Tantoo Cardinal, actress (born at Fort McMurray, Alta 20 Jul 1950). Tantoo Cardinal has created a number of memorable film roles in Canada and the US and has worked closely with some of the most important actors, directors and writers of recent decades. She is known for her strong film presence, the unspoken eloquence and depth of her performances, and her activism on behalf of the environment and against violence.
She starred in her first feature film, Marie-Anne (1979), filmed in Edmonton, and played Rosanne Ladouceur in Anne Wheeler's Loyalties (1986). For her performance in the latter Cardinal was nominated for a Genie Award as best actress and received the best actress award at the American Indian Film Festival and from the Alberta Motion Picture Industry.
Cardinal gained international recognition playing Black Shawl in Dances With Wolves (1990), opposite Kevin Costner and Graham Greene. Her other films include Black Robe (1991; based on the novel by Brian Moore), Mustard Bath (1993), and Legends of the Fall (1994) with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. In Silent Tongue (1994), written and directed by Sam Shepard, she played the title role. She received the best actress award at the American Indian Film Festival for her part in Where the Rivers Flow North (1994), with Richard Harris and Alan Bates. Cardinal appeared as Turtle Mother in Tecumseh: The Last Warrior (1995) and played a major role in Smoke Signals (1998). In the CBC miniseries Big Bear (1999), based on the novel by Rudy Wiebe, she played Big Bear's wife Running Second.
In the television movie Luna: Spirit of the Whale (2007), she appeared with Adam Beach and Graham Greene, and she was in the made-for-television Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis (2006) and The Englishman's Boy (2008). She played Auntie Apple in Georgina Lightning's film about residential schools, Older Than America (2008); it shows, according to Cardinal, not only the suffering but how we heal. Cardinal has been in several low-budget films by Vancouver-based independent filmmaker Carl Bessai, including Unnatural & Accidental (2006), Mothers & Daughters (2008) and Father & Sons (2010).
Cardinal has also had roles in several television series including Annie in Spirit Bay (1982-87), a recurring role as Snow Bird on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-95), and as Betty Moses on North of 60 (1993-97), for which she won a 1996 Gemini Award for best actress in a guest role. She played Betty Merasty in 22 episodes of Moccasin Flats (2003-06) and has also appeared in Shattered (2010), with Callum Keith Rennie and Molly Parker.
On stage Tantoo Cardinal was in Jessica, the adaptation of Maria Campbell's Halfbreed, presented at Saskatoon's 25th Street Theatre in 1982, and in Edmonton's Catalyst Theatre production of All My Relations, by Floyd Favel, for which she received the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award as best actress in 1990. She has also produced and appeared in Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues.
In 2006, she was added to the Dreamspeakers Walk of Honour during the 11th annual Dreamspeakers Film Festival in Edmonton.
For filmmaking as part of the First Nations community, Cardinal received a lifetime contribution Eagle Spirit Award from the Native Indian Film Festival in 1990, and in 1998 she received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award to recognize her work in theatre, television and film. She has been given an Outstanding Lifetime Achievement award from the Toronto chapter of Women in Film and Television (WIFT), and in 1995 she won the Sir Peter Ustinov Award from the Banff Television Festival. She also accepted the Sun Hill Award for Excellence in Native American Filmmaking in 2007.
Tantoo Cardinal is a founding member of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company. She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2009 and holds honorary doctorates from four universities.