Press

 1992 December 15th – TORONTO STAR

Who knew Hawkeye’s brother would blow star off the screen?

By Rita Zekas

Eric Schweig Toronto star 1992 1I knew the minute I saw Eric Schweig on screen for the first time in “The Last of The Mohicans” that he wouldn’t survive to the end of the picture. He was to beautiful to live. Call him “Walks With Cheek Bones”. We went into the movie theatre with lust in our hearts for Daniel Day-Lewis. Who knew? Schweig plays Uncas, Mohican son of Chingachgook and “brother” to Hawkeye (Day-Lewis). Sorry Danny Boy, but Eric just blew you off the screen. Hey you’ll always have your Oscar.

Schweig was not just a prurient interest on my part. I’d had calls from dozens of like-minded women who wanted to know everything about him. Primarily, whether he was married. He’s not. His other vital stats: Height: 6 foot 2. Weight: 185. Date of birth: June 16, 1967. Eyes: brown. Hair: NOT TO BE CUT. He’s very particular about that.

He was born in the Yukon to an Inuit mother and German father. We tracked him to his Vancouver agent Deidre Sam, who said the interest in him was staggering. Eric Scweig fan clubs were springing up all over. Sam had been finding a score of movie offers. Schweig, she said was in Atlanta filming the CBS pilot, Shenandoah. He’d phone me, she promised.

We didn’t hold our breath. One week went by, two, three……Finally, on Friday, the last day of the shoot, he called. He’d just wrapped and was checking out in the morning. We knew he could cover his tracks well. Schweig dismissed all the female adulation as “ridiculous, it’s nuts. There has been some outrageous fan mail. If it all went away, it’s okay. I’d go back to houseframing. I’m happy up, down or all around.” He’s only been acting for six years, “before Mohicans, on and off.” He’d done TV commercials, a Glass Tiger video, and limited theatre work: he played Shaman in a Theatre of Change production of The Cradle Will Fall. “I’m from Inuvik. Five or six years ago, this guy walked up to me on the street and gave me this card. He said I should come in and audition for a low-budget flick called The Shaman Source. “We need an Indian Dude”, he said. I got it. Then I got an agent. I did extra work in Vancouver-I like to be around the process (of filmmaking). I don’t hobnob or do parties or do coke. I just go to LA to do business.”

Mohicans came about through the usual casting cattle call. They saw him on videotape, and he flew to Los Angeles then a call back to North Carolina, where it was shot. “It was a hard shoot for everyone. It was long, almost five months of principal photography, a nightmare for the crew. We called the (director) Michael Mann, “Michael Maniac” by the end of the shoot. Sometimes he wouldn’t call lunch until we’d been shooting for 10 hours. We’d rebel.”

He didn’t particularly bond with Lewis. “Daniel Day is an introvert, he’s sort of nondescript. He does his job and then leaves. I liked the cast.” Since Mohicans, he has done the TV movie Lucas B and Broken Chain, a TV movie shot in Richmond, Va., for TNT in which he plays Joseph Brandt. “It’s about the Mohawk and Six Nations Confederacy. Graham Greene plays Peacemaker, whom my younger brother sees in a vision.” In Shenandoah, he plays Moses Moon, out to avenge his ancestors’ deaths at the hands of the Blue Coats. “One speech is, “listening to my daddy talk about my grandaddy, who the Blue Coats killed. They killed 4,000 Cherokees. I manage to come out of this pilot alive-I’m the only cast member without a gunshot wound.”

He’s off to Russia in February to do a movie about wolves.” I didn’t even have to know anything else about it, I’m going.” Russia in February. Brrrrrrrr. “I, m used to it, I was born in the same latitude.” He’s enthusiastic about playing the lead in One Hawk Moon Rises, the Stephen J. Cannell series he’s up for. “I’m sick of period pieces. I’d play an undercover Indian cop; I can keep my hair long and run around with a .44 and not be running around the bush with a buckskin. I won’t cut my hair, I’ve been growing it for eight years. For Shenandoah, I had to sit in a chair for hours having a bald cap applied.” Schweig had his own fledgling production company, Eat the Rich Company Productions. “When I was 6 or 7 months old, I was put up for adoption and I got brutal white (adoptive) parents.When you’re raised like taht, you understand ignorance and arrogance so I got involved with the Canadian Alliance and Solidarity for Native People. I hang out with outlaws, people from the American Indian movement. I’m sick of going into a 7-Eleven and having white moms grab their kids and circle around, scared I might steal their kids and eat them.

