By Marty Klinkenberg, Edmonton Journal
September 16, 2013
EDMONTON - Native actor Jimmy Herman, who rose to prominence with a role in the Academy Award-Winning film Dances with Wolves, died in Edmonton on Friday at age 72.
Born on the Cold Lake Reserve, Herman attended a residential school and battled alcohol before taking up aboriginal studies at Grant MacEwan College and going to work for the Native Counseling Services of Alberta.
In 1989, he decided to pursue performing arts and a year later was cast as a Sioux warrior in Kevin Costner's epic film, a portrayal that launched a distinguished career.
The son of a fur trapper who lived off the land in northeastern Alberta, Herman appeared in numerous movies and television programs over the last two decades, including a 10-year stint as Joe Gomba - a fur trapper - in the CBC series North of 60. He was also cast in the film Reindeer Games, had a cameo role in Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning western Unforgiven, played Geronimo in a made-for-cable movie and appeared on the X-Files.
In 2005, he was honored by Edmonton's Dreamspeakers Film Festival Society with a plaque on its Aboriginal Walk of Fame.
"Jimmy was a pioneer," said Murray Jurak, vice-president of the Dreamspeakers Society. "It was a shock when I heard he died.
"He was one of the first people to get involved in media and tell our stories and, despite all of his success, remained a humble guy. "He always stood with the First Nations community."
A father of two daughters with one grandchild, Herman had fallen ill for several months. He collapsed at home on Thursday night shortly after asking his wife, Shirley, to take him to the hospital, his brother, Jerry, said.
A viewing will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, in the same neighborhood where he worked to counsel other aboriginals who have fallen upon hard times. His funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Cold Lake First Nation.
"The thing that was most amazing about him was the path in life that he took," Jerry Herman said Sunday night. "He had many struggles, but he came a long way and made himself into what he had become."
An activist for native rights in recent years, Jerry Herman said Jimmy counselled inmates and worked with youth on the Cold Lake First Nation encouraging them to take pride in who they were.
"Everyone knows where he came from," Jerry Herman said. "He tried to tell young
people that if he could make it, anybody could.
"I was so very proud of him."
Born: 10/25/1930, Cold Lake Reserve, Alberta, Canada
Died: 9/13/2013, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Jimmy Herman’s westerns – actor:
Dances with Wolves – 1990 (Stone Calf)
Unforgiven – 1992 (train person #2)
Geronimo (TV) – 1993 (Old Geronimo)
Blind Justice (TV) – 1994 (Shaman)
Tecumseh: The Last Warrior (TV) – 1995 (Cornstalk)
Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (TV) – 1996 (Little Wolf)
Crazy Horse (TV) – 1996 (Conquering Bear)
Winnetou Returns (TV) – 1998 (Tah-Sha-Tunga)
Gunslinger’s Revenge – 1998 (Indian Grandfather)
Phantom Town – 1999 (attendant)
The Jack Bull (TV) – 1999 (Crow Indian)
Grey Owl – 1999 (Chief Pete Misebi)
The Claim – 2000 (miner #3)
Johnson County War (TV) – 2002 (Sam-the-Wolfer)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (TV) – 2007 (Yellow Bird)