valley at multicultural gatherings, native celebrations, and fundraising events to benefit families in need of assistance.

Kahara is an exceptionally talented vocalist and captivating entertainer. She is of Dine’, English, Mexican, and African American heritage.

Kahara first captured the public’s attention as the lead vocalist for the Navajo singing group Dine’ Urban Voices and as a featured vocalist for her acclaimed high school choir program. She is a diverse vocalist experienced in singing traditional and social Dine’ songs, as well as, classical, jazz, a cappella, R&B, and pop songs. As a soloist and featured singer, Kahara continues to be blessed with the opportunity to enchant audiences with her spellbinding vocal charisma.

Kahara was a student at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. She demonstrated exemplary achievement in academics, community service, leadership, and musical talents. Kahara is a Gates Millennium Scholar, a President Barack Obama Scholar, and sings with the ASU Pitchforks.

Currently, Kahara Hodges can be seen modeling for various Native American fashion designers and is the IRL partner of Martin Sensmeier.

Official Twitter

8. Robin Maxkii "The Creative

Robin Maxkii, Mohican, was the first Indigenous person to be featured on Google’s new homepage, appeared on an album with Lizzo, hosted a show on PBS about technology, advocated for equal access to technology for Indigenous communities, and directed the first national Indigenous hackathon. Currently she is slated to direct a documentary about MMIW.

Robin Máxkii, Mohican, one of the few female Native American film directors, in 2014 she directed and co-produced a documentary that is currently archived in the Smithsonian. She has starred on various technology-focused shows including PBS’s ‘CodeTrip’ and the Google documentary 'Between Worlds', and writes for various outlets. In 2018 she received recognition in Billboard magazine for a track she wrote for an album that also features Lizzo and Angelique Kidjo.

Maxkii routinely lobbies the US senate for more education funding on reservations and in rural America, founded the largest Native American hackathon, and serves as an ambassador for various Native American organizations. She was recently featured in a national campaign for tribal education, including appearing on billboards in Times Square New York.
Currently, Robin Maxkii is slated to direct a documentary on the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic.

Robin Maxkii IMDB

9. Tommy Pico “The Wordsmith

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is author of the books IRL, Nature Poem, Junk, Feed, and myriad keen tweets including “sittin on the cock of gay.” Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now splits his time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn. He co-curates the reading series Poets with Attitude, co-hosts the podcast Food 4 Thot, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is author of the books IRL (Birds, LLC, 2016), winner of the 2017 Brooklyn Library Literary Prize and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Nature Poem (Tin House Books, 2017), winner of a 2018 American Book Award and finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award, Junk (Tin House Books, 2018), Feed (forthcoming 2019 from Tin House Books), and the zine series Hey, Teebs. He was the founder and editor in chief of birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that published art and writing from 2008-2013.

Tommy Pico was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural fellow, 2013 Lambda Literary fellow in poetry, a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, was awarded the 2017 Friends of Literature prize from the Poetry Foundation, won a 2018 Whiting Award, and he’s been profiled in Time Out New York, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now splits his time between Los Angles and Brooklyn. He co-curates the reading series Poets With Attitude (PWA) with Morgan Parker at the Ace Hotel, co-hosts the podcast Food 4 Thot, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.  @heyteebs

Tommy Pico Wikipedia
Official Twitter

10. Travis Thompson "The Performer"

Travis Thompson is taco shop famous and counts Macklemore as a mentor.

Travis Thompson is a 21-year-old rapper from Burien, WA, a Seattle suburb just 10 minutes outside of the city. Thompson sent his career skyrocketing with the release of attention grabbing Singles and Visuals like: “Father Forgive Me”, “Need You”, and “Hold Me Down” over the course of 2017.

Following up with a North American Tour with Seattle Rapper ‘Macklemore’, and an appearance on the ‘Tonight’s Show w/ Jimmy Fallon’, Travis Thompson hasn’t looked back since. In a remarkably short amount of time, Thompson has created an impressive “come-up” story that’s impossible to ignore. Travis brings a refreshing blend of authenticity and lyricism to catchy music, and the numbers to back it up. With Millions of Video Views and on-demand Music streams, and a fanbase that continues to grow every single day, it appears that Travis Thompson is here to stay.

