Native Americans

The new film Hostiles tells the story of a U.S. Army captain in the Old West circa 1892. He's spent decades fighting Native Americans and seeing his friends killed, and he's ordered to commit an act of humanitarian relief. The bitter veteran, played by Christian Bale, is tasked with escorting an old Cheyenne chief, played by Wes Studi, back to his home valley to die.

In the film, Studi only speaks a few words of English. His character's most powerful moments come when he conveys meaning with a gesture or expression.

I grew up in San Luis Obispo, a small town about 20 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in central California. I was raised primarily by my grandmother, Anna Herrera. She was a very affectionate woman who liked to tell jokes and stories and take walks along the river behind her small house.

The life expectancy of Native Americans in some states is 20 years shorter than the national average.

There are many reasons why.

Jeremy Charles / Fire Thief Productions

“So much of its original identity is gone because of the Christianization that has happened. If you look around my house, every book that says Choctaw on it, anything about songs … it’s just Christian hymns being sung in the Choctaw language. There were definitely songs my great-grandpa was singing before they started singing whatever Christian hymns were being [sung].”

When he started working as a bartender a few years ago in Seattle, Howie Echo-Hawk says he began experiencing discrimination. First, a bar manager told him to get a respectable haircut.

"I had a Mohawk, which is the traditional style of my people and I wore it because of that," he said. Echo-Hawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.

Rather than argue, Echo-Hawk cut his hair. Then, a few months later, he broke his ankle and had to take some time off.

Ask students in the Mohawk Club at Massena Central High School whether they've been on the receiving end of negative stereotypes, and the answer is quick and sharp.

"We see that we're always the troublemakers or that we're bad kids," says Amanda Rourke, the club's president.

Member Mallory Sunday adds, "It's funny because they don't understand who we are as a people."

They and other club members live on the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation next to Massena, N.Y., on the U.S.-Canada border. One-tenth of the student body at their high school is Native American.

Updated Saturday at 9:10 p.m. ET

One morning earlier this year, Northern Arapaho member Rose was sitting at the table with her 14-year-old daughter, Latoya.

More than half of Native Americans living on tribal lands or other majority-Native areas say they have experienced racial or ethnic discrimination when interacting with police (55 percent) and applying for jobs (54 percent). That's according to new poll results being released Tuesday by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dennis Banks, a Native American activist who co-founded the American Indian Movement and helped lead the 1973 armed occupation of Wounded Knee, has died at 80.

His death was announced on Facebook, and confirmed by his family in a statement to The Associated Press.

Banks was Ojibwe and Turtle Clan, and his Ojibwe name was Nowa Cumig. He died surrounded by his family on Sunday.

Te Ata is about the true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a Chickasaw storyteller who was born and raised in the Chickasaw Nation. She became one of the greatest Native American performers ever.

TRANSCRIPT:

The film "Te Ata" tells the true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, who is considered one of the greatest Native American performers. And it was produced by the Chickasaw Nation, which started a film production arm to tell its own stories, as Graham Lee Brewer reports.

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