I can’t correct every bonehead that said anything denigrating. I’d be fighting all day. Some people come up and ask, ” Are you playing an Indian?” No, I’m playing a person. As long as there are Euro-American filmmakers, “Indian people can call them that”, as long as the producers are Euro-Americans and so is the audience, there will be emphasis on brutal violence like in Mohicans. Dances With Wolves was a little calmer. I want the audience to see Indians through my eyes. People have to see that Indian people can cry, laugh, drive around in a Mercedes, can wear midnight black Armani suits and still maintain their spirituality.”

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1993 October 13th – CARIBOO OBSERVER

Wishing upon a star People 13 octobre 1993 page B7

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1993 – INUVIK DRUM

Eric Schweig with flowersFlorence Raddi never realized she had a cousin who was a rising movie star. But last week, when she met Eric Schweig from the “Last of the Mohicans”, there was no question in her mind. He was her cousin. “ He looks like my uncle”, she said shortly after coming face to face with Schweig in the Brass Rail Lounge. Raddi was just one of several relatives who Schweig met for the first time. He left Inuvik at the age of six with his adoptive parents almost 20 years ago. Schweig was the natural son of former Inuvik and Yellowknife resident Margaret Thrasher.

The name given to him at birth was Ray Thrasher. But at 6 months, he was adopted by a German father and French mother. His father was in the Navy and they moved from Inuvik to Bermuda. Schweig said his adoptive grandmother told him who his birth mother was. Than one day in Vancouver,where he now lives, he met Willie Thrasher on the street.The two got talking and before long Schweig realized he must be related to Thrasher. He said Thrasher hooked him up with his Aunt Agnes in Williams Lake, B.C. in the hopes of finding his mother. But three days later,his birth mother died and he was too late.

Schweig said he had a strange feeling that he might never meet his mother after a dream he had when he was 18. In the dream he was walking towards a house where he could see a woman that he knew was his mother but when he was 5 feet from the open door it slammed shut. “I was crying when I woke up..it was so vivid”, Schweig said. He doesn’t know much about his mother but he has been told of her fondness for alcohol and that she looked after the homeless people in Yellowknife. “I would have liked to have met her’, Schweig said. He said the stories he has heard about her haven’t disappointed him.

Schweig hasn’t found any of his brothers or sisters yet but he thinks if he keeps telling his story one of them are sure to hear it and get in touch with him. And while he will never meet his mother, last week’s return trip to Inuvik for Peter Gzowksi’s Golf Tournament gave Schweig a chance to meet relatives and re-live some memories. After almost two decades,the trip back sparked some memories for Schweig, now 25. The memories are mostly of buildings such as the Igloo Church and Large Family Hall. “It’s strange, it’s like being in a new place”, said Schweig.”But some things are familiar.” One memory the return visit sparked was his first, and only day, at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school. “I was only there about two minutes and jumped on my desk and broke it”, laughed Schweig.”The teacher saw it and sent me home.

” Last week’s trip also roused a desire to spend time in the region meeting his relatives, learning about the Inuvialuit and spending time on the land. Schweig admitted his knowledge about the Inuvialuit is limited to what he has read in books.That is why he wants to come back soon so he can find out” what I am and where I come from”. “It’s like reading about a roller coaster”, he explained. “it’s a lot more fun to ride it (than read about it.)” Schweig, an Inuvialuit beneficiary, said he is getting the information on enrolling under the claim but doesn’t want any financial benefits. He’d rather that go to someone who needs it.” I try to be self-sufficient.

” Schweig spent much of his childhood north of Toronto.When he was 16 years old Schweig left home and headed for Toronto. That is where he got his first start as an actor. He was walking down the street and a guy told him a producer was looking for Indians to act in a low-budget film. Schweig, figuring he could act, went in and then landed the lead in the picture. After that movie he got a video tape of his best scenes, found himself an agent and eventually wound up in the Last of the Mohicans. His role as Uncas,the lead’s brother, in that movie was his big break.But Schweig said acting isn’t his life. “ I’m not a career-oriented person”, explained Schweig.” I just do it for fun like my roller-bladeing.

” He was heading for Los Angeles,after spending the night in Edmonton Friday,where he was scheduled to do a voice-over for an animated feature. Schweig said he has several different options right now and expects to be busy in late spring.

