Starring Red Wing!

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Starring Red Wing!

The Incredible Career of Lilian M. St. Cyr, the First Native American Film Star

504 pages
37 photographs, index

eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

November 2019

978-1-4962-1809-4

$32.95 Add to Cart
Hardcover

November 2019

978-1-4962-1559-8

$32.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

November 2019

978-1-4962-1811-7

$32.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The epic biography Starring Red Wing! brings the exciting career, dedicated activism, and noteworthy legacy of Ho-Chunk actress Lilian Margaret St. Cyr vividly to life. Known to film audiences as “Princess Red Wing,” St. Cyr emerged as the most popular Native American actress in the pre-Hollywood and early studio-system era in the United States. Today St. Cyr is known for her portrayal of Naturich in Cecile B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man (1914); although DeMille claimed to have “discovered the little Indian girl,” the viewing public had already long adored her as a petite, daredevil Indian heroine. She befriended and worked with icons such as Mary Pickford, Jewell Carmen, Tom Mix, Max Sennett, and William Selig.

Born on the Winnebago Reservation in 1884 and orphaned in 1888, she spent ten years in Indian boarding schools before graduating from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1902. She married James Young Johnson, and in 1907 the couple reinvented themselves as the stage personas “Princess Red Wing” and “Young Deer,” performing in Wild West shows around New York and beginning their film careers.

As their popularity grew, St. Cyr and Johnson decamped from the East Coast and helped establish the second motion picture company in Southern California, where Red Wing became a Native American leading lady in westerns until her career waned in 1917. After returning to the reservation to work as a housekeeper, she took her show on a two-year tour to educate the public about Native culture and lived out her life in New York, performing, educating, and crafting regalia.

Starring Red Wing! is a sweeping narrative of St. Cyr’s evolution as America’s first Native American film star, from her childhood and performance career to her days as a respected elder of the multi-tribal New York City Indian Community.
              

Author Bio

Linda M. Waggoner is an independent scholar specializing in Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) history and a Native genealogy and research consultant for tribes and museums. She is the author of Fire Light: The Life of Angel De Cora, Winnebago Artist.
 

Praise

"This lively biography pays long overdue tribute to a forgotten star of the silent era while celebrating Native American contributions to the motion picture industry."—Kirkus

“This life of the groundbreaking Winnebago actress, the first Native American film star, joins staggering research with a story full of ambition, courage, and true grit. Linda Waggoner’s smartly written book recounts the early history of racial representation on the silver screen before Hollywood became a household word. Her story of a talented Native actor, along with a vivid portrayal of the silent film era, make this a probing, satisfying, and utterly unique read.”—Philip Burnham, author of Song of Dewey Beard: Last Survivor of the Little Bighorn
 
 

“In this profoundly thoughtful biography, Linda Waggoner reveals how Lilian St. Cyr’s astonishing life as a performer and activist helped to shape Native identities in modern America. Waggoner’s deeply researched and carefully written account reminds us that if St. Cyr was best known as an early Native film star, she was also fiercely devoted to Indigenous causes and spent decades defending and promoting Native interests. This nuanced book recalls the enormous importance of one of the twentieth century’s most important Native women.”—Clyde Ellis, professor of history at Elon University and author of A Dancing People: Powwow Culture on the Southern Plains
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