Wes Studi
Studi in 2019
Wesley Studie

(1947-12-17) December 17, 1947 (age 76)
Cherokee Nation
EducationTulsa Community College
  • Actor
  • producer
Years active1972–present
Spouse(s)Rebecca Graves
(m. 1974; div. 1982)
Maura Dhu Studi
(m. 1986)
RelativesJack Albertson (father-in-law)

Wesley Studi (Cherokee: ᏪᏌ ᏍᏚᏗ; born December 17, 1947) is a Native American (Cherokee Nation) actor and film producer. He has garnered critical acclaim and awards throughout his career, particularly for his portrayal of Native Americans in film.[1][2] In 2019, he received an Academy Honorary Award,[3] becoming the first Native American as well as the first Indigenous person from North America to be honored by the academy.

Studi has appeared in Academy Award-winning films, such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and in 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). Other films he has appeared in are Hostiles, Heat, Mystery Men, Avatar, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and the television series Penny Dreadful.

In December 2020, The New York Times ranked him #19 in its list of the "25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (So Far)".[4]

Early life and education

Studi was born into a Cherokee family in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, a rural area in Cherokee County named after his mother's family.[5] He is the son of Maggie Studie, a housekeeper, and Andy Studie, a ranch hand. Until he attended elementary 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] Wes appeared on the television show Finding Your Roots, which was aired on January 16, 2024. During the episode it was discovered that the name Eugene Philpott which was listed on his birth certificate was not his biological father. Through DNA research they were able to determine that Wes Studi's father was either of two brothers, Jess and Bobby Blair.[8] Also during that episode it was discovered his 6th great-grandmother was Nanyehi Nancy Ward, the beloved woman and political leader of the Cherokee.

At the age of 17, Studi enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and had his basic combat training and advanced individual training at Fort Polk, Louisiana (now Fort Johnson).[9] Studi volunteered for active service and went to Vietnam with A Company of the 3rd Battalion 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division,[10] where he served for 12 months.[9]

After his discharge, Studi became politically involved in Native American activism. He participated in the Wounded Knee Incident at Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973.[6] Studi stated in an interview that he first began acting while attending Tulsa Community College, after returning from his service in Vietnam. He had a role in the play The Royal Hunt of the Sun for the American Indian Theater Company.[11]


Studi promotes healthy living among Native Americans

Studi appeared in his first film, The Trial of Standing Bear, in 1988.[5] He is known for his roles as ruthless Native American warriors, such as a Pawnee in Dances with Wolves (1990), and the Huron Magua in The Last of the Mohicans (1992).[6][12]

A year later, he was cast with Eric Schweig for TNT's film The Broken Chain, about the historic Iroquois League that was based in the area of central and western 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.[2] In 1993 Studi had the lead in Geronimo: An American Legend.[13] He played the superhero Sphinx in the 1999 comedy film Mystery Men.

In 2002, Studi brought to life the character of Police Lieutenant 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. Some movie titles include "Skinwalkers", "Coyote Waits", "A Thief of Time".

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

In 2009, Studi appeared as Major Ridge, a leader of the Cherokee before the Native American removal to Indian Territory, in Trail of Tears. This was the third of five episodes in the PBS series We Shall Remain, portraying critical episodes in Native American history after European encounter,[14] part of the public television's acclaimed series American Experience, where Studi spoke only in native Cherokee.

Also in 2009, Studi appeared in James Cameron's Avatar. He played Eytukan, the chieftain of a Na'vi tribe, but did not have any dialogue in English. Studi played Cheyenne chief Yellow Hawk in a starring role in the 2017 film Hostiles.[15]

At the 90th Academy Awards, Studi introduced a tribute to military movies,[16] and gave part of his speech in the Cherokee language, of which he is a fluent speaker.[17] Studi is the second Native American actor to present at the Academy Awards. Will Rogers hosted in 1934.[18]

In 2019, he received an Academy Honorary Award, becoming the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar specifically for acting.[3][19] In his acceptance speech, Studi said: "I’d simply like to say, it’s about time. It’s been a wild and wonderful ride, and I’m really proud to be here tonight as the first Indigenous Native American to receive an Academy Award. It’s a humbling honour to receive an award for something I love to do."[20]