Inuvik Drum Online

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1993 – PEOPLE MAGAZINE

A 25-year-old bachelor laments, “I’ve only been in love once. My heart was broken bad. I had to move across the country so I wouldn’t bang on her door crying at 3 in the morning. Now my goal is to be a hermit. I love dogs. They don’t shout.”

Dear Bachelor: Buck up. As Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans, you gave Daniel Day-Lewis a run for the heartthrob money. Critics crowed—one called you “the quietly magnetic Eric Schweig”—while female filmgoers were riveted by your ebony mane and fierce, fine-boned sensuality. Growing up in the Canadian Northwest, a half Inuit adopted into a white family, you may have been, as you say, “really awkward, the only person with dark skin in the public school.” And, you woefully recall, “the girls made wide circles to avoid me.” But that was then, this is now. Women are circling your Vancouver apartment, and with featured roles in Elysian Fields, airing May 22 on CBS, and TNT’s The Broken Chain, due in December, they’re likely to linger. Cutting off your shoulder-length hair, as some directors have requested, would be, you say, “like cutting off an arm.” Then, by all means, leave your locks long. Just unlock your heart…but not your door.

Source : People Magazine

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1993 – PREMIERE MAGAZINE

“The Broken Chain” is the story of conflicting allegiances between two friends (played by Eric Schweig and J.C. Whiteshirt) in the Iroquois Confederacy.”It’s told from the point of view of the Native American characters”,says co-star Wes Studi,” not the white ones.” You may remember Schweig from “The Last of the Mohicans” , in which he played Daniel Day Lewis”s brother and was consequently named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.”I don’t know what that did for me,”says the actor( whose name comes from his German adoptive parents),”except give people the impression that my ego can be inflated by shit like that!.” Schweig praises THE BROKEN CHAIN for having three Native American co-producers and eight Iroquois consultants who were meticulous in their attention to historical detail, but notes “The only thing that’ll portray Indian people as people are contemporary flicks, likeHispanic people are doing. We just got to get in there and do it.” He was recently cast opposite Ted Danson in the upcoming theatrical feature Pontiac Moon but balked when he was asked to get a haircut.” I don’t cut my hair for anything,” Schweig says.”I said, ‘Listen ,man, if you guys can make cone heads,just put a damn wig on me. Tuck my hair up and underneath, put a bald cap on, hang a few hairs out the side of a baseball cap.’I mean, they ‘re having a problem with that. I don’t have a problem.’ Schweig kept his hair.

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1994 – INTER RACE

While walking down a street one day In Toronto, Eric Schweig was handed a card by a man who said he should audition for the movie THE SHAMAN’S SOURCE. He did and the outspoken young man was on a cinematic roll. Schweig is Native American and Caucasian. His mother was Inuit (Eskimo),and he was adopted as an infant by Caucasian parents, and raised in the little town of Inuvik, right above the Arctic Circle. Not withstanding his dual racial heritage,Schweig is passionate about his identification as a Native American man. He makes no apologies to those who would like to categorize or pigeonhole him, racially or artistically. Still, Schweig has not allowed other’s attitudes to determine his self-worth and he has no time for bitterness. He took time from his busy schedule after shooting Mohicans to speak to an elementary school class about racism and respect for the environment.”People are most afraid of what they don’t know,” he told the group of children. ” What you are afraid of, you hate, and what you hate you end up hurting.”

Schweig is working hard on making sure Native Americans are shown as people,and are not just “the flavor of the month” in film. He turned down a movie produced by Kevin Costner, a film about Pacific Islanders. He thought the dialogue was insulting to Indigeous people.He said to INDIAN COUNTRY Today’ ” there are better parts coming up.We can act a little more intelligent and not have these stupid monosyllabics comebacks. Now we can be intellectual or whatever we want to be and that’s not a privilege either,that’s a right.”There is almost a weariness in his husky voice as he names the projects he has worked on.” I am sick to death of period pieces,” he says softly. Certainly he has shown he can carry a lead role in a historical format as he did in THE BROKEN CHAIN portraying Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Chronicling a little known chapter in the history of the Iroquois Confederacy, Schweig proved he was more than a visual treat, but could really act. He also finished Indian Warrior and finally jumped into the 20th Century with Pontiac Moon, starring Ted Danson.

