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(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the cover of the pressbook for the Hopalong Cassidy adventure HILLS OF OLD WYOMING (Paramount, 1937) showing William Boyd and Chief John Big Tree. Chief Big Tree and his braves assist Hoppy in the villain roundup at the end.

Prologue and Read Me

A special thanks to Les Adams, Ken Jones, Ed Phillips, Ed Tabor, Minard Coons, Don Swinford, Jim Martin, Virginia Herrick, Dick Madigan and Curt Eriksmoen for input and images for this section of the Old Corral.

Regular visitors to the Old Corral know that the website is dedicated to the performers and films of the B western and serial genres.  And the time frame is roughly from the late 1920s through 1954 or so.  Visitors who come to this section of the Old Corral from Search Engine matches or other websites need to understand this.

Native American performers who began their careers on the big screen and TV in the mid to late 1950s through to the present are NOT included, simply because they are not part of the ol' cowboy film and cliffhanger.  Thus you won't find photos or info on X. Brands, who was with Jock Mahoney in the YANCEY DERRINGER TV show ... nor Pat Hogan ... or Native American performers in the Kevin Costner DANCES WITH WOLVES, et al.  If you want info on those performers and films, please go to the Internet Movie Database at:  You may also want to visit the Native American Actors / American Indian Actors Directory website at:

While I thoroughly enjoyed putting this section together, ye Old Corral webmaster was uncomfortable with the (lack of) information available on these performers.  That situation is not unique to Native American actors, as I have similar difficulties when doing profiles of the B western and serial "henchies", i.e., the members of the gang. I am also not an expert on Native American history and culture.

Our goal is simple - present some names and faces of these western and serial performers, and in doing so, recognize their achievements and longevity in film genres that faded into Hollywood history a long time ago. If we missed someone, we'll try to add them. If there's a mistake in name, dates, spelling, biographical info, et al, we'll fix it.

Also included in this section are many performers who were Native American pretenders and played Indian roles in movies and TV ... and real life. There's a special name reserved for them. It's "Pretendian".

Chuck Anderson

Click HERE to jump to the page with the biographies.

Wikipedia has a lengthy article defining the term "Pretendian" which "is a person who has falsely claimed Indigenous identity by claiming to be a citizen of a Native American or Indigenous Canadian tribal nation, or to be descended from Native ancestors." :

Or, continue reading about the trials and tribulations of Native American film performers ... and actors who were Native American "pretenders".

Return to the early days of movin' pictures. The fledgling film business was growing and movies were gaining in popularity. And the western was part of that success formula. Early films such as THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (Edison, 1903) featuring Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson (real name: Gilbert Max Aronson) were lensed in the wilds of New Jersey. But as their business grew, film creators determined they needed a brighter atmosphere with warmer weather, less rainfall, and locales that more closely resembled the real west. Labor costs were also significantly cheaper on the west coast. And film makers were also escaping license fees and legal entanglements with Thomas Alva Edison and his Motion Picture Patents Company, which held patents on motion picture processing and projection equipment. The end result - producers and companies migrated to the Los Angeles area ... and Hollywood was born.

Outdoor adventures such as the western needed a lot of supporting personnel - i.e., people to fill the many roles in front of the camera as well as those laboring in the background and periphery.  And the western United States was the place to find people who could wrangle horses, drive stages and wagons, and ride a horse at breakneck speed.

Real cowboys who earned a meager income on farms and cattle spreads discovered they could make more money - and be steadily employed - in the film industry.  Another group that received paychecks were those that portrayed the American Indian.  Some of these cowhands and Indians had already gained showmanship skills by working on the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch show and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

(From Old Corral collection)

When Tim McCoy was at MGM in the late 1920s, the film company went on location to the Wind River Reservation area near Lander, Wyoming to film WAR PAINT (1926). Above is a photo taken during the filming of the "Indians galloping across the Wind River".

