54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - second session, 2020


Anthony Allison and D. Wonda Johnson and Derrick J. Lente

and Melanie Ann Stansbury and Brian Egolf








     WHEREAS, Wes Studi embodies the definition of a Renaissance man; and

     WHEREAS, among his many roles, Wes is an actor, musician, activist, author, advocate of Native American languages, mentor and stone carver; and

     WHEREAS, Wes, who is of Cherokee descent, made Oscar history in October 2019, when he became the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar; and

     WHEREAS, the academy of motion picture arts and sciences presented the honorary award to Wes for "portraying strong Native American characters with poignancy and authenticity"; and

     WHEREAS, Wes's remarkable life has been a fascinating journey from his Cherokee boyhood to the rarified ranks of Hollywood's most respected actors; and

     WHEREAS, the eldest son of a ranch hand, Wes was born in 1947 in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma; and

     WHEREAS, Wes spoke only his native Cherokee until he was five, when he was enrolled in the Murrell home to attend public school; and

     WHEREAS, Wes later attended and graduated from the Chilocco Indian boarding school in northern Oklahoma; and

     WHEREAS, after school, Wes joined the United States army and was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia; and

     WHEREAS, stories of returning Vietnam War veterans moved Wes deeply, and with only twelve months of his six-year tour of duty left, Wes volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he served one tour in south Vietnam with the ninth infantry division in the Mekong delta; and

     WHEREAS, after an honorable military discharge, Wes returned home and became seriously involved in challenging injustices against Native Americans; and

     WHEREAS, Wes joined the American Indian movement and participated in the trail of broken treaties protest march in 1972 and joined hundreds of Native American activists on the march to Washington, D.C.; and

     WHEREAS, Wes also was one of the protesters who briefly occupied the bureau of Indian affairs building in Washington, D.C., and participated and was arrested with others while occupying Wounded Knee, South Dakota; and

     WHEREAS, Wes recognized he could channel his feelings into making positive changes and he changed course; and

     WHEREAS, Wes moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where he worked for the Cherokee Nation, helping to start the Cherokee Phoenix, a bilingual newspaper still in publication; and

     WHEREAS, Wes also began teaching the Cherokee language in the community and later attended Northeastern state university in Tahlequah, where he made further attempts to positively influence other Native Americans; and

     WHEREAS, after college, Wes ran his own horse ranch and became a professional horse trainer; and

     WHEREAS, in 1983, Wes began acting at the American Indian theater company in Tulsa, where he found both the adrenaline rush he craved and the cathartic release he needed; and

     WHEREAS, Wes credits his passion and multifaceted background for his powerful character portrayals that confronted and changed a Hollywood stereotype; and

     WHEREAS, Wes broke new ground and brought fully developed Native American characters to the screen, highlighting the success of Native Americans in non-traditional roles; and

     WHEREAS, Wes's professional stage debut was in 1984 with Black Elk Speaks; not long after, Wes moved to Los Angeles, landing his first film role in Powwow Highway and his first television debut in Longarm; and

     WHEREAS, in 1990, Wes portrayed a Pawnee warrior in Dances with Wolves and two years later landed the role of Magua in The Last of the Mohicans, the performance that put him on the map; and

     WHEREAS, Wes went on to play the title character in the film Geronimo: An American Legend, for which he won a western heritage award; and

     WHEREAS, in 2002, Wes brought the legendary character Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn to life based on Tony Hillerman's books Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits and A Thief in Time; and

     WHEREAS, Wes is universally recognized and admired for other unforgettable performances in Heat, Deep Rising, Mystery Men, The Only Good Indian and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and for roles in Avatar, Being Flynn and Hostiles; and

     WHEREAS, his television credits include Penny Dreadful, The Red Road, The Mentalist, Hell on Wheels and Kings; and

     WHEREAS, recognition of Wes's artistic contributions and talents has followed him throughout his career; and

     WHEREAS, in 2013, Wes was inducted into the national cowboy and western heritage museum's hall of great western performers; and

     WHEREAS, in 2006, Wes received the golden boot award; in 2009, he received the Santa Fe film festival lifetime achievement award; and, in 2019, Wes was inducted into the New Mexico film and television hall of fame; and

     WHEREAS, Wes is an honorary member of the board of directors for silver bullet productions, an educational filmmaking program benefiting New Mexico Native American communities; and

     WHEREAS, Wes is also an accomplished musician who plays bass and guitar in the band firecat of discord with his wife, singer Maura Dhu, primarily performing original music; and

     WHEREAS, Wes has also authored two children's books, The Adventures of Billy Bean and More Adventures of Billy Bean, for the Cherokee bilingual and cross-cultural education center; and

     WHEREAS, Wes is a skilled stone carver as well, working primarily in soapstone and other soft stones; and

     WHEREAS, Wes remains a passionate activist and academic, taking a national leadership role in the promotion and preservation of indigenous languages, working as a language consultant on films and acting as a spokesperson for the indigenous language institute; and

     WHEREAS, Wes and his wife, Maura Dhu, live in Santa Fe and have one son, Kholan, and Wes also has a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Leah, from a previous marriage; and

     WHEREAS, by his artistic example and mentorship, Wes encourages the next generation of filmmakers and performers;

     NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that Wes Studi be honored as the embodiment of a changemaker whose life work celebrates Native Americans as well as being an inspiration to all who advocate for equality and social justice; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this memorial be transmitted to Wes Studi.

- 6 -