He knows his history too-about the matrilineal society many Indian people lived in and the importance of family an their support. Yet, when asked what his greatest accomplishment was in his 26 years, not a single movie is mentioned.” It was leaving home”, he says. So, where does the strength come form?”From inside myself.” Indeed. One gets the impression that if the filmaking was no longer a positive in his life he could round up all the marbles and walk away from the game very easily. But for now, Eric Schweig is becoming noted for a few things in the film industry. He continues to speak out when native people are being taken advantage of. He demands movies about Native Amerian experience to be done with integrity and more native input.There is a quiet humour in Schweig’s deep voice. By his own admission, he admits he is not the loud life of the party type. He is a man comfortable in his own skin with no apologies. Thank you. One gets the impression this man is no victim despite an uncomfortably difficult past.

When he slows down to a run, “I’d like to go to Australia and maybe ride a dirtbike and maybe bum around for awhile. So then, are there any myths or misconceptions he would like to shatter?? He thinks for a moment and then laughs heartily.”Yeah, he chuckles, I am an Indian who really doesn”t like horses…”

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MAGAZINE COVER – ICE 1995

ICE magazine, 1995

ICE magazine, 1995

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1995 – ICE MAGAZINE

Eric was called ” Walks with Cheekbones” by one reviewer, and, ” That piece of Carved Mahogany” by reviewer Ethlie Vare from COUNTDOWN Magazine. Chosen as one of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People in the World a few years back and his name pops up all over the online networks as one of the hottest Native hunks women repeatedly want to know more about. Eric Schweig (Inuit) is not just another pretty face in the entertainment business. According to this article, at the time he was the highest paid Native actor in the film industry, and had Hollywood Agents scrambling to his door. In November of ’95 he began filming “Dead Man’s Walk,” with Edward James Olmos playing of all people, a hunchback on a horse.

Raised by what he termed as, “brutal” adoptive parents in the little town of Inuvik, right above the Arctic Circle. He left home at sixteen and found work framing houses in Toronto. As he grew to manhood he became more intensely proud of his Native Heritage by getting involved with the Canadian Alliance and Solidarity for Native people. Growing up in Inuvik he came upon severe prejudice, expressed by classmates who called him, “Redskin and nigger”, and openly jeered when the “darkie” had the audacity to try out for a school play. On his own, walking down the street one day he was handed a card from a man who said he may be interested in auditioning for a project called, “The Shamans Source.” He did, and was on a cinematic roll.

Last of the Mohicans was what catapulted him to the head of the Native “brat pack” that began to take the industry by storm. He takes nothing for granted in the business. The idea that Native actors compete in a different way than non-Native actors for plum roles in a limited niche clearly bothers him. “There’s this paternalistic attitude in the business that we are always clawing and scratching and stabbing our way to get these roles and it’s not true,” said the deep voiced actor from the home of a friend. ” I guess I resent that picture of us more than anything, the idea that we should be so grateful for the sometimes four of five minutes we get on the screen…it’s like we are supposed to give our blood for the role, and I can’t get into that crap at all.”

He is ready for any roles that challenge him. “Will I take anything that comes along with no consideration for anything but the money?” He chuckles at the question. “Well, I tuned down about thirteen million dollars worth of work in the last few years, so I guess there’s your answer. I take roles for different personal reasons”. So why Tom Sawyer? Playing “Injun Joe” didn’t seem like that much of a creative stretch. He wanted to play Injun Joe because he knew he would get a chance to be mean and the kids in the film were naturals.(Brad Renfro as Huck Finn and John Taylor as Tom Sawyer)

According to the article he was also at a point in his career where he felt he could direct if the opportunity presented itself. Working with some of the best directors in the business, he freely admitted acting was where he was, but by being on so many sets and working with people on various skill levels, he could also bring on a hands-on approach to dealing with other actors. He enjoys the craft of acting itself and believes if you go for a role, do your best and do not kiss somebody’s behind . He believes in earning the respect of the people who are doing the hiring. He is adamant about not being drawn into the game playing that he feels separates the professionals from the short term actors. “In this business you deal with very some very fragile egos.” They have to have respect for your work itself. How can you respect someone who kisses the backside of everyone they meet. Laughing at every stupid joke, putting on an act to get along at all costs? It’s the work that’s important.” He laughs easily.

