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Last modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Actress Tantoo Cardinal to speak at IU's Native Film Series on Feb. 20

Feb. 12, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Tantoo Cardinal, a widely recognized Native American actress who has appeared in more than 50 films, including "Dances With Wolves" and "Smoke Signals," will visit Indiana University as part of its third annual Native Film Series on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Tantoo Cardinal

Tantoo Cardinal

Print-Quality Photo

Cardinal will speak before a screening of the 2006 film "Unnatural and Accidental" at 6:30 p.m. in room 007 of Morrison Hall, 1165 E. Third St.

Carl Bessai's film is an adaptation of a stage play, "The Unnatural and Accidental Women," by Metis playwright Marie Clements. The murder mystery is loosely based on a series of deaths of native women in 1980s Vancouver and stars Cardinal and Callum Keith Rennie.

Born in 1950 in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Cardinal was the first child of a Metis woman named Julia Cardinal. She was raised by her maternal grandmother, and moved to Anzac, a small isolated rural community at the age of 4 or 5. Her grandmother, part Cree, part Chipweyan, and part Lakota, was one of the most influential figures in her life. Cardinal's step-grandfather was English. Cree was spoken both in her home and in the community, so Cardinal was exposed to both languages at an early age.

As a young actress, Cardinal began her career with a docudrama for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) and in productions for the Alberta Native Communications Society. She soon moved on to play larger roles in feature films. Her career developed during a time when native culture was viewed with suspicion by the Canadian government. In the mid-1960s, the Canadian Content Rule came into effect and led to an increased number of roles for Native American actors in Canadian film and television.

In addition to her appearances in the 1990 Academy Award-winning film, "Dances With Wolves," Cardinal had key roles in "Smoke Signals," the first motion picture with an exclusively Native American creative team; "500 Nations," an eight-part documentary on the Native Americans of North and Central America; and Sam Shepard's "Silent Tongue." Her other films include "Black Robe" and "Legends of the Fall." She also may be familiar to viewers of the TV show "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."

The theme for the series is "Contemporary Indian Life." Other films in the series are:

  • "Miss Navajo," a documentary about a participant in a pageant of the same name; and "The Gift," on Feb. 28
  • "Black Indians: An American Story," March 6
  • "Trudell," a profile of Native American poet, activist and spoken-word performer John Trudell, March 20
  • "Milepost 398," March 27 (Will include a reception)

All the film screenings will begin at 7 p.m. in room 150 of the Student Building, 701 E. Kirkwood Ave.

Series sponsors are the Native American Graduate Students Association, the American Indian Student Association, the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, the Office of Multicultural Initiatives and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.

For more information, send an e-mail to