In December 2020, The New York Times ranked him #19 in its list of the "25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (So Far)," noting "Wes Studi has one of the screen’s most arresting faces — jutting and creased and anchored with the kind of penetrating eyes that insist you match their gaze. Lesser directors like to use his face as a blunt symbol of the Native American experience, as a mask of nobility, of suffering, of pain that’s unknowable only because no one has asked the man wearing it. In the right movie, though, Studi doesn’t just play with a character’s facade; he peels its layers. A master of expressive opacity, he shows you the mask and what lies beneath, both the thinking and the feeling."[4]

Personal life

After his studies, Studi taught the Cherokee language and syllabary and helped establish a Cherokee-language newspaper. He went into ranching. From his first marriage, Studi has a daughter, Leah, and a son, Daniel.[21] After this marriage ended in divorce, Studi left ranching and started to study acting; a friend had recommended it as a place to meet women.[2] Studi married Maura Dhu, and they moved their family to a farm near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the early 1990s.[2] Dhu is the only child of actor Jack Albertson. Wes and Maura Dhu Studi have a son, Kholan. Studi and his wife perform in the band, Firecat of Discord. Studi serves as honorary chair of the national endowment campaign of the Indigenous Language Institute in Santa Fe.[5]

Studi endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[22]




Year Title Role Notes
1989 Powwow Highway Buff
1990 Dances with Wolves Toughest Pawnee
1991 The Doors Indian In Desert
1992 The Last of the Mohicans Magua
1993 Geronimo: An American Legend Geronimo
1994 Street Fighter Victor "Iron Fist" Sagat
1995 Lone Justice 2 One Horse
Heat Detective Sammy Casals
1996 The Killing Jar Cameron
1998 Deep Rising Hanover
The Horse Whisperer Parks Guard
Soundman Terry Leonard
1999 Mystery Men The Sphinx
2000 Wind River Pocatello
2001 Ice Planet Commander Trager
Christmas in the Clouds Bingo Caller
Road to Redemption Frank Lightfoot
2002 Undisputed Mingo Pace
2003 The Ugly One Father Mike
2004 Echoes from Juniper Canyon Grandpa Voice
2005 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
Making 'The New World' Himself / Opechancanough Video documentary
The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy Himself / Presenter
2007 Seraphim Falls Charon
2008 Older than America Richard Two Rivers
2009 Avatar Eytukan
The Only Good Indian Sam Franklin Also executive producer
2010 Making 'The Last of the Mohicans' Himself Video documentary
2012 Being Flynn Captain
Call of the Wild Hatcher
2013 Sugar Bishop
Road to Paloma Numay
Destination Planet Negro Chief Bobby
2014 A Million Ways to Die in the West Cochise
Planes: Fire & Rescue Windlifter Voice
2015 The Condemned 2 Cyrus Merrick
2017 Hostiles Chief Yellow Hawk
2019 Badland Harlen Red
A Dog's Way Home Captain Mica
2020 Soul Counselor Jerry C. Voice
2022 A Love Song Lito
2022 Mending the Line Harrison