Clearly Schweig is more comfortable with staying down to earth, associating with the musician buddies he jams with in and around Vancouver, (he’ a drummer) and is not at all impressed by the Hollywood scene that sucks some lesser talented actors in a whirlpool. He says he can do that scene if he has to but he just doesn’t like it. He likes not being easily recognized when he goes out. Once when he was doing a film they wanted him to fly to Toronto for some bigwig dinner with key people but kept thinking, ” Why am I here for this bullshit role while everyone is sitting around the table talking stuff ….I wanted to know what I had to do to get the job….in fact I HAD the job…and that was that”. He also stated some people get into that but he doesn’t and just wanted to get out of there.

He acknowledges that there are no actors angst in preparing for a role. He usually does not look at a script too carefully until he is ready to start filming. He knows what the story is about and if he’s comfortable with that then he doesn’t worry about it. He goes in to do his work and does not take it home. He stated, ” It bothers me that we get a lot of stuff passed to us that has us practically grunting or speaking in a monosyllabic manner, it can get frustrating.” He admires what he calls naturally talented actors who make acting seem effortless for example, “Gary Oldman”. Now regarding the hunchback role they wanted to know if the “Major Native Hunk”, on the Internet could be really comfortable with that kind of a cinematic stretch? ” Oh yeah”, he chuckled loving the thought. A hunchback on horse yet, with spinal meningitis, getting fitted with a prosthesis, yeah, I can really get into that!”

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1999 – INTERVIEW WITH JOSH

June 13, 1999, Columbia, SC

When I first met Eric Schweig he was making the movie “Follow the River”. I was still really little and he was my hero. This past summer I had the chance to see him again.

He was in Columbia, SC at a conference called “Calling All Colors” at the American Indian Center of South Carolina He went to talk to kids about Turning Anger into Art. Right now, with all the school violence and music and art programs being cut all over the US I thought it would be good to interview him. I wondered what he would have to say about how important art and music are to young people. And I wondered what he meant by turning anger into art.

We met at his hotel. I was surprised that he remembered me. I was too big for him to put on his shoulders this time so we sat down and just talked. While the videotape rolled Eric told me about himself, what carving means to him and what he thought about kids and the arts.

“What do you like about carving?” was my first question. I wondered how an actor became a carver.

“Its just a good time, to whittle away the hours and think, slow down. Because you get right into it, you know, uh um everything else kinda weird, when you are doin it for a few hours and uh you wake up and uh look around and its ah cause you’re so into it and thinkin about everything …you forget everything else except that and you can escape for a few hours.”

“What did you want to be when you grew up?”

After a long pause Eric said “What did I want to be…uh… um, older so I could leave…” He laughed but I think this really shows how unhappy his childhood was.

“Did you ever think carving would be such an important part of your life?”

“No, I never thought that. It was always just something to do.” He seemed surprised that his carving had become so important and that so many people liked it.

“How does your art help you now?”

“Well, it pays my rent and um and um probably the same thing it did when I was a kid. I just had fun doin it and the guy I carve with Vern Ers…. is a good friend of mine. He’s good company and uh um yeah it’s the same thing its just good its good fun and it pays my rent and I can buy all kinds of guitars and stuff like that, that I like.” He made it sound practical but I got the feeling it is more to him than just a paycheck.

josh1[1]

“Do you think you will ever go back to acting?” I almost held my breath. I think he is a good actor and I really hope he makes more movies.

“Uh, one of these days. I don’t know when, could be this summer, may be, I don’t know. Its up to them.” He didn’t seem too interested in acting right then. But I hope he does make more movies.

“You travel to a lot of places to talk to young people about adoption, art and anger. Why?” What would make a man travel all over to talk to kids. On this trip he lost his luggage had to go through jet lag and time changes. What could make it worth it to him?

Eric laughed very hard at this question. He coughed and finally answered.

“Um because I think it’s a good idea to share my experience with them. So they don’t feel as lonely as they do because uh um or I can talk about art to give people options, so they won’t feel so stuck, because um when you are raised the way I was, you get stuck and you don’t know what to do. You don’t have any options because nobody taught you anything about options, so if I can go to different reservations or places like this or anywhere and tell people about their options, whether they are young or they are old, that they have that they might not have before, then it’s a good thing and if um who knows I mean anybody can carve, anybody can pick up a knife and sit down with somebody and get taught how to do it its not a big thing just depends on how bad you want to do something and not just carving..painting, ya know just whatever, sculpting, pottery just whatever.”

