Published on February 15, 2012 by Amy
Actor, musician, cultural activist and filmmaker, Gary Farmer (Cayuga) has played more than 90 roles in independent and mainstream film and television over the last twenty-five years. His critically acclaimed portrayal of the serene and philosophical Philbert in Powwow Highway (d. Jonathan Wacks) challenged Hollywood stereotypes and helped the movie to become a milestone in the history of Native film. Farmer’s performance garnered him a Best Actor award at the 1989 American Indian Film Festival. Other key roles have included Arnold Joseph in Smoke Signals (d. Chris Eyre) and the role of the spiritual Native American guide Nobody in Dead Man (d. Jim Jarmusch).
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Among his numerous awards he was selected in 2001 for the Taos Mountain Award recognizing lifetime achievements of an outstanding Native film professional by the Taos Talking Picture Festival. He has also won Best Actor awards in 1997 from the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco and from First Americans in the Arts in Los Angeles. He has played in both the film and television adaptations of three of Tony Hillerman’s novels, two directed by Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho). He was nominated for a Canadian Genie award for his portrayal of Fagin inTwist, the 2003 independent adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. He won critical acclaim for supporting actor in his role as Ted in The Republic of Love (d. Deepa Mehta). On the syndicated TV series Forever Night he played police captain Joe Stonetree and played a Native American leader at the White House in a 2001 episode in the West Wing. Farmer has also directed several popular short films, both independent and for television, and was the executive producer and a director of the APTN entertainment seriesBuffalo Tracks.
Farmer is widely recognized as a pioneer in the development of First Nations media in Canada and is the founding director of an urban Indian radio network, a major cultural publication, and a cultural festival. Aboriginal Voices Radio (AVR), currently broadcasts from 106.5 FM Toronto and streams at www.aboriginalvoices.com. AVR webcasts live coverage of Native events. From 1998 to 2000, Farmer led the Aboriginal Voices Festival, an annual film and art event in Toronto, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Aboriginal Voices, a magazine about indigenous arts published from 1993 to 1999. The magazine won First Place for General Excellence from the Native American Journalists Association in 1995 and 1998. As a result of his interests, from 2006 to 2008 he ran the Gary Farmer Gallery of Contemporary Art in Santa Fe dedicated to new work by Native American artists.
Farmer is an accomplished harmonica player and performs with his band Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers which have released two CDs, Love Songs and Other Issues (2007) and Lovesick Blues (2009). Farmer was born in Ohsweken, Ontario, on the Six Nations Reserve, and currently lives in Santa Fe.