In fact, they rarely portray Native Americans at all. Are we getting a subliminal message from our socially engineered society? It’s not politically correct to discuss such things, but someone needs to speak up.
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Image Above: Beloved actor and philanthropist, Pernell Roberts, had substantial Creek and Uchee Indian heritage, but he kept it a secret his entire life. Behind the scenes, he contributed generously to Native American causes, put many Native American young people through college and repeatedly pressured Hollywood to start using Native Americans to portray Native Americans. The reason that he left the popular TV show, Bonanza, was to participate in the March to Selma, Alabama. TV execs had threatened to fire him, if he took part in Civil Rights demonstrations.
Perhaps I am the only one to notice this, but the advertising industry has become a major force for social engineering in the United States and Canada, during the past 20 years. Virtually all major brand ads portray mixed race friends/couples/families or else large, happy non-mixed Latin American families.
For unknown reasons, you rairly see a Gringo/Latin American couple or family advertisements . . . even though such things are increasingly common . . . at least in Dixie. Certainly, I have done my part in the social engineering thing . . . three of the great loves of my life were lovely, intelligent Latinas . . . and my French soulmate, Vivi, is 1/4th Tamulte Maya from southern Mexico. Actually, all of my Native American DNA is from southern Mexico and eastern Peru, too . . . but my ancestors migrated to Georgia a long, long time ago. Britt-Louse Manson and Susan Karlson were full-blooded Swedish AND lawyers, no less. Bonding with legally blonde, brainy flickas shows especially great tolerance. LOL
You will now see a gay couple with children . . . a single Swedish-American celebrating at a Jewish holiday dinner table with his/her Semitic in-laws . . . a single Asian-American, eating spaghetti with an Italian-American family, etc. . . . but you will never see a Native American school teacher, medical doctor, military officer, professor, FBI agent, congressman or architect. So is the game plan of the secret puppeteers of our society that Native Americans disappear from the USA? That’s going to be pretty hard to do, with so many Southerners carrying Native American ancestry.
In fact, in the history of television in the United States, there have been only two persons of significant Native American descent in starring roles. They were Jack Webb (Dragnet) and Pernell Roberts (Bonanza – Trapper John, MD). Webb played a Los Angeles Police Detective. In Bonanza, Pernell Roberts played an architect* in the east, who returned home to help take care of the ranch.
*After graduating from Waycross High School, Pernell planned to become an architect, but flunked out his first year at Georgia Tech.
In his visits to Georgia, Pernell explained the concealment of his real heritage to home folks, who knew who he really was. He said that Hollywood stereotyped actors, who were anything other than native Californians or Midwesterners. He worked hard to get rid of his Southern accent so he wouldn’t always have to play dumb Southerners in secondary roles. Yes, that right, until very recently Southerners were always portrayed as being stupid and marginally educated. If he had admitted to being a Creek, he would have never gotten any roles much more than being a non-speaking extra . . . because Hollywood execs assumed Indians to be even dumber than Southerners.
That almost happened to actor Burt Reynolds, Pernell explained. Until a couple of years before his death, Burt Reynolds always claimed to be part-Creek, part-Seminole or part-Cherokee from Waycross, GA. Then he fibbed and said that he never lived in Waycross and that his ancestry was Dutch and English from Michigan.
You see, there were then still living in Waycross, some women, who dated Burt, while he lived with relatives in Waycross and attended Waycross High School. So, on paper, Burt only had relatives in Michigan, but in reality he did have relatives in Waycross, Georgia. Burt’s features were very different than his brother and parents. Was his real father, part Creek from Waycross?
Burt’s first job was playing a Cherokee Indian warrior on horseback at the “Ghost Town in the Sky” theme park near Franklin, NC. Then claiming to be Cherokee, he began playing a Cherokee blacksmith on the hit TV series, “Gunsmoke.” Then he played a Navajo warrior in the movie, “Navajo Joe.” He got his breakout role in the movie, “Deliverance,” by claiming to be part Cherokee again.
This I know for a fact. The author of “Deliverance,” James Dickey, was my English professor at Georgia Tech, while he was writing “Deliverance.” Reynolds was originally to play a “civilized” Indian from Atlanta in the movie. I personally saw Reynolds wearing a Seminole longshirt, while filming was taking place on the Chattooga River, but ultimately all references to him being a Native American were written out of the movie’s final cut.
