Wes Studi

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Wes Studi
Studi at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, December 7, 2008
Born Wesley Studi
(1947-12-17) December 17, 1947 (age 68)
Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma
Occupation Actor
Years active 1988–present
Spouse(s) Maura Dhu
Website wesleystudi.com

Wesley "Wes" Studi (born December 17, 1947) is an award-winning full-blood Native American actor and film producer from Nofire Hollow in the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma,[1] and who has won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Native Americans in film.[2][3]

He has appeared in Academy Award-winning films, such as Dances with Wolves (1990), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and the Academy Award-nominated films Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) and The New World (2005). He is also known for portraying Sagat in Street Fighter (1994) and appeared in the NBC series Kings and in Avatar (2009).

Early life and education[edit]

Studi was born Wesley Studi in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, a rural area in Tahlequah named after his mother's family.[4] He is the son of Maggie Studie, a housekeeper, and Andy Studie, a ranch hand.[5] Until he attended grade school, he spoke only Cherokee at home.[6] He attended Chilocco Indian Agricultural School for high school and graduated in 1964; his vocational major was in dry cleaning.[7]

In 1967, he was drafted into the Army and served 18 months in Vietnam. After his discharge, Studi became politically active and participated in the Wounded Knee Incident at Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973.[6]

He taught Cherokee language and syllabary and helped found a Cherokee-language newspaper. He went into ranching. After his marriage ended in divorce, Studi left ranching and started to study acting - a friend had recommended it as a place to meet women.[3]


Studi promoting healthy living among Native Americans in a CDC ad.

Studi appeared in his first film, The Trial of Standing Bear, in 1988.[4] He is best known for his roles as ruthless Native American warriors, such as a Pawnee in Dances with Wolves (1990), and Magua in The Last of the Mohicans (1992).[6][8]

A year later, he was cast with Eric Schweig for TNT's film The Broken Chain, about the Iroquois League based in present-day New York state. It was shot in Virginia. This was part of a group of productions shown over 14 months on TNT as its "Native American initiative", including three television movies and several documentaries. A six-hour history series was told from a Native American perspective.[3]

In 1993 Studi had the lead in Geronimo: An American Legend.[9] He showed a talent for comedy as the superhero Sphynx in the 1999 film Mystery Men. In 2002, Studi brought to life the character of Lt. Joe Leaphorn, for a series of PBS movies based on Tony Hillerman's novels set in the Southwest among the Navajo and Hopi. It was produced by Robert Redford.

In 2005, Studi portrayed a character based on the Powhatan chief Opechancanough in The New World, directed by Terrence Malick.

On April 20, 2009 Studi appeared as Major Ridge, a leader of the Cherokee before removal to Indian Territory, in Trail of Tears, the third episode of five in the PBS series We Shall Remain, portraying critical episodes in Native American history after European encounter.[10] The ground-breaking mini-series affirms Native history as an essential part of American history, and is part of the public television's acclaimed series American Experience. Studi spoke only his native Cherokee in his performance.

In 2009, Studi appeared in James Cameron's science fiction epic Avatar. He played Eytukan, the chieftain of a Na'vi tribe.

In Santa Fe, Studi serves as honorary chair of the national endowment campaign of the Indigenous Language Institute.[4]

Personal life[edit]

After an early marriage and divorce, Studi married again. He and his wife Maura Dhu Studi moved their family to a farm near Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 1990s.[3] They have a son, Kholan. Studi has a daughter, Leah, and a son, Daniel, from his first marriage.[11] Studi and his wife perform in the band "Firecat of Discord".