That footage was used again in McCoy's END OF THE TRAIL (Columbia, 1932). And it became one of the most oft used pieces of 'stock footage' and can be seen in dozens of westerns and serials including:
THE SINGING VAGABOND (Gene Autry, Republic 1935)
PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937, 12 chapter serial)
OVERLAND EXPRESS (Buck Jones, Columbia, 1938)
ROLL WAGONS ROLL (Tex Ritter, Monogram, 1939)
OREGON TRAIL (Universal, 1939, 15 chapter serial)
PRAIRIE SCHOONERS (Bill Elliott, Columbia, 1940)
PIONEERS OF THE WEST (Three Mesquiteers, Republic, 1940)
LAWLESS PLAINSMEN (Charles Starrett, Columbia, 1942)
FRONTIER FURY (Charles Starrett, Columbia, 1943)
THE LAW RIDES AGAIN (Trail Blazers, Monogram, 1943)
THE SCARLET HORSEMAN (Universal, 1946, 13 chapter serial)
INDIAN TERRITORY (Gene Autry, Columbia, 1950)
APACHE COUNTRY (Gene Autry, Columbia, 1952)
SON OF GERONIMO (Columbia, 1952, 15 chapter serial)
BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL (Columbia, 1956, 15 chapter serial)
WILD DAKOTAS (Bill Williams, Associated, 1956)

There's a photo of the Shoshone Indian village and the Wind River area at Jerry Schneider's Movie Locations Guide website:

Pictured in the lower left corner of this pressbook ad is Native American and Olympic champion Jim Thorpe.

Note the ad copy: "... in the glamorous days when the Buffalo roamed the plain and the Indians went on the war path!"

Would never describe Indians on the war path as glamorous.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

The film industry rapidly matured and talkies arrived.  The inexpensive B western had been tweaked and Hollywood settled on a basic formula to fill six reels, roughly 55-60 minutes of running time - i.e., the good guy wore a white hat and rode a fine steed; there always seemed to be a doey-eyed heroine whose father was killed or was losing the ranch or her brother was in trouble; and the villain was a crooked lawyer or banker, a competing ranch owner ... or a band of Indians, on the warpath, and out to halt a wagon train, or the telegraph, or the stagecoach line.

The storylines which were dreamed up by the Hollywood script writers and producers were as fictional as the dime novels of the late 1800s - this was the "reel west", not the "real west".  A good example of Hollywood myth is shown in the above pressbook ad which proclaims:

"As a fighting captain of U. S. Cavalry ... in the glamorous days when the Buffalo roamed the plain and the Indians went on the war path!"

Who was writing this hogwash ... and who and why would anyone use the phrase "glamorous days" to describe Cavalry vs. Indians battles?

Additionally, the western and serial (and other films) included a significant amount of racial, ethnic and gender stereotyping.

The heroine in many of these oaters was little more than scenery - and her primary job was to scream and faint when the villain abducts her in reel five or six.

There was other stereotyping - i.e., unfair and unflattering portrayals of various racial and ethnic groups. Examples are Oriental Willie Fung and Black actor Fred 'Snowflake' Toones. Both did B westerns and were usually relegated to playing a comedy role as a cook, servant, etc.

The Indian was also a victim of stereotyping and often portrayed as vicious ... gave no quarter ... and was constantly on the warpath. They were also shown to be easily manipulated by firewater, trinkets and false promises and deals made by the unscrupulous villain, a white man. In many westerns, Indians weren't the instigators of the problems as much as they were tools used by the baddies to accomplish their nefarious goals. And in some films, the real Indians are wrongly accused of attacks which are carried out by whites who were masquerading as a band of rampaging warriors.

There were a few occasions where the Indian was given a positive and/or heroic role. A few examples: there was Hawkeye and his Native American helpers in the several versions of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS; Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) portrayed 'Tonto' in Republic's two LONE RANGER chapterplays of the late 1930s; when Ken Maynard exited the Monogram Trail Blazers series in the 1940s, Thunder Cloud was his replacement; and in THE COWBOY AND THE INDIANS (Columbia, 1949), it's Gene Autry, Jay Silverheels, Chief Yowlachie, Charlie Stevens, and others in a tale of Indians being cheated by crooked trading post owner Frank Richards and his gang. And we can't forget Jay Silverheels as 'Tonto' in the 1950s LONE RANGER TV show and the two LONE RANGER color films.