I got the impression it is very important to him to help kids whom might be having hard times. He seems to care a lot about people, especially children.

Now we were getting to the important part of my interview.

“During the past couple of years many schools in the United States have cut their sports, music and art programs. What kind of an impact do you think this will have on young people?”

Eric didn’t answer right away. He looked really shocked. It never occurred to me he wasn’t aware of the changes in many school systems.

“Um, not a good one. Cause, um, you have the stuff…I didn’t even know that. They cut funding on what? Music?”

I nodded and waited for him to continue.

“That’s not good because…Sports is one thing but music and art are the backbone of the country. It freaks me out that they would do that because that’s what uh that’s gonna be one go the only things that um that have left to hang onto is uh our musicians and our artists, that’s gonna have a really bad impact. I can’t even …that freaks me out…I can’t even think about what’s gonna happen what would happen if we didn’t have them but uh they’ll find out. I’m sure…pretty fast.”

It was pretty obvious that he is very concerned about this issue. If art and music got him through the hard times in his life where would he have been without it? And what future artists, musicians and actors might be missing these things now because so many schools don’t think these things are important. It is important to have computers and activities. And it is nice to have good school buildings. But art and music and theater are important too.

“With all the school violence and the shootings in the news recently, how do you feel that a return to the art world would give kids an outlet for their anger?”

He got very excited about this.

“That would be awesome. I went to a school in Denver in 93. It was an alternative High School and uh it was funny because all of the kids…I wanted to see the art work because these were all troubled teens and usually you got pretty cool paintings and I knew it as soon as I walked into their art room there they were just uh you know stuff, uh Conan Comics and you ever read Heavy Metal magazine? You know the art work in there? They had stuff like that all over the walls Really good stuff. And they had started a um a multi cultural program and uh they designed tee shirts and um stuff like that, and uh the same schools that uh kicked em out were phoning them back up and asking about the multicultural program and ‘could we have some tee shirts?’ . But um that would make a huge difference if they cut funding to all these to music and art There’s gonna be a lot more uh situations like Columbine popping up. They are cornering all these kids, they are painting them into a corner and they are gonna come out swingin!”

“How do you turn anger into art?”

He didn’t have to think about this. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted to say.

“Uh it’s real easy. Instead of lashing out at other people, you just you channel all that energy through your hands and right into a piece of wood and whatever appeals to whatever you think is cool to carve or paint or whatever its that simple just comes out on paper or canvas or comes out of a piece of wood. There’s something about whacking away at a piece of wood too that with an adze or a chainsaw or a chisel or um a straight knife that um that’s good too. If you … it’s even better if you have to work hard to get what you want to get the results that you want.”

“What would you say to young people who are abused at home or picked on at school? What advice would you give them?”

This was Eric’s chance to share his thoughts. Maybe this ids what he wished would have happened in his life.

“Uh it would depend on the situation, how uh how bad it is because some kids lives are threatened it’s that bad. Um ya got of course ya gotta talk about it tell an adult who is not in the home. If you an um, I realize that sometimes they are threatened when you are beat up at home or whatever is going on there a lot of parents that think like that or act like that will tell their kids ‘don’t tell anybody or you’ll get a worse beating but um, but if they can even go to ah local authorities go to the police and uh tell them what’s happening because that’s assault and um there’s no excuse for it from anybody and uh at school if you gotta ya have to defend yourself if somebody is gonna beat you.”

It is nice to see someone who has had bad experiences but still thinks about others. Eric cares about all people, especially children, and I think he does a lot to try and help them. By sharing his past he shows them that no matter how bad things are you can succeed.

He shook my hand and thanked me for the interview. The thing I liked best was that he treated me like an adult. By respecting me, he encouraged me to respect him.

Eric is not just a great carver and actor. Eric is a great human being. I am proud to call him my friend.

Thanks Eric! You ROCK!

Source : Roach 924

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2000 –NATIVE CELEBS

Interview with Eric Schweig

By Annie

All of this info came from an interview (my interview form) on May 2nd 2000. I’ve confirmed it is indeed Eric, and not some fake posing as a celebrity. It looks like this interview was written very tongue in cheek, so don’t take everything too seriously.

