Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 November 2019

'It's about time' says Wes Studi: the first Native American man to win an Oscar

The Cherokee actor and producer has starred in films including 'The Last of the Mohicans' and 'Avatar'

Wes Studi accepts his Oscar at the Governors Awards on Sunday night. AFP
Wes Studi accepts his Oscar at the Governors Awards on Sunday night. AFP

Actor and producer Wes Studi received a standing ovation last night in Hollywood, as he made history by accepting his first Oscar award.

The Dances With Wolves star became the first indigenous Native American actor to receive an Academy Award, as he was feted with an honorary gold statuette at the annual Governors Awards in LA.

Studi, 71, was one of four film veterans celebrated on the night, alongside David Lynch. Geena Davis and Lina Wertmuller, for their contributions to cinema.

The Last Of The Mohicans actor also made sure to pay tribute to his heritage on the night, noting that Native Americans have been under-represented in Hollywood.

"I'd simply like to say, it’s about time," Studi said on stage to rapturous applause. "It's been a wild and wonderful ride, and I'm really proud to be here tonight as the first indigenous Native American to receive an Academy Award. It's a humbling honour to receive an award for something I love to do."

The actor, who served in the US Army in Vietnam before turning to cinema, is also known for his roles in Geronimo: An American Legend, The New World and Avatar, in which he voiced the chieftain of a Na'vi tribe.

British actor Christian Bale (R) presents actor Wes Studi (L) with his honorary award onstage at the 11th Annual Governors Awards gala hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on October 27, 2019. / AFP / Valerie MACON
Christian Bale presents Wes Studi with his honorary award at the Governors Award. AFP

Studi, who has performed roles in his native Cherokee as well as English, is widely credited with expanding the representation of Native Americans on screen though, as his Hostiles co-star Christian Bale noted at the Governors Awards, more needs to be done.

"Too few opportunities in film have gone to Native or indigenous artists and we’re a room full of people who can change that," the American Psycho actor said, before presenting Studi with his Oscar.

With the accolade, Studi became the first Native American man and actor to win an Academy Award; Cree musician Buffy Sainte-Marie won an Oscar in 1982 for co-writing the music to Up Where We Belong from An Officer and a Gentleman.

The star has previously credited his earlier employment endeavours with helping make him a rounded actor.

"I had a life before getting into this business. A non-acting life," Studi told the Associated Press earlier this month. "And it turns out that life has served me well. I can connect with characters I play simply by referencing real life. It's been very helpful over the years to have experienced life outside of entertainment."

Updated: October 28, 2019 11:36 AM

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