(Courtesy of Don Swinford)

Above are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) and Lee Powell in a green duotone lobby card from Chapter 11 of THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Charlie Stevens (as 'Breed') versus Johnny Mack Brown in the serial, THE OREGON TRAIL (Universal, 1939).

Among the worse stereotypes was the "half-breed". The Hollywood myth makers decided that no half-breed was ever good, and a casting call went out to Charlie Stevens, who played that role in dozens of oaters and chapterplays.

The biggest injustice was that most of the B western Indians who had pivotal or extensive speaking roles were not played by Native Americans.  Male roles were given to performers such as stuntman Yakima Canutt, Bob Kortman, Frank Lackteen, George J. Lewis, Nick Thompson and Rick Vallin, or black actor Noble Johnson.  Occasionally, the heroine/leading lady portrayed a Native American.  But that work was generally handled by established actresses, not Native Americans.  There's a photo below with Tom Mix's daughter Ruth Mix as the daughter of 'Chief Black Hawk'. In one of the other webpages, there's Joan Gale, one of the four Gale sisters, who portrayed a Native American and was the female lead to Tom Mix in THE MIRACLE RIDER chapterplay. And there's Jean Carmen / Julia Thayer as the rider of the paint horse in THE PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937) cliffhanger.

This occurred in higher budgeted films also - examples:

  • Cecil B. deMille's UNCONQUERED (1947) starred Gary Cooper and featured many Native American performers. But the Indians with dialog and screen time were Boris Karloff (as 'Chief Guyasuta') and Marc Lawrence (as medicine man 'Sioto'). Recall the scene in the village with Coop trying to rescue Paulette Goddard - and using his compass (and the compass arrow) to fool the superstitious Indian chief (Karloff) into releasing her.
  • Anthony Quinn was 'Chief Crazy Horse' in Errol Flynn's THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (Warners, 1941), and Quinn portrayed 'Yellow Hand' in BUFFALO BILL (20th Century Fox, 1944) which starred Joel McCrea.
  • In the 1936 Randolph Scott version of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, Bruce Cabot was 'Magua', Robert Barrat portrayed 'Chingachgook', and Phillip Reed was 'Uncas'.
  • Columbia also did a Mohicans film titled LAST OF THE REDMEN (Columbia, 1947). The star was Jon Hall and 'Magua' was played by Buster Crabbe.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is Tom Mix's daughter Ruth Mix (as 'Wa-No-Na'), and on the right is Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) in FIGHTING PIONEERS (Resolute, 1935), one of a quartet of sagebrush adventures starring Rex Bell, Ruth Mix and Buzz Barton.  On the left edge is Chief Standing Bear (1868 - 1939) (as 'Black Hawk') and on the far right is Guate Mozin (as 'Crazy Horse').

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Bob Kortman in Indian guise and carrying a tomahawk as 'Magua', the scowling, vicious Indian war chief in the cliffhanger THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (Mascot, 1932). Kortman was in his mid-forties when he did this early sound serial. Star Harry Carey is wearing the coonskin cap and buckskins. On the far left with the 'X straps' is Hobart Bosworth (as the 'Sagamore / Chingachgook'), and on the far right is Walter McGrail (as 'Dulac'). Other players are unidentified.

(From Old Corral collection)

THE LAW RIDES AGAIN (Monogram, 1943) was the second of the Monogram Trail Blazers series, and starred Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson.  Kenneth Harlan portrayed a crooked Indian Agent who is keeping promised cattle shipments from the Indians.  And he is assisted by B-movie vet Jack La Rue (as an escaped convict) and other Harlan henchies were Hank Bell, John Merton and Chief Thunder Cloud.  In the above lobby card and crop/blowup, Artie Ortego is top center wearing the full headdress and has his bow and arrow at rest.  Chief Many Treaties (Bill Hazlett) as 'Chief Barking Fox' is wearing the full headdress and is on the right. That may be Augie Gomez, aiming the rifle, at the bottom center of this lobby card. The other players are unidentified.

