History: Burt Reynolds portrays 'Navajo Joe' in film from 1966

Native actors are having trouble finding jobs in Hollywood today, a situation that has virtually remain unchanged for decades.

A film from 1966 highlights the difficulties. In Navajo Joe, the lead role is taken by Burt Reynolds, whose Indian ancestry has been the subject of dispute -- one account claims he is Creek and Seminole while others speculate he is Cherokee.

Burt Reynolds as Navajo Joe. Image from Jack Nilan

Reynolds also played an Indian character in Gunsmoke. In the television show, Quint Asper is described as "half-white, half-Comanche" -- or mixed-race.

The mixed-race angle is common in film and television -- actor Adam Sandler is portraying a "half" Indian in The Ridiculous Six. During a call into Native America Calling last week, Ricky Lee Regan -- who worked on the film -- said the character was raised by his Indian mother who later meets his White father.

Loren Anthony, a member of the Navajo Nation, who walked off the set of The Ridiculous Six in protest of its depiction of Native people. Photo from Instagram

Regan, who has defended Sandler and the film, noted that the cast includes Native actors like Saginaw Grant, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. But he also said Taylor Lautner is Native, another disputed claim.

Get the Story:
Navajo Joe (The New York Times 5/7)

An Opinion:
Alicia Fine: Adam Sandler And His Ongoing Race Problem (NYU Local 5/6)

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