Year Title Role Notes
1988 Longarm The Ute Television film
The Trial of Standing Bear Long Runner Television film
1990 The Flash Roller Episode: "Sins of the Father"
1992 Highlander Sheriff Benson Episode: "Mountain Men"
1993 Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times One Horse 4 episodes
The Broken Chain Seth Television film
1994 The 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards Himself / Presenter Television special
1995 500 Nations (voice) 3 episodes
Streets of Laredo Famous Shoes 3 episodes
The Way West Voice Television documentary
1996 Crazy Horse Red Cloud Television film
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Scarface (voice) Episode: "Perseverance"
Promised Land Jesse Rainbird Episode: "Outrage"
Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western Himself Television documentary
2001 The Directors Himself Episode: "The Films of Michael Mann"
2002 UC: Undercover Armando Uribe Episode: "Hunting Armando"
Skinwalkers Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn Television film
2003 The Lone Ranger Kulakinah Television film
A Thief of Time Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn Television film
Coyote Waits Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn Television film
Edge of America Cuch Television film
2005 Into the West Black Kettle Episode: "Hell on Wheels"
2007 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Wovoka Television film
2008 Comanche Moon Buffalo Hump 3 episodes
2009 We Shall Remain Major Ridge / Warrior in Canoe 2 episodes
Kings General Linus Abner 6 episodes
Saving Grace Bobby's Dad Episode: "That Was No First Kiss"
2010 The Mentalist Joseph Silverwing Episode: "Aingavite Baa"
2011 Images of Indians: How Hollywood Stereotyped the Native American Himself / Toughest Pawnee Television documentary
2011–2012 Hell on Wheels Chief Many Horses 3 episodes
2012 In Plain Sight Chief Pierce Episode: "Reservations, I've Got a Few"
2013 Battledogs Captain Falcons Television film
2014 Killer Women White Deer Episode: "Demons"
2015 The Red Road Chief Levi Gall 5 episodes
SuperMansion Hawk Feathers (voice) Episode: "Puss in Books"
2016 Penny Dreadful Kaetenay 9 episodes
2020 Woke Spoon (voice) Episode: "Rhymes with Broke"
2021 Grey's Anatomy William Lawrence Episode: "Tradition"
Miracle Workers Chief Sleeping Bear Episode: "Oregon Trail: White Savior"
2021–2023 Reservation Dogs Bucky 4 episodes
2022–present Spirit Rangers Sunny (voice) Recurring role
2023 The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder Quannah (voice) Episode: "Old Towne Road Part 2"


  1. ^ Galbraith, Jane (December 14, 1993). "Q&a with Wes Studi: 'I Came Into the Business at the Right Time'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Carter, Kevin (December 22, 1993). "Actor Champions Indian Heritage". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Hammond, Pete (June 3, 2019). "Oscars: Governors Awards To Geena Davis, David Lynch, Wes Studi, Lina Wertmuller". Deadline Hollywood.
  4. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla; Scott, A.O. (November 25, 2020). "The 25 greatest actors of the 21st century (so far)". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Wes Studi". Native Networks. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Archived from the original on July 23, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c Beale, Lewis (December 16, 1993). "Wes ('Geronimo') Studi Wary of Political Correctness". New York Daily News. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  7. ^ "The Chilocco Annual, 1964" (PDF). National Archives and Records Administration.
  8. ^ Streeter, S. (2024, January 16). Fathers and Sons. Finding your Roots. episode, PBS.
  9. ^ a b "Wes Studi: 'A True Warrior'". U.S. Veterans and Military magazine. August 16, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  10. ^ Currey, R. (March 14, 2015). "Wes Studi: at the edge of courage". VVA Veteran. Vietnam Veterans of America. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  11. ^ Eaton, Kristin; Dean, Anna Holton. "The Road to Fame: Wes Studi". Tulsa People. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  12. ^ Carter, Kevin L. (December 19, 1993). "Yelling Geronimo! Wes Studi's film and TV roles allow him to walk in his ancestors' shoes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  13. ^ a b "WHA Winners". National Cowboy Museum. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  14. ^ ""We Shall Remain", 5-part series , American Experience". PBS.
  15. ^ Schilling, Vincent (January 18, 2018). "Native Actor Wes Studi Talks About His Role as Chief Yellowhawk in 'Hostiles'". Indian Country Media Network. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  16. ^ "Oscars recognize military movies in Wes Studi-led tribute". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
  17. ^ Hilleary, Cecily. "Native Americans Delight as Veteran Actor Speaks Cherokee at Oscars". VOA news. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
  18. ^ "Native American actor Wes Studi relishes rare Oscar invite". Associated Press News. February 28, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  19. ^ Saunders, Emma (June 4, 2019). "Oscar first for Native American actor". BBC News.
  20. ^ "Wes Studi Named One of the 25 Greatest Actors of the Century by The New York Times" https://nativenewsonline.net/arts-entertainment/wes-studi-named-one-of-the-25-greatest-actors-of-the-century-by-the-new-york-times
  21. ^ "Wes Studi". IMDb.
  22. ^ NY Labor 4 Bernie [@NYLabor4Bernie] (November 5, 2016). "Yuge crowd of NYers ready to march for #NoDAPL" (Tweet). Retweeted by Wes Studi [WesleyStudi] – via Twitter.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductees". National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved June 17, 2023.