"So many of the world's troubles can be solved by connecting to culture, by holding on to tradition." Rick Mora

My mother had me when she was 15. A child having a child. And we were Poor. I grew up in a shack with no bathroom, a wood burning fire. No neighbours for 20 miles. Crescent City was on the border of California and Oregan and we lived off the land (and there wasn't a lot to live on).

I never knew my father. His name was on my birth certificate, and that was pretty much all I knew about him. My mother said he was a hard-working man, which is a contradiction for me. He abandoned his wife and child. What good man does that? She was forced into marrying him by her mother.

When I was nine, I started to really see what was happening around me. Alcoholism and abuse was the norm. Every adult I knew growing up was alcoholic. I saw the behaviour of adult men with my mother and it left me feeling indifferent to men in the world, and I certainly had no idea how to actually be one. I was genuinely worried I would become someone like that. I was raised by women and that suited me just fine.

Being Indian was seen as 'bad'.. after all, European history depicted us as savages. Even my birth certificate said I was 'white'.. 'Native American' didn't even exist in the world of bureaucracy and official documents when I was born. Lets hope the apocalypse doesn't roll around and I have to explain myself in some strange line-up.

My rescue came in the form of an invitation to come to Pow Wow. It is exactly how you'd imagine: traditional headdress and regalia, dancing around a fire, drums and chanting.

I couldn't afford acting classes and didn't really know what acting was about until I got my first job. Even with modeling work, I was still essentially a poor kid with no prior connection to this world. Acting comes with rejection, I already knew plenty about that. But I didn't know anything about the business.

Why was I hurting myself? Why was I hating myself? Then it dawned on me: I was the 'token Indian'. The cardboard cutout of myself. I realised I had no real respect as a credible actor. I was the right skin colour and race, and that was it.

I needed to be saved from myself. My ego had separated me from my actual self-worth. I was beyond lost and had no idea who I was. I had been playing a stereotypical Native American Indian for 15 years without knowing what it actually meant.

My first Pow Wow felt like coming home. Overwhelming security, and identification. There was nothing token about me any more. This is who I am -- a Native American Indian man.

I've gone from being a kid who was kept away from his heritage (to be fair, my grandparents thought it was the right thing to do), to, just last year, NASA presented Saginaw and I with an award, recognising our contribution to Native American Culture for our work.

When I play a Native American in a film now, I know what that means.

We travel the world talking about our experience and connecting with Indigenous cultures. It is the greatest honour I can imagine. Our meetings with Indigenous Elders and community members in Australia have been extraordinary. Our experiences are almost identical.
Written by Rick Mora via HuffPost

Responses to "Native Actor Rick Mora Explains How Reconnecting to His Roots Saved Him From Modern World Troubles"

  1. LTAL says:

    So lovely!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Attending Pow Wow will definitely let you know who you are, what your are made of, and exactly where you belong. It is a grounding experience. Embrace each expression of our culture with your heart and soul; know thyself. Don't forget to reach out to those who are lost and help them place a foot on the right path.

  3. Unknown says:

    Your upbringing and your trials made you the man you are today. You were always worthy from day one. GOD chose this life for you because you were strong enough to handle all the trials that went with it. You are well grounded, and a messager of peace. Thank you for all you've done.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am not Native but I completely identify with your journey. Peoples' histories and their stories are so full of wondrous things but mostly they really do give one an anchor in this Universe. So happy you were able to do that - hope your energy spreads wide...

  5. You are Native American with the most beautifull Inner Spirit and an inspiration to alot of us

    .Experiencing hard times is a learning moment in your life which we all have gone through ,and it's how you use your knowledge to help yourself and others that count the most.You have managed your experiences well.You have come through the other side,and now guiding others ,through your Spirituality.And not only that your body image is so beautifull as well.Being in the UK I have my own Spiritual Room ,with your prints of your face framed .I love looking at your image ,and I know I'm drawn towards your Spirituality too.x

  6. cyndee 58 says:

    Sorry I'm not into Twilight, just heard about you a few days ago, Seems that your journey took a long time, mine too. You seem to have come to the truth in your life, I wish you the best.. always the best, keep working hard at making the world better and I will keep cheering you on.

  7. Heidi says:

    Your handsome to me and talented actor kick butt model keep up there get eat work that you do rick

  8. Unknown says:

    Have you written a memoir about your search in finding out who YOU really are as a person.... finally getting a full understanding about your place among the people within your heritage? Following and setting your path in this life. I'd love to read about your journey of finding self awareness and recieving the peace you longed for and knowing where you belonged spiritually, emotionally, ethnically...... your story can help others in their quest to finding out who they truly are just as you have done...... thank you for your time!

  9. Unknown says:

    I never could figure the white race other they had more toys. Did anyone ever let them know, you are not the superior race! Consider all mankind on this planet, there are many times over the lesser of all colors. Sorry the Indians did not have the most toys. It would have been an intesting turn of events for crackers. I being one.

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