Published on September 4, 2013 by Amy
Phil Lucas (1942 – February 4, 2007) was an American filmmaker of mostly Native American themes. He acted, wrote, produced, directed or edited more than 100 films/documentaries or television programs starting as early as 1979 when he wrote/co-produced and co-directed Images of Indians for PBS – a five-part series exploring the problem of Indian stereotypes as portrayed and perpetuated by Hollywood Westerns.
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Born in 1942 in Phoenix, Arizona, United States to the Choctaw Native American Nation, by his twenties Lucas was a musician in New York but giving up alcohol drove him to leave for Central America where he took up photography and work for advertising agencies. About 1969 Lucas also became a member of the Bahá’í Faith and contributed a song Mount Your Steeds, O Heroes of God! among other songs on an LP record re-released as a CD Fire & Snow. He also spoke at least one Bahá’í Conference (see links below). Lucas returned to the American West and took up filmmaking after surviving the 1972 earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua.
Acclaimed as the “foremost (Native American) film documentarian” by Hanay Geiogamah, a professor of theater and American Indian studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Lucas won some 18 awards or nominations from 1980 to 2003.
As recently as 2003 Lucas won the CINE Eagle Award for Vis à Vis: Native Tongues.
Lucas worked on popular media as well as covering issues inside the Native American community. Lucas played characters and served as a technical advisor on cultural content in popular TV series Northern Exposure (1990–1991) and MacGyver, as well as producing/writing/directing/editing many movies and documentaries. In 1987 he directed Honor of All about an Alkali Lake band of Indians in British Columbia who overcame decades of alcohol abuse. Lucas co-directed the 1993 American Indian Dance Theatre for PBS television series Great Performances/Dance in America. Also in 1993, Pierce Brosnan starred in The Broken Chain for TV and Lucas played a Mohawk character in a story about Iroquois’ in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Again in 1993 Lucas produced, directed and wrote Healing the Nation a documentary on efforts of Nuu Chan-NuIth Nation on Vancouver Island to break the cycle of sexual abuse in their community. In 2003 in Vis à Vis: Native Tongues Lucas brought together an Australian Aboriginal artist and an American Indian performance artist.
Lucas eventually moved to Issaquah, Washington, and taught film at Bellevue Community College in Washington for the last eight years of his life. He began an American Indian Film Festival there in 2003. He died in Bellevue, Washington, and is survived by his wife, Mary Lou, and five children.