  • 1994, Won a Western Heritage Award (shared with cast and crew) for Geronimo: An American Legend (1993).[9]
  • 1998, The Dreamspeakers Film and Festival honored Studi with its Career Achievement Award.[4]
  • 2000, Motion Picture and Television Fund's Golden Boot Award.[4]
  • 2000, Artist of the Decade at the First Americans in the Arts Awards.[4]
  • 2005, The New World was nominated for an Academy Award.
  • 2013, Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers - Western Heritage Award, Oklahoma City, OK


Year Film Role Notes
1989 Powwow Highway Buff
1990 Dances with Wolves Toughest Pawnee
1990 The Flash Roller episode: Sins of the Father
1991 The Doors Indian in Desert
1992 The Last of the Mohicans Magua
1993 Geronimo: An American Legend Geronimo
1994 Street Fighter Sagat
1994 The 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards Himself/Presenter
1995 Lone Justice 2 One Horse
Heat Detective Lou Casals
Streets of Laredo (Famous Shoes) Indian friend of Pea Eye TV
500 Nations Voice TV mini-series
The Way West Voice TV movie Documentary
1996 The Killing Jar Cameron
1997 Crazy Horse Red Cloud TV
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Scarface episode: Perseverance
1997 Promised Land Jesse Rainbird episode: Outrage
1997 Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western Himself TV movie Documentary
1998 Deep Rising Hanover
The Horse Whisperer parks guard
Soundman Terry Leonard
1999 Mystery Men The Sphinx
2001 Ice Planet Commander Trager
Christmas in the Clouds Bingo Caller
Road to Redemption Frank Lightfoot
The Directors Himself episode: The Films of Michael Mann
2002 Undisputed Mingo Pace
Skinwalkers Lt. Joe Leaphorn
2003 Edge of America Cuch
The Ugly One Father Mike
Coyote Waits Lt. Joe Leaphorn
The Lone Ranger Kulakinah TV movie
2004 Echoes from Juniper Canyon Grandpa Voice
A Thief of Time Lt. Joe Leaphorn
2005 Into the West Black Kettle
Animal Creeper Voice
Miracle at Sage Creek Chief Thomas
The Making of 'Miracle at Sage Creek' Himself/Chief Thomas
The New World Opechancanough
2006 Three Priests Ben
The Making of the New World Himself/Opechancanough Video Documentary
The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy Himself/Presenter
2007 Seraphim Falls Charon
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Wovoka
2008 Comanche Moon Buffalo Hump TV
Older Than America Richard Two Rivers
2009 Avatar Eytukan
Trail of Tears Major Ridge
Kings General Linus Abner
The Only Good Indian Sam Franklin (main character) Executive Producer
2010 The Mentalist Joseph Silverwing episode: Aingavite Baa
2010 The Making of 'Last of the Mohicans' Himself Video Documentary
2011 Hell on Wheels Chief Many Horses TV
Images of Indians: How Hollywood Stereotyped the Native American Himself/Toughest Pawnee TV movie Documentary
2012 Being Flynn Captain
2013 Sugar Bishop
Road to Paloma Numay
Battledogs Captain Falcons
2014 A Million Ways to Die in the West Cochise
Planes: Fire & Rescue Windlifter Voice
2015 The Red Road Chief Levi Gall
The Condemned 2 Cyrus Merrick
2016 The Angry Birds Movie Terence Voice


  1. ^ McDonnell, Brandy (13 June 2014). "Wes Studi among 4 Oklahoma Film Icons being honored at this weekend's deadCenter Film Festival". NewsOK. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  2. ^ Galbraith, Jane (1993-12-14). "Q&A WITH WES STUDI : 'I Came Into the Business at the Right Time'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  3. ^ a b c d Kevin Carter (222 December 1993). "Actor Champions Indian Heritage". Philadelphia Inquirer (Orlando Sentinel). Retrieved 2010-12-12.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Wes Studi", Native Networks, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b c Lewis Beale (1993-12-16). "Wes (`Geronimo') Studi Wary Of Political Correctness". New York Daily News (Chicago Tribune). Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  7. ^ http://media.nara.gov/nrf/chilocco/the_chilocco_annual_1964.pdf
  8. ^ Kevin L. Carter (1993-12-19). "YELLING GERONIMO! WES STUDI'S FILM AND TV ROLES ALLOW HIM TO WALK IN HIS ANCESTORS' SHOES". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  9. ^ a b National Cowboy Museum official site, retrieved February 7, 2008.
  10. ^ We Shall Remain, 5-part series, American Experience, PBS. Note: The five-part series is available online for viewing at this website.
  11. ^ Wes Studi, biography, IMDB

External links[edit]