Last Real Indians

A Last Real Indians Interview with Tatanka Means

By: Nicole Montclair-Donaghy recently interviewed accomplished actor, standup comedian Tatanka Means (Oglala Lakota / Omaha / Dine`) via telephone to discuss his current movie roles, business ventures, and recent shows with his comedy group, 49 Laughs Comedy.

Among his many accomplishments such as playing one of history’s most influential people, Crazy Horse, in the 6 part miniseries “Into the West.” Tatanka related the experience to playing the messiah, and that it was an honor to be given the role. When asked how he landed in acting, he stated that his first role was playing a stunt double in the 2004 film “Black Cloud.” That, ironically, was being shot in the gym in which he trained for the boxing career that eventually led him to more than 6 boxing championship titles.

Several of Tatanka’s current roles include indie film mockumentary, “More than Frybread.” The actor plays Buddy Begay, who, with 21 Arizona tribal representatives, convene in Flagstaff, Arizona to compete for the first ever Annual State of Arizona Frybread Championship (IMDb). The film received excellent reviews, and it was noted that Means is the comedic highlight of the film. Even more currently, Means co-stars in author Judy Blume’s book to film, Tiger Eyes. The book, written in 1981, is about a young girl coping with the death of her father. Then she meets Means’ character, Wolf. Their paths in life share a similarity. Tatanka stated that he was thrilled to work alongside Blume, and that he is proud of his current roles that portray his Native characters as modern everyday 21st century people. He would like that image to progress further away from the stereotypical ‘Hollywood Indian.’ Look for him in two new feature films that will begin shooting in May.

In April 2011, Tatanka was awarded the American Indian Business Leaders’ (AIBL) Entrepreneur of the year award for his original, self-styled clothing line, Tatanka Clothing. The clothing is designed to inspire cultural awareness with certain educational, inspirational, and motivational motives in mind. AIBL aims to increase the representation of American Indians and Alaska Natives in business; which is why he was honored to be given the award.

Means’ comedy group 49 Laughs Comedy, composed of Pax Harvey, James Junes, Ernie Tsosie III, and Adrianne Chalepah, most recently performed at Sitka AK, Saskatchewan Canada and Spirit Lake Casino in ND. The group is performing nationally, and can be seen at upcoming comedy shows at Wind River Casino in WY and Wild Horse Pass Casino in AZ. In production is the groups’ DVD, set to be released this year entitled, “By Any Means Necessary.”

Tatanka has taken his place in the business world with his multi-faceted endeavors and his positive outlook toward life compounded by Lakota virtue. He is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to any business venture. He left these words for upcoming entrepreneurs, “Don’t be afraid to hear the word no. Keep up your determination and persistence to achieve your goals and eventually you will hear the word yes. Positive thinking has been a part of our people’s way of thinking forever. It’s all a work out of the mind and brain. If you believe in that higher power, the great mystery, things will happen for you. You have to work for it.”