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The Best (Only) Native Character

Who qualifies as "The Best (Only) Native Character" on network TV? John Redcorn of King of the Hill. See Indian Comics Irregular #119 for my thoughts on the subject.

King of the Hill devoted a whole episode to John Redcorn in April 2005. As Indianz.com reports:

NativeTV: Animated show tells Texas tribal gaming tale
Monday, April 11, 2005

It's not often that a television show accurately, and humorously, depicts Indian issues but that's what happened last night during an episode of the long-running animated series King of the Hill.

The Fox show, in its 7th year, has featured an Indian character since its second season. John Redcorn -- whose voice is provided by Jonathan Joss, a Comanche actor from Texas -- is an Indian massage therapist whose relationship with a non-Indian woman is known to everyone in their Texas town except the woman's husband.

The affair and the son it produced are the focus of most of Redcorn's plot lines but occasionally the show uses his Indian heritage to draw attention to Indian issues in a funny but factual way. On one episode, he filed a land claim lawsuit against the U.S. that was settled for a mere 12 acres. On another, when asked whether he celebrated Thanksgiving, he coolly responded "Once."

When Redcorn decided on last night's show to open a casino to promote his fledgling heavy metal band, Big Mountain Fudge Cake, Indian gaming became the latest issue to join the Hill archive. Considering that two tribal casinos have been shut down in Texas in recent years, the subject was rather fitting.

"Hello Brother Indian, I'm Henry Mankiller with the Tribal Gaming Corporation," says the bolo-wearing man who would become Redcorn's financial backer.

"You got my e-mail?" responds Redcorn. "Cool website."

"Yes and I hope you're enjoying your subscription to Gaming Nation," says Mankiller.

Indian gaming brings with it a lot of associated issues about blood quantum, culture and heritage and the show pokes fun at them. "Exactly what kind of Indian are you?" asks Redcorn's bass player. "I'm 1/64th Creek on my mother's side," says Mankiller.

The biggest issue, though, is the legality of gaming in Texas. When local authorities raid the "Speaking Wind Casino and Entertainment Center" the Tigua Tribe's casino is called Speaking Rock Redcorn can't believe what's happening.

"But we're on Indian land," he protests. "And that land is in Texas, where there is no Indian gaming," the local officer counters.

"Texas tribes traded their federal gaming rights for state recognition of their tribes," the officer adds. The courts have ruled that Texas tribes agreed to give up gaming in exchange for federal recognition.

Redcorn soon finds out that removing slot machines and other lucrative games from the quickly renamed "Speaking Wind Entertainment Center" no longer brings in the crowds. "Blackjack wins a stuffed lion!" a dealer says to an extremely disappointed customer.

Then he learns that "Brother" Mankiller isn't so brotherly after all. "Just stopped by to give you a friendly reminder you still owe us $32,000," Mankiller says, a rather small amount in terms of casino deals these days.

When Redcorn threatens to sue, Mankiller tells him "you'd spend years in the white man's courts fighting the white man's lawyers which we have a lot of."

The solution? Turn the place into a toxic waste dumping ground. "Not only have I failed as a musician, I'm going to have to destroy my own land my people's land," Redcorn laments.

But with the help of that clueless husband, Redcorn finds a new career as a children's entertainer. The old casino is quickly transformed into the "Redcorn's Land" family fun center and the gambling tables and the feather-wearing waitresses are put to new use.

"Yeah, when I first found Redcorn, he was in some go-nowhere Whitesnake meets White Lion meets Great White rip-off group," says a proud Dale Gribble, "but I recreated him as the Native American Raffi."

For my thoughts on this episode, see Indian Comics Irregular #127.

More on John Redcorn
Redcorn the horndog

The rest of King of the Hill
King of the Hill has explored Native subjects in episodes other than the ones featuring John Redcorn. Here are some postings on the subject:

King of the Hill in Newspaper Rock
Order of the Straight Arrow in King of the Hill
Straight as an Arrow in King of the Hill
Indians in King of the Hill

Related links
TV shows featuring Indians

Readers respond
"John Redcorn's son Joseph...counts as a second Native American character."

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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