The sterotyping carried over into all kinds of films, not just the western.  Many writers and critics of the film industry argue that Hollywood had (and still has) a significant impact on the views and perceptions of generations of filmgoers.  I wasn't around during the silent days and 1930s - early 1940s.  I tend to agree that a constant bombardment of misleading, unflattering and untrue screen images and portrayals caused the film-going public to perceive that Hollywood's version of history and life to be accurate and true.

Our discussion on stereotyping and the Hollywood film is now over.  There are a variety of books and papers on this subject, authored by folks who are smarter and more knowledgeable than I.

Several of the performers who are profiled in this section are among my B western and serial favorites.  Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) is one. Another fav is Charles 'Charlie' Stevens - small in stature, he was always shifty and untrustworthy.  I always smile when I see Chief John Big Tree - and his kindly and weathered face full of wrinkles.  Two of his performances are etched in my brain.  Remember the ending of DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939), where Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert and the settlers are celebrating the defeat of John Carradine and the British soldiers? In the church, John Big Tree (as 'Blue Back') appears at the pulpit, smiling, and wearing the eye patch that belonged to the defeated (and dead) Carradine ... all in glorious Technicolor. And as 'Chief Pony That Walks', Chief Big Tree has a great palaver with John Wayne (as 'Captain Nathan Brittles') in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), and that John Ford directed movie happens to be one of Chief Big Tree's last films.

This section on the Old Corral is simply a tribute to the many Native Americans who toiled in the B-western and serial, circa 1929 - 1954 ... give or take a year or two. And I've included profiles on many Native American "pretenders". As we find new images and locate biographical information, we'll add to this section.

Some of the performers made a significant quantity of sound era films.  The following names and "in at least this many" film counts are from Les Adams' Prolific Performers page on the Old Corral.  The film quantities shown are sound era appearances - work in silent films is not included in the film counts.

Name Westerns Serials Features Shorts Total
ARTIE ORTEGO (Art Ardigan) 179 12 3 2 196
CARL MATHEWS (Cherokee Mathews) 161 7 1 0 169
IRON EYES CODY 102 26 10 0 138
AUGIE GOMEZ 70 16 1 0 87
MONTE BLUE 52 6 108 2 168
CHARLES STEVENS 52 9 64 9 134
CHIEF THUNDER CLOUD (Victor Daniels) 52 13 14 0 79
JAY SILVERHEELS (Harry Smith/Silverheels Smith) 44 4 8 0 56
CHIEF YOWLACHIE 40 6 17 0 63
CHIEF BIG TREE (John Big Tree) 29 8 5 0 42
JIM THORPE 26 7 18 0 51
JOHN WAR EAGLE 25 1 5 0 31
RODD REDWING 24 3 13 0 40
BILLY WILKERSON (sometimes billed as W. C. Wilkerson) 20 3 17 2 42
BILL HAZELETT (Chief Many Treaties) 15 7 0 0 22
SONNY CHORRE 7 2 6 0 15
MARIE CHORRE 2 0 0 0 2

Sound era film statistics above updated on 12/1/2002


The Native American Actors / American Indian Actors Directory website has information on various Native American film performers:

The Indian Actors Association was founded by Luther Standing Bear:

The Indian Actors Workshop was co-founded by Jay Silverheels in the early 1960s at the Los Angeles Indian Centre, with the support of Buffy Sainte-Marie, Iron Eyes Cody, and Rodd Redwing:

Website on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (Carlisle, Pennsylvania):

Barbara Landis has a website on the Carlisle Indian School:

Jacob Floyd wrote about Native American actors in his 2018 article "Negotiating Publicity and Persona: The Work of Native Actors in Studio Hollywood":

Info on the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Show can be found at:

The Library of Congress has info on the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show:

The Barrymore Film Center website has writeups on various film production companies that did silent films in and around Fort Lee, New Jersey. This was the film making "hub" before the studios migrated to Hollywood:

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