Official Twitter

11. Forrest Goodluck "The Leading Man"

Has starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Sasha Lane.

Forrest Goodluck, Navajo, the star of Desiree Akhavan's The Miseducation of Cameron Post, is starring in five movies next year. The Albuquerque native — whose big screen debut was as Leonardo DiCaprio's son, Hawk, in the Oscar winning The Revenant also intends to continue his education with plans to study history at the prestigious Stanford University.

Goodluck's first acting experience was during a sixth grade production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at his elementary school: later he performed in stage and theater productions in middle and high school. At age 13, he auditioned for Native American director Chris Eyre's film Man Called Buffalo, which never made it to production, but did allow him to network with future casting directors.

Goodluck auditioned for the part of Hawk in the 2015 film when he was 15 years old. The Revenant was his first feature film role.

In February, 2016, he was cast to appear in a pilot for the Hulu drama, "Citizen" as Guero, a “wiry graduate of the streets who serves as the charismatic and bipolar leader of a group called ‘Baby Narcos.'” In November 2016, it was announced Goodluck would star opposite Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane in The Miseducation of Cameron Post.


12. Grace Dove “The Ingenue

Grace Dove appeared opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Revenant.

Grace Dove (born July 25, 1991) is a Canadian actress and television host, primarily known for her role as Hugh Glass' wife in the 2015 film The Revenant; as well as Ricki, a talented mechanic in the 2018 film How It Ends. She is Shuswap from the Canim Lake Indian Band in the Cariboo region of British Columbia.[2] She was raised in Prince George, British Columbia, where she attended Salmon Valley Elementary School. Her father was a filmmaker who took her on visits to Hollywood when she was a child. After graduation from high school, she moved to Vancouver to study acting at Vancouver Film School. At age ten, she landed a part as on-air correspondent of the Prince George TV children's show Splatterday. She has also worked as a co-host of the reality action/adventure TV show UnderExposed, and appeared in the short film These Walls. (2012). Dove said she went on many auditions after acting school before she landed the part of Hugh Glass's unnamed Pawnee wife. The Revenant's director Alejandro González Iñárritu did not audition her 'in the normal way' but "instead had some questions and a process that dug into who I was." she said. After she got the part, playing an emotionally demanding role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, she said she "had to go in there extremely open without any expectations. Just like the audition process and even the filming process, I didn't know what exactly I was getting into. I prepared myself physically, emotionally and spiritually to be as open as possible so I could take direction, feed off my surroundings, and feed off my relationship with Leonardo within the scene. Obviously it’s a period piece and so I was trying to connect to a layer of my ancestry as well

In 2016, The New York Times mentioned her as one of the 'lesser known faces' of the entertainment industry that the fashion industry has taken an interest in to promote new fashion.

Official Twitter

13. Frank Waln “The Rapper

Frank Waln or Oyate Teca Obmani (Walks With Young People) is a Sicangu Lakota rapper. His first solo album, Born Ready , was released in 2017, followed by The Bridge the same year. He has been awarded three Native American Music Awards and received five nominations, both alone and with his group Nake Nula Waun. Waln grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and first began listening to hip-hop as a teenager. Waln graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Audio Arts and Acoustics where he also received the Gates Millennium Scholarship


14. Jared Yazzie, Charlene Holy Bear, B.Yellowtail “The Designers

Jared Yazzie (Diné - Navajo) is an owner, designer, artist who has been producing artwork since 2009 to increase awareness of indigenous issues and to show the beauty of Native culture. He founded and runs OXDX Clothing which is a Native American owned business based out of Tempe, Arizona that specializes in graphic art, screen printed apparel, and cut'n'sew clothing.

OXDX Source

Charlene Holy Bear captivated the fashion community with her beaded vans. Earlier this year, Vogue ran an article about her beaded Vans, and since then, she's been flooded with requests for the custom shoes, which take about two weeks to complete. She's often stopped while wearing them, or shouted at across the street: "Hey, you're the lady who makes the beaded Vans!"

Holybear Instagram
C.Holybear Website

Bethany Yellowtail is a fashion designer originally from the Crow (Apsaalooke) & Northern Cheyenne (Tsetsehestahese & So’taeo’o) Nations in southeastern Montana. She is the designer and CEO of B. Yellowtail, and the B. Yellowtail Collective  a brand initiative which sells and promotes handmade, heirloom quality jewelry, textiles and accessories crafted by carefully selected indigenous artists from all corners of North America.