Reynolds was only able to escape the “Native American” stereotype by playing a Southern Redneck in a series of movies. It was only much later in his career, when he began to be offered more diverse roles in the movies and on TV.
Pernell, we hardly knew ye till ye was gone
For most of Pernell’s life, I liked him as an actor . . . knew he was from Waycross . . . and knew that Burt’s father had intentionally dropped me head first on a concrete slab, when I was six months old. His father had delivered soft drinks to my father’s short order restaurant and one of his uncles owned an insurance agency next door to the restaurant. Eventually, Pernell’s father began working at the insurance agency. That’s about it.
Oh there was that night in Alexandria, VA in the Shenandoah Chronicles. PDA is acceptable at parties in France, but not in the Washington area. Our party’s hostess suggested that we relocate to the guest quarters, so “we could get to know each other better.” Vivi picked out the video of “Realm of the Alligator” starring Pernell Roberts, because she wanted to see where I was born and also had a long-time crush on Pernell. As a teenager, she had a poster of him on the wall of her bedroom and fantasized about being with him.
As we watched the video, she said that I reminded her of Pernell. I said it was because we were both educated Southerners from Waycross. I mentioned that the Roberts family did attend Trinity Methodist Church with my family and that both the Roberts cousins and I stood out because of our Creek Indian features . . . in a town where most of the white kids had blond or red hair.
Moving forward to the year 2006. Eighteen Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Lumbee professionals formed the People of One Fire to oppose efforts by some white female bureaucrats in the Georgia State government to alter Georgia’s history. They were trying to rebrand Etowah Mounds and Ocmulgee Mounds as Cherokee heritage sites.
After we began distributing a newsletter, one of the first people to subscribe was a gentleman, who used the moniker, “Gator Joe.” Because my skull was thickened from being dropped on a concrete floor as a toddler, his email address of “firstname.lastname@example.org” did not catch my attention.
A little later, Gator Joe began sending us small donations to support our research in certified checks, drawn on a bank in Malibu, California or a trust in San Francisco. That would continue until the fall of 2009.
About five weeks after I was evicted on Christmas Eve 2009, I received an email from California at a county library in North Carolina. It was Gator Joe’s secretary. She stated, “As you know, Mr. Roberts passed away recently. Could you please remove his email address from your subscription list?” I didn’t know, because I was living in a tent, but it still didn’t dawn on me, who this Mr. Roberts was.
In late February, my PO Box at the post office in Blairsville, GA received a large manilla envelope from a legal firm in San Francisco. It contained a brief message stating that Mr. Roberts had passed away on January 24, 2010 and that he wanted me to have this. “This” was a scrapbook put together by either Pernell or his secretary, which told the story of his life in photocopied photos, newspaper articles and letters.
I realized that our lives had been almost identical until age 18, when he flunked out of Georgia Tech’s architecture school and I survived . . . eventually making excellent grades in the upper level of the program. (3.85 average in graduate school!) We both loved exploring nature as soon as we could walk or paddle a canoe. In high school, we both were football stars, but played in the band the rest of the year. We both were also in dance bands as teenagers and loved to dance with the gals. After flunking out of Tech, Pernell joined the U.S. Marines, where he became a drummer in the U.S. Marine Corps band! I played the drums in the Navy ROTC band.
What surprised me the most were the copies of editorials and letters that he had written throughout his life concerning the manner that modern Native Americans were portrayed in the news media, advertising, television and movies. Yes, he had concealed his own heritage, but he had devoted his life to helping young Native Americans become educated professionals. He had written MANY editorials and letters within the entertainment industry, trying to stop the stereotyping of Native Americans and their virtual exclusion from the public’s awareness on TV and in the movies, plus in advertising images.
The notes of encouragement from Gator Joe, which accompanied his checks, really boosted my morale. If only I had kept them! In short, Pernell Roberts was a very good man and today, the City of Waycross is very proud to have been his hometown.
Now you know!
But did you know that Pernell had a magnificent voice . . . without any formal training? No wonder just hearing his voice would make Vivi the French Courtesan tingle all over.