Born: June 19th 1967

Height: 6’2

Weight: 210lbs

Eyes: brn

Hair: blk

Marital Status: none

Heritage/Tribe: Inuit/German

Country: Canada

State: British Columbia

City: Vancouver

 

Q. Education:

ES. Never needed any.

Q. Hobbies:

ES. Playing drums in a band and carving Inuit masks.

Q. Special skills:

ES. Same as above.

Q. Recent projects:

ES. The Big Eden.

Q. Current projects:

ES. Direct my own damned movie.

Q. Future projects:

ES. Anything without buckskin outfits.

Q. Favorite book/author:

ES. The Prince : Nicolo Machiavelli.

Q. Favorite film/TV:

ES. Bugs Bunny.

Q. Favorite actor/actress:

ES. There are alot of really gifted actors that I like.

Q. Role model:

ES. My role models are other animals besides humans like wolves and coyotes and sea lions. They don’t have their own “Agenda” beyond getting something to eat and basking in the noonday sun with their close friends.

Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?

ES. Nobody.

Q. How did you get into acting?

ES. I wanted to do it since I was a kid so I ran it down.

Q. What kind of film role would you like to have?

ES. Anything without buckskin outfits.

Q. What would be your dream role, and what kind of production would you really like to get produced and be involved in?

ES. We’re doin’ it.

Q. Of all the characters you’ve portrayed, which was your favorite?

ES. Pike Dexter in “The Big Eden”.

Q. Of all the movies/productions you’ve been in, which is your favorite?

ES. The Big Eden.

Q. Who is your favorite native actor? Non native actor?

ES. There are alot of gifted actors out there, native and non-native that I like.

Q. Where would you like to be professionally in ten years?

ES. Doin’ the same thing but doin’ it better.

Q. What are your immediate plans professionally (other than projects)?

ES. Makemore masks for mass consumption.

Q. Where would you like to be personally in ten years?

ES. Wherever you go there you are.

Q. What has had the greatest impact on your life?

ES. Being the unfortunate victim of “State Sanctioned Kidnapping” (Adoption).

Q. What are your religious beliefs?

ES. I believe in Life…..True Love…..Helping People That Sometimes Can’t Help Themselves…..and Peace.

Q. How did you get into your religious experience/conversion/commitment?

ES. By being human.

Q. How would you best like to be remembered?

ES. That I tried.

Q. As fans of Native Americans, what can we do to encourage film makers, producers and casting people to hire more Native Americans in other than Indian roles?

ES. Nothing. We’ll just make our own.

Q. Now that you have participated in movie making, does it ruin for you watch movies? I mean since you know how it’s done and all?

ES. Nope.

Q. Any kids?

ES. Nope.

Q. Your views on drugs and alcohol.

ES. The scourge of humanity.

Q. While we’re on the subject, how do you feel about fans approaching you in various situations?

ES. Fine.

Q. Many native actors are also singers, musicians or dancers. Do you have a talent in any of these areas?

ES. Yes.

Q. Of all the songs you’ve recorded/sung, which one is your favorite – for listening to or for singing?

ES. I haven’t recorded any, we’re just jammin’ right now.

Q. For less active actors or those with a “comeback”:

What have you been doing the last few years / since you were last in the spotlight?

ES. Making “Bad-Assed Inuit Art”.

Q. Which of “your” movies is the best in terms of – would you have gone to see it even if you weren’t in it?

ES. The Big Eden.

Q. General comments:

ES. Don’t ever take yourself too seriously.

 

NativeCelebs is about Native American Indians in the entertainment industry. Last edited 2004-07-22 © NativeCelebs 1996-2004

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2002 – SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

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2003 – TORONTO STAR

He’s a pussycat behind the mask / Inuit actor Eric Schweig also an artist / The Missing’s bad guy led a troubled life

By Melissa Aronczyk

Even after you see Eric Schweig in Ron Howard’s latest film, “The Missing”, you’d still be hard pressed to pick him out of a crowd. In this case, that’s a good thing. Schweig plays Pesh Chidin, an Apache Indian with dark mystical powers in the American Southwest of 1885. He wears a greenish pockmarked mask, false rotting teeth, and a mane of Medusa-like hair. A clunky necklace of tintypes decorate his chest like medals, a walking photo gallery of the people he’s killed.

“The prosthetics did half the job,” Schweig says.

“So I didn’t have to get over the top. I could actually be sort of subtle. Although there’s nothing subtle about clubbing somebody over the head.” The Missing, which opened Wednesday, also stars Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones.

