‘Pocahontas’ performs at Pow Wow

Published 8:47 pm Thursday, October 30, 2008

AHOSKIE—This weekend the Roanoke-Chowan area had a brush with Hollywood.

The Meherrin Indian Tribe welcomed actress Irene Bedard at their 20th annual Pow Wow, which took place Oct. 24-26.

“I love meeting people,” she told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Sunday. “What makes it so fun is that you get out into the community and see old friends and meet new friends.”

She estimated she had met “hundreds, maybe even thousands” of people during her time at the Meherrin Pow Wow.

The 41-year-old actress, whose Indian heritage includes Inupiat and Northern Cree, was joined by her husband, musician Deni Wilson and their five-year-old son, Quinn, for the stay in the area. Bedard and her husband are two members of the band, Irene Bedard and Deni.

The couple is currently touring and promoting their music at arenas, venues and events all across the country.

At the Meherrin Pow Wow, Bedard performed songs from the band’s four albums.

Though Bedard has a musical talent, it’s her acting that has brought her the most notoriety.

Bedard, who originally hails from Alaska, has appeared in 43 movies, including Steven Spielberg’s television mini-series “Into the West,” “The New World,” “Tortilla Heaven” starring George Lopez and “Smoke Signals,” based on Sherman Alexie’s book, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.”

Perhaps her most recognized role was in Disney’s 1995 animated film “Pocahontas,” in which she provided the voice of the main character.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Bedard about acting.

She recalled some of her earlier work, including commercials for a Japanese bubble gum company and for the Bank of Alaska.

As a child, Bedard expanded her earlier acting experiences by joining a drama club.

Years later she furthered her education at the University of Arts in Philadelphia where she earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree. Bedard then headed north to New York City where she established a Native American theater ensemble.

Her break out role came in the television movie “Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee” in 1994.

“I love it…it’s the study of humanity,” Bedard said about acting. She continued by saying she’s loved every character and learning new things vital to each role, whether it’s about tribal heritage or different aspects of a character’s background.

With each new character she tackles, Bedard is mindful of her Native heritage and infuses it into each portrayal.

“There are so few representations of Native Americans (in entertainment outlets), I try to put into the character that she is Native American,” she said.

Being an actress has positioned Bedard to help American Indians not only in the entertainment sector, but through other ways as well.

In 2007, Bedard and Wilson began a program geared towards Native American youth, mentoring them through acting and music.

Bedard said she and her husband are in the process of setting up a non-profit organization that targets youth through documentaries and inspirational speaking.

Bedard encouraged everyone to attend Pow Wows, which feature a rich display of Native American culture.

“I just want to let everyone know that everyone is welcomed to a Pow Wow,” she said.

As for future projects, Bedard said she just finished filming “Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. She is also attached to future films “Kissed By Lightening” and “Country Club Cowboy.”