Hanay Geiogamah

Hanay Geiogamah (born 1945) is a playwright, television and movie producer, artistic director, and Professor in the School of Theater, Film, and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was born in Oklahoma and is a Kiowa and Delaware Native American. He is a widely known Native American playwright and one of the few Native American producers in Hollywood.[1]

Hanay Geiogamah
Lawton, Oklahoma, United States
NationalityKiowa/Delaware Nation (American)
EducationAnadarko High School
Alma materUniversity of Oklahoma
Indiana University
GenreTheater, Movies, Dance
Notable worksNew Native American Drama: Three Plays The Native Americans: Behind the Legends, Beyond the Myths (TBS)

Early life

Geiogamah was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to a Kiowa father and a Delaware mother. He graduated from Anadarko High School and studied journalism at the University of Oklahoma.[2] In 1979, he enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington. He graduated in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in theatre with a minor in journalism.[3] Geiogamah also worked as the public affairs liaison for Commissioner of Indian Affairs Louis R. Bruce within the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Richard Nixon.[1]

New York and theater

In late 1971, Geiogamah formed a theater company at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York City's East Village. Initially called the American Indian Theatre Ensemble, the company was the first all-Native repertory theater company in the country. The company changed its name to the Native American Theatre Ensemble in 1973. The reason for this change "was complex but simple," the company explained in a 1973 show program. "Too many non-Indians who approached us during [our] tours [and] after performances... seemed unable to understand that we were real people, really alive and breathing, and that we were certified residents of the United States of America."[4] Geiogamah's first play with the company was Body Indian, in 1972, followed by Coon Cons Coyote and Foghorn (1973).[5]

The company went on tour throughout the 1970s, including tours of the United States in 1972, 1973, and 1974, and a tour of Germany in 1973.[6] Students from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, accompanied the company on their February–April 1973 tour, during which they performed at the University of New Mexico, the College of Santa Fe, Haskell Indian Junior College, the Walker Art Center, the American Indian Center in Chicago, the Smithsonian Institutution, Rough Rock Demonstration School in Chinle, Arizona, among other places.[7] A program from an earlier collaboration[8] between the two groups reads: "The E-Yah-Pah-Hah Chanters are... under the direction of Ed Wapp Jr. Their music is presented in both the traditional and contemporary American Indian forms. Songs are selected from the Plains, Eastern, Great Basin, Southwest and Northwest Coast areas of Indian Country."[9]

The University of Oklahoma Press published Geiogamah's New Native American Drama: Three Plays in 1980. The Native American Theatre Ensemble produced Geiogamah's final play, 49, in 1982 at La MaMa.

Geiogamah later formed the widely acclaimed American Indian Dance Theatre, which gave its first public performance in 1987 with Geiogamah as director and Barbara Schwei as producer. The 24-member dance troupe represented about eighteen Indian nations and toured both nationally and internationally. The dancers wore traditional costumes and the music was performed on traditional instruments made by the performers. The group made their New York City debut in 1989 in Manhattan's Joyce Theater.[10]

In 1990, the company was featured in PBS' Great Performances in the segment "The American Indian Dance Theater: Finding the Circle". The New York Times praised the company saying that the "hallmark of this company is its authenticity" with "serious artists conveying basic facts of their lives and cultures."[11] In 1993, the company was produced as a segment for Dances for the New Generations for the PBS television series Great Performances/Dance in America. Barbara Schwei and Hanay Geiogamah were producers and Phil Lucas and Geiogamah were directors.

Los Angeles, television, and film

Geiogamah served as producer and co-producer for the TBS multimedia project, The Native Americans: Behind the Legends, Beyond the Myths, aired on TNT from 1993 to 1996.[12] The program was a series of fact-based historical dramas and publications. Geiogamah was co-producer on "The Broken Chain", which told the story of the Iroquois Confederacy during colonial times, and also for "Geronimo" (executive produced by Norman Jewison).[13] In 1994, he was co-producer for "Lakota Woman: Return to Wounded Knee", and a year later he was co-producer for "Tecumseh", the story of the Shawnee leader who fought against the United States during Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812. In 1996, Geiogamah was producer for TNT's "Crazy Horse," about the war leader of the Oglala Lakota.[14]

In 2009, Geiogamah was co-executive producer for The Only Good Indian, an independently produced Western starring Cherokee actor Wes Studi.[15]

In 2010, Geiogamah joined co-host Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies for "Race in Hollywood: Native American Images on Film", a series that looked at positive and negative depictions of the Hollywood Indian.[16]

Geiogamah serves on the National Film Preservation Board established in 1988 as an advisory body to the Librarian of Congress' National Film Registry.[17]

From 2002 to 2009, Geiogamah served as the director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center and was a founder and co-director of "Project HOOP" (Honoring Our Origins and Peoples), a national, multi-disciplinary initiative to establish Native American theater in tribal colleges, Native communities, K-12 schools, and mainstream institutions.[18]


  1. Angela Aleiss, "Hollywood is a Tough Business: A Profile of Producer Hanay Geiogamah," Indian Cinema Entertainment, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Summer 1994), pp. 2-3.
  2. Jennifer McClinton-Temple and Alan R. Velie, Encyclopedia of American Indian Literature, Facts on File: 2009, p. 133.
  3. Johnson, Sue M. "Hanay Geiogamah (22 June 1945-)." Native American Writers of the United States, edited by Kenneth M. Roemer, vol. 175, Gale, 1997, pp. 101-104. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 175. Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online, Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.
  4. La MaMa's Digital Collections, "Program: Native American Theatre Ensemble's 'Coyote Tracks' and 'Foghorn' (1973)." Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  5. McCandlish Phillips, "Indian Theater Group: Strong Beginning", The New York Times, November 9, 1972, p. 56.
  6. La MaMa's Digital Collections, "Tour: American Indian Theatre Ensemble German Tour (1973)". Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  7. La MaMa's Digital Collections, "Tour: American Indian Theatre Ensemble US Tour (Feb-April 1973)". Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  8. La MaMa's Digital Collections, "Program: 'Na Haaz Zan' and 'Body Indian' (1972)". Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  9. La MaMa's Digital Collections, "Individual: E-Yah-Pah-Hah Chanters". Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  10. Jennifer Dunning, "American Indian Dancers Rekindle Their Heritage", The New York Times, September 17, 1989, p. H7.
  11. John J. O'Connor, "American Indian Dancers and Sammy Davis Tribute", The New York Times, February 2, 1990, p. C30.
  12. Angela Aleiss, "Making War Bonnets Old Hat: Native American Filmmakers are Forging into Hollywood with Projects Involving Real Human Concerns," Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1999.
  13. Patrick Kampert, "'Chain' Gives Native Americans Historical Due", Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1993.
  14. Turner Classic Movies, "Filmography for Hanay Geiogamah".
  15. Hanay Geiogamah on IMDb
  16. Turner Classic Movies, "Native American Images on Film Introduction".
  17. Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, Current Members of the Board at https://www.loc.gov/film/filmmemb.html
  18. Project HOOP, UCLA American Indian Studies Center

Further reading

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