B.Yellowtail Website

15. Anthony Seigler “The Athlete

The New York Yankees selected Anthony Seigler (Navajo), an ambidextrous pitcher and hitter, as the No. 23 pick in the first round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft on June 4. He was drafted to play catcher and is currently playing in the Yankees' Gulf Coast League West team composed of Major League rookies. Anthony has recently been named as the American Baseball Coaches Association position player of the year as well. Of note, Seigler ties Jacoby Ellsbury (Navajo) as the highest drafted Native American MLB players. Ellsbury was drafted by Boston in the 23 spot in 2005.


16. Red Fawn Fallis, Amanda Blackhorse “The Activists

Red Fawn Fallis, Oglala Sioux, is an Indigenous Activist and water protector who was accused of shooting at officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline has been sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison.

Red Fawn Website

Amanda Blackhorse is a social worker and member of the Navajo people who is known for her work as an activist on the Washington Redskins name controversy. She is the lead plaintiff in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc.

Amanda Blackhorse SOURCE
Amanda Blackhorse Twitter

17. Aaron Yazzie “The Genius

Aaron Yazzie, Diné, earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. As a Mechanical Engineer with a focus on Planetary Sample Acquisition and Handling at NASA, Yazzie designs mechanisms for acquiring geological samples from other planets.

Official Twitter

18. Daunnette Reyome “The Model

Daunnette Reyome is a model who appeared on the pages of Teen Vogue and works as a speaker, motivating Indigenous youth.


19. The Bannock Brothers "The Comedians"

no title
The Bannock Brothers are a First Nations comedic duo comprised of Stephane Richard and Ryan Oliverius. Their instagram was recently featured on First Nations official account and they are aiming to take the comedic crown away from the reigning Native Kings of Comedy, the 1491s.


20. Inez Jasper, Brooke Simpson "The Singers"

Brooke Simpson finished third place of the thirteenth season on Team Miley Cyrus of NBC's talent competition, The Voice.

Brooke Simpson Source

Inez Jasper, also known as Inez, is a Canadian musician, whose music blends pop, dance, hip hop and traditional First Nations music. She is most noted as a two-time nominee for the Juno Award for Aboriginal Album of the Year, in 2010 for her album Singsoulgirl and in 2014 for her album Burn Me Down.

Inez Jasper Facebook

And for all those that are totally new to Indigenous media, here are some of the greats, who did not get a mention above (mostly because they've been around for a while) and you should/might already know them:

Adam Beach (Actor), Kiowa Gordon (Actor), BooBoo Stewart (Actor), Irene Bedard (Actress), Chris Eyre (Director), Shoni Schimmel (Former WNBAPlayer), Delanna Studi (Actress), Taboo (Musician), Wes Studi (Actor), YoNasDa LoneWolf (Influencer), J.Okuma (Designer /Activist), Steven Paul Judd (Deisgner), Radmilla Cody (Personality), Graham Greene (actor), Gary Farmer (actor/musician), Heather Rae (Producer), Sterlin Harjo (Director), Jacob Ellsbury (Baseball Player), Qorianka Kilcher (Actress), Tatanka Means (Actor), Tanya Tagaq (Artist/Musician), Trixie Mattel (Personality),  1491s (comedians),  Indigenous Goddess Gang (social media), A Tribe Called Red (band), Notah Begay (incredible golfer)

Bonus: more Indigenous fabulousness just added! Tasha Hubbard (Filmmaker), Cara Gee (Actress), Ruth H. Hopkins (Journalist), Matika Wilbur (Photographer),  Alex Lazarowich (filmmaker), Ivy MacDonald (filmmaker), Sarah Eagle Heart (CEO), Black Belt Eagle Scout (Musician), that band Honey (band), Allen Salway aka lilnativeboy (writer/social media), Ajuawak Kapashesit (actor), Tiio Horn (actress), Eric Schweig (actor), Jeff Barnaby (filmmaker), Beatrice Deer (musician), Supaman (hoop dancer), Acosia RedElk (jingle dancer, Ashley Callingbull (model/influencer/personality)

Tags: actor / actress, indigenous celebrities, internet celebrities, list, ontd original
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