Published on February 26, 2013 by Amy
Graham Greene (born June 22, 1952) is a First Nations actor who has worked on stage, and in film and TV productions in Canada, England and the United States.
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Greene is an Oneida, born in Ohsweken on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, the son of Lillian and John Greene, who was an ambulance driver and maintenance man. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario as a young adult.
Greene’s first brushes with the entertainment industry came when he was an audio technician for rock bands based in Newfoundland and Labrador, when he went by the alias Mabes. He graduated from The Centre for Indigenous Theatre’s Native Theatre School program in 1974, which was based in Toronto. Soon after, he began performing in professional theatre in Toronto and England.
Greene’s TV debut was in an episode of The Great Detective in 1979, and his screen debut was in 1983 in Running Brave. He appeared in such films as Revolution and Powwow Highway, as well as the First Nations, CBC TV series Spirit Bay.
It was his Academy Award-nominated role as Kicking Bird (Lakota: Ziŋtká Nagwáka) in the 1990 film Dances with Wolves that brought him fame. He followed this role with films and performances on TV series, including Thunderheart, Benefit of the Doubt, and Maverick, and the television series Northern Exposure and The Red Green Show. Greene also acted alongside Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in the 1995 film Die Hard with a Vengeance, where he played Detective Joe-Rob Lambert. He hosted the reality crime documentary show Exhibit A: Secrets of Forensic Science.
He co-starred as “Slick Sam” Nakai with Adam Beach and Wes Studi in the film A Thief of Time (2004) and Coyote Waits, both adapted from Tony Hillerman novels of the same names and produced by Robert Redford.
In 1992, Greene played the role of Ishi, the last Yahi, in the HBO drama The Last of His Tribe. He also appeared that year in the contemporary action-mystery film, Thunderheart (1992) playing Walter Crow Horse, a gruff, savvy local cop living on an Indian reservation.
In 1994, he began appearing as Mr. Crabby Tree in the children’s series The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon, for which he received the Gemini Award. In 1997, Greene suffered a major depressive episode, and had to be hospitalized after a police encounter. He recovered after help from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.
Greene was featured as Arlen Bitterbuck, a Native American on death row in the Oscar-nominated The Green Mile (1999). He starred in the short-lived television series Wolf Lake in 2001.
In 2005, he acted as the potential love interest of a pre-operative transsexual woman in Transamerica. He appeared as himself in a parody of the famous Lakota-brand pain reliever commercials, on CBC Television’s Rick Mercer Report.
In 2006, Greene presented the documentary series The War that Made America, about the Seven Years War (French and Indian War) of the mid–18th century in North America. In 2007, he appeared as Shylock in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of The Merchant of Venice as well as “Breakfast with Scot,” the first gay-themed film ever to receive this type of approval from a professional sports league (NHL).
In June 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, near the Oneida reserve he is from.
Greene provides the pre-recorded narration for the highly acclaimed outdoor drama, Tecumseh! in Chillicothe, Ohio, based upon the life of the illustrious Shawnee chief of that name. Greene portrayed the illustrious Sioux leader Sitting Bull in a short Historica vignette.
He was a guest star in an episode of the TV series Numb3rs, as a First Nations chief. He also guest-starred on multiple occasions on The Red Green Show as Edgar “K.B.” Montrose, an explosives enthusiast. In one episode ‘Red Green’ asks him what he thought of the movie “Dances With Wolves”. Greene’s reply was that “…the native guy (himself as ‘Kicking Bird’) was OK. Should have gotten the Oscar. But the rest of it was a yawn!”
Greene also made a cameo in an episode of Royal Canadian Air Farce. In the sketch, Jacques Cartier (Don Ferguson) has to go through customs, whose officer is played by Greene. When Cartier asks Greene if he was in that movie Dances with Wolves, Greene replies “yes”. Cartier asks his name and Greene says “Kevin Costner”.
He appeared in The Twilight Saga: New Moon as Harry Clearwater, Charlie Swan’s old friend.