Catawba Indians and ‘Pocahontas’ star announce film production partnership

Article by Tracy Kimball

Catawba Indian Nation film agreement

Irene Bedard and Bill Harris

Native American actress Irene Bedard is known for lending her voice to her craft.

As an advocate and one of the most recognizable Native American actresses, Bedard lent her voice as ‘Pocahontas’ in the animated Disney films, and now hopes to lend her voice and influence to the York County-based Catawba Indian Nation.

On Thursday, Bedard met with Catawba leaders to discuss a business partnership between her company, Sleeping Lady Films Waking Giants Productions, and the tribe’s production company, Red Heritage Media.

The two companies hope to collaborate on television and film projects with Native American themes, as well as documentaries and short stories, said Bert Hesse of Studio South, a media production company that is partnering with the Catawbas.

“It’s a great opportunity for not only the Catawba Nation, but for all of our storytelling capabilities, collectively – and then on top of that for the surrounding community as well, because it is going to bring a lot of revenue into the area,” Bedard told the Catawba leaders.

The Catawbas purchased Red Heritage Media earlier this year and hope to build a $350 million movie studio project on 124 acres of tribal land in eastern York County with Studio South. The plans include multiple sound stages, a “five-star” hotel, a new Catawba Cultural Center, a school for film and music, retail and offices.

“We are excited to hear of the future works of the Catawba studios and all the individuals involved,” Bedard said. “We are out here to endorse (the project) and to let people know that something like this in this area has the potential to create hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in revenue for this state and surrounding communities.”

The Alaskan actress told Catawba leaders that Native Americans need to “take charge of our voice” and tell the “many amazing stories, inspiring stories and stories of resilience.”

Bedard said for the most part Native Americans in films have been invisible.

“I have realized just how we’ve had this great stage to be able to tell some incredible stories and go into this little fire, this little television, or this big screen and see something through the eyes of somebody else,” she said. “It’s amazing and it’s powerful.”

Catawba Indian Chief Bill Harris and Bedard shared stories of non-Native Americans expressing interest in Indian cultures, but who are uneducated.

“I do believe people around the world will want to come and learn more about the Catawbas,” Bedard said. “People around the world, they love us (Native Americans).”

At the meeting Thursday, Harris spoke warmly with the actress once included among People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. For Harris, Bedard’s influence is not about her fame or beauty, but as a spokesperson for Native American issues.

“I think what’s far more important than the fact that Irene is an actress is Irene’s voice,” Harris said. “It’s what she brings to the world when she speaks about native country.”