Last year’s NAIA Powwow drew Native celebrities from world of art and film

By Albert Bender
Nashville, Tennessee (NFIC) 2-09

The 27th Annual Native American  Indian Association Powwow (NAIA) last fall drew  participants and spectators from far and near, but also famed Native American celebrities for the world of art and film, artist Dana Tiger and actress Irene Bedard.

“I was really glad to be able to come to this Powwow and NAIA really knows how to treat people and I also brought my kids art,” said Dana Tiger. She continued, “I had been to a couple of other powwows in the area in the summer and Tennessee has treated me really well. This is a good powwow and I came here to share my family history and my art and to see the art of all of the different tribes represented.”

Tiger is a famed Muscogee/Seminole and Cherokee artist who hails from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and she has a great family history to share. She is the daughter of the famously celebrated Muscogee/Seminole artist Jerome Tiger, whose work has had a colossal impact on all Native American art.

Although he passed away at the untimely age of 26, when Dana Tiger was only five years old, he left a tremendous legacy.

“My mom has told me that daddy was lighting fast in his art and could do 30 paintings in one day and he would work straight for three days in a row, day and night, when preparing for a show,” said Tiger.

Dana Tiger is a great artist in her own right. Early on she exhibited the vast talent she inherited from her father. Throughout high school and college, Tiger won numerous awards for her paintings.

At the age of twenty-four, she began pursuing art as a full time career. From the outset, her one-woman shows were sellouts, securing her position as one of this country’s foremost artists. Tiger is well known for her paintings depicting the strength and determination of Native American women.

In 2001 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame for her advocacy in art on behalf of Native Americans, women and children. Also, an endowed scholarship was set up in her name in 2008 at Oklahoma State University for American Indian students seeking a degree in the arts.

In 2002 Tiger founded the Legacy Cultural Learning Community, a non-profit organization, with the objective of making the arts available to Native American youth. Legacy provides art involvement including youth and elder camps where traditional foods are prepared to film production by 5th and 8th grade camera and technical directors, all with the goal in mind of preserving tribal heritages.

In reference to art and tribal cultures, Tiger remarked, “That art is our life. It tells the story of who we are, where we came from and where we are going.”


Another famed celebrity from the world of film, attending and performing at the NAIA Pow-wow, was the renowned Native actress, Irene Bedard, who is Inuit and Metis. Although Bedard and her husband, Deni, who was also at the Powwow, have been a band for four years, she is best known as an actress and has starred in over 42 movies and numerous television offerings. This was her first time at the NAIA gathering. 

“We came here to perform our music and to get the word out here to Indian youth and to be a part of  the effort of NAIA to raise funds for an American Indian Center,” said Bedard. “We also want to share Native culture with the community at large,” she added.

Bedard has founded an organization called Dream Potential for Native American youth.

“We have an organization called Dream Potential concentrating on the performing arts and our goal is to sponsor a one year preparatory course in those arts for Native American kids” commented Bedard.

Bedard provides an outstanding example of achievement to Native youth by her successes in the performing arts. She has won over 15 best actress and best supporting actress awards. Also, she has starred in such TNT movies as Lakota Woman, Two For Texas,  and Steven Spielberg’s Into The West. She was also in the cult classic Smoke Signals and many others.

Recently, she has had several films released including Tortilla Heaven with George Lopez and Elaine Miles (of Northern Exposure series fame). Additionally, Bedard has just finished the first year of the new Spiderman animated series, of which she is a regular.          

In the meantime, in an effort to reach out to disadvantaged and troubled youth, Bedard and Deni have recently finished shooting a documentary, an original song recording, a public service announcement and a music video facilitated by Raven, a youth mentoring program.

They are being assisted in the project by such prominent Native actors as Adam Beach, Wes Studi, Sheila Tousey, Elaine Miles and directors Chris Frye and Valerie Red Horse and musicians Keith Secola and Jim Boyd.

Bedard hopes to open the minds of Native young people and feels that live performances and positive films can accomplish this worthy objective. In her inspiring words, “Inspiration can change the world and that’s worth everything.”