Eric Schweig

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Eric Schweig
Born Ray Dean Thrasher
(1967-06-19) 19 June 1967 (age 47)
Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada
Occupation Actor/Artisan/Outreach Worker
Years active 1989-present

Eric Schweig (born Ray Dean Thrasher on 19 June 1967 [1] ) is a Native Canadian actor best known for his role as Chingachgook's son Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans (1992).

Early life[edit]

Schweig was born in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. He is of mixed race (Inuvialuk, Chippewa, Dene, German, Portuguese). He is the oldest of seven children, who were all adopted out as part of the Canadian government's failed attempt at assimilating Inuit and First Nation children into White society. Schweig's biological mother died of alcoholism in 1989. He never met her. "She didn’t drink a drop of alcohol until we were taken away," says Schweig. "We were part of the whole assimilation program—forcibly taken away, although my adoptive parents told me I wasn't."[2] Schweig was adopted at birth by an English speaking German-French family.[3] He spent his childhood in Inuvik until he was six, when his family moved to Bermuda. They later moved back to Canada.

"I eventually grew tired of living in a prison without walls and ran away when I was 16. What transpired between then and now has been a roller coaster of alcohol, drugs, violence, failed relationships, despair and confusion. Who am I? Where do I come from? Where is my family? Where do I belong? When life's mystery has been shattered by strangers watching over you, a lot of these questions are lost." [4]

Eric ran away to Toronto, Ontario, where he supported himself by framing houses. In 1985, he was part of the cast of The Cradle Will Fall, an experimental adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening produced by Theatre of Change at the Actor's Lab; this was his first experience as an actor. In 1987, at twenty years old, he was approached by a producer who suggested he audition for a role in the movie called The Shaman's Source (1990). With little formal education or experience he won the role. The film launched his career in the film industry.

Career[edit]

Schweig's numerous screen credits (over thirty) include his portrayal of Uncas in the epic motion picture The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Pike Dexter in the movie Big Eden (2000), for which he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Outfest film festival. In 1992, he was cast as Black Thunder in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation mini-series By Way of the Stars with Gordon Tootoosis as The Cree Chief and Tantoo Cardinal as Francoise. It was shot in Uxbridge, Ontario. He starred in Disney's The Scarlet Letter and Tom and Huck with Amy Wright in 1995.

Among his period film credits since The Last of the Mohicans, Eric became the famous Mohawk leader Joseph Brant/Thayendanegea for TNT's telefilm The Broken Chain (1993), playing for the first time the main character in a movie (Schweig met Wes Studi again for this motion picture). It was shot entirely in Virginia.

More recently, Eric Schweig has played the lead role in films addressing more contemporary issues facing aboriginal and Native American people: Skins (2002), Cowboys and Indians: The J.J. Harper Story (2003) and One Dead Indian (2006).

Personal life[edit]

During the 90s, Schweig began carving masks as a natural extension of his artistic expression. Since his childhood, Eric found he was emotionally and genetically pre-disposed to carving small objects out of wood (figures, kayak, etc.). Under the tutelage of artist Vern Etzerza, he studied traditional Pacific Coast carving before directing his talent specifically towards custom and traditional Inuit Spirit Masks, in collaboration with master carver Art Thompson.

His collection of masks are not only successful attempts to reconnect with his heritage and with Inuit art, but his carvings are also necessary labours of psychological resilience facing a traumatized childhood. As a disastrous consequence of this uprooting and abuse, Schweig struggled for many years with alcohol abuse. He has stated that Big Eden (2000) was the first movie in which he was entirely sober.

His fame as an actor gives him the opportunity to share his life's experience in numerous speaking engagements in Canada and the United States of America. He is able to make large audiences aware of aboriginal issues, including adoption, the foster care system, addictions, and suicide.

Schweig currently resides in Vancouver British Columbia. He is an outreach worker at Vancouver Native Health's "Positive Outlook" program.

Others[edit]

In 1993, he came in 5th on People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1990 The Shaman's Source Robert Crow
1992 By Way of the Stars (TV mini-series) Black Thunder
The Last of the Mohicans Uncas
1993 For Love and Glory (TV) Moses Moon
The Broken Chain (TV) Joseph Brant / Thayendanegea
1994 Due South (Pilot) Inuit Hunter
Squanto: A Warrior's Tale Epenow
Pontiac Moon Ernest Ironplume
1995 500 Nations (TV) (voice)
Follow the River (TV) Wildcat
The Scarlet Letter Metacomet
Tom and Huck Injun Joe
1996 Red River (TV) Napoléon
Dead Man's Walk (TV) Buffalo Hump
2000 Big Eden Pike Dexter
2002 Skins Rudy Yellow Lodge
2003 Mr. Barrington Samuel
Cowboys and Indians: The John Joseph Harper Story (TV) Harry Wood
The Missing Pesh-Chidin a.k.a. El Brujo
2005 Into the West Sitting Bull
It Waits Joseph Riverwind
Shania: A Life in Eight Albums (TV) Jerry Twain
2006 One Dead Indian (TV) Sam George
Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis (TV) Terry Doxtator
Not Like Everyone Else Tim Blackbear
Mr. Soul Steve Lonethunder
2007 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Gall
2009 Cashing In (TV series) Mathew Tommy
Blackstone Chief Andy
Kissed by Lightning Solomon "Bug" King
2010 A Flesh Offering Mishomis
Casino Jack Chief Poncho
2013 Maïna Quujuuq
Longmire Dolan Lone Elk

Awards[edit]

2000 : Grand Jury Award L.A. Outfest

Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film for Big Eden

Eric was also honoured on 9 June 2008, with an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Nipissing University, one of Canada's most highly regarded faculties of education.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mike Antonucci, "An actor's odyssey: Drinking, homelessness preceded movie success", San Jose Mercury News, 25 September 2002 [1]
  2. ^ , "Urban NDN" January 2009
  3. ^ Inuvik Drum
  4. ^ "Adoption Speech" 19 February 1999, Vancouver Inner City Foster Care Conference, (accessed 11 October 2009)

External links[edit]