With the premiere of “Prey,” a feature film focusing on a small band of Comanches, a humanoid predator and French fur trappers, Comanche culture and history take a fantastic albeit fictitious journey into science fiction and horror. It’s one of the films to be discussed by guest speaker Dustin Tahmahkera, associate professor and Wick Cary Endowed Chair in Native American Cultural Studies at the University of Oklahoma, during “Cinematic Comanches.” Tahmahkera and his aunt, the late Juanita Pahdopony, served as consultants for the film to ensure that their culture was portrayed accurately.
The presentation, scheduled for Saturday, November 12, at 6 p.m. in the Shepler Ballroom, is open to the public at no charge, thanks to a Faculty Development Grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and sponsorship by the Lawton Arts Council.
A descendant of Quanah Parker, Tahmahkera will explore the cultural resurgence of Comanches today while reframing a distorted and defeated history of Comanches into a vibrant story of cinematic traditions, agency and cultural continuity. From early silent films featuring Parker descendants to 1950s Westerns inspired by Parker family history to new Comanche-centric films such as “Prey,” Tahmahkera argues that Comanche nationhood can be strengthened through cinema.
Tahmahkera, an enrolled citizen of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, is an interdisciplinary scholar of North American indigeneities, critical media and sound. He holds a Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University.
His 2022 book, “Cinematic Comanches: The Lone Ranger in the Media Borderlands,” is a cultural history of real and reel Comanches' performative work onscreen and off in the production of what Tahmahkera calls "Comanchería cinema." The book engages in a description and critical appraisal of Indigenous hype, visual representation and audience reception of Comanche culture and history through the 2013 Disney film “The Lone Ranger.”
He is also the author of “Tribal Television: Viewing Native People in Sitcoms,” which explored representations of the indigenous, including Native actors, producers and comedic subjects in U.S., First Nations and Canadian television and other media from the 1930s to the 2010s.
Tahmahkera is a scriptwriter and voiceover artist, film consultant, Indigenous film series curator, and documentary curriculum guide writer. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies and has delivered invited talks such as the Shaw Lecture in American Studies at Dickinson College. In addition, he has been featured on podcasts such as Eric Molinsky's “Imaginary Worlds” and has served on the Community Advisory Board of KLRU, the Austin-based affiliate of PBS.