Native talent among diverse group asked to join film academy

Adam Beach. Photo from Instagram

Actor Adam Beach, writer Sherman Alexie, producer Heather Rae and executive Joanelle Romero are among a diverse group of luminaries who have been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy produces the Oscars and has faced criticism for its lack of diversity. By extending invitations to a class of 683 artists and executives -- more than double the number from the year prior -- the organization has dramatically expanded the number of Native, women and people of color in its ranks.

Beach, who hails from the Saulteaux First Nation in Canada, was chosen for the Actors branch for his work in “Suicide Squad" and “Flags of Our Fathers." If he joins the Academy, he will help choose the nominees and winners in the Actors category.

Alexie, who is Spokane and Couer d'Alene, falls in the Writers branch and would also get nominating and voting privileges. He was selected for his work in the “The Business of Fancydancing" and “Smoke Signals."

Rae, who is Cherokee, was selected for the Producers branch. Her works include “The Dry Land" and “Frozen River."

Finally, Romero, who is of Apache and Cheyenne heritage, was invited as an Associate, a non-voting branch. She is the founder of the Red Nation Film Festival and has appeared in "Powwow Highway" and other productions.

Last year's class included Sonny Skyhawk, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the founder of the American Indians in Film and Television. He is part of the Actors branch.

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