It’s a Western-style thriller that plays on the tension between the Apaches and pioneers. Schweig’s Chidin is an amalgam of Native American beliefs in supernatural powers — and the product of what happens when those powers are misused.

“When medicine men went to the dark side, they were usually feared,” explains Ron Howard of the role. “If they could be moved out of the tribe they would be. So we decided that (Chidin) had been cast out at some point, and he was his own kind of wanderer.”

Without the costume and makeup, Schweig, 36, is a lot less scary. Clad in a T-shirt and jeans, the mask replaced by a pair of steel-rimmed glasses, his 6-foot-2 frame curves into the couch he’s sitting on, in a kind of human question mark. But have a conversation with the quiet Canadian, and you realize there’s a kernel of truth in Howard’s description.

Schweig is from Inuvik, a small town in the Northwest Territories about 100 km south of the Arctic Ocean. According to local lore, the town is so far north you have to look south to see the northern lights. He was adopted when he was 6 months old. It wasn’t a happy family, he says, which is why he left home at 16 and moved to Toronto. They were the catalyst for a drinking problem. He won’t say much more about it. But he makes it clear he’s moved on.

“One of the people I was raised by is dead and I just thought, man, I gotta let go of all that stuff. Just out of respect.”

He was framing houses in Toronto when he was discovered. A small part in a low-budget feature called The Shaman’s Source led to other gigs in film and theatre. His career was launched in 1992 when he played Uncas, brother to Daniel Day Lewis’ Hawkeye in “Last Of The Mohicans”.

“I was 23. I was an idiot, ’cause I drank all the time. I was just this fool,” he says.

Eleven years later, Schweig has done a lot more than just sober up — he’s made his mark as a talented, versatile actor. His portrayal of a gay policeman in the film Big Eden earned him an Outfest Outstanding Actor Award in 2000. In 2001 he starred in Chris Eyre’s Skins, which premiered at Sundance to considerable acclaim. Recently, he appeared in The J.J. Harper Story, about the 1988 fatal police shooting of the aboriginal leader in Winnipeg.

But despite his success, Schweig still passes relatively unnoticed on the streets of Toronto, where he now lives. And he seems to like it that way.

“I don’t really connect with a whole lot of people,” he says. He doesn’t hang around with other actors — “Most of them are fractured personalities” — and of all the trappings of the movie business, the only part he likes is “the part between `Action!’ and `Cut!'”

“It’s all vacuous, narcissistic twaddle,” he says mildly.

“I’m an artist first and foremost,” Schweig says. “I like sitting at home and carving masks. That’s when lightning balls come out of my fingertips. I can make something out of nothing without anybody’s help, without someone telling me what to do or how to do it.”

The brightly coloured masks, adorned with hair and feathers, are inspired by his Inuit roots. They’re also deeply personal. One mask in his “Adoption” series is called “Inuit Man Screaming.”

“I have a weird opinion about art,” Schweig says, scooting forward on the couch. His glasses reflect the light from the window, hiding the expression in his eyes. “I don’t think a lot of indigenous people will like it. But it’s what I think regardless.”

“We’re on the tail end of 500 years of oppression,” he says. “Why are we still making pictures and bronze sculptures of Lakota guys standing there with a spear or three women looking at the sun? I’m not saying that the artists are bad. They’re very good at what they do. But it seems to me that we’re all doing it because it sells, not because it represents how we really feel.

“The overculture — as I like to call them — does not want to embrace its guilt. And when you do something — when you make artwork from the inside to express yourself and how you really feel it makes them uncomfortable. Then they won’t buy it, and you don’t get to put food on the table. And I also understand that part of it … but if there was a modicum of solidarity … there’d be nothing they could do about it. It would be, either buy what we make or don’t buy anything at all. Go get some goofy painting from Wal-Mart or something.

“So needless to say, I don’t get business all the time.” His tirade is over. But you get the feeling he’s just warming up.

Schweig is also working on a screenplay, though he won’t discuss what it’s about. “I need $20 million from those casino guys,” he says. “I’m writing a script myself and it’s sort of like my artwork, like everything that I do … I just feel stuff out. I see something in my head and I just hunt it down until I nail it.”

As with most of Schweig’s life, there’s probably a lot more to the story. And you get the feeling that even he doesn’t know how it will end.

“I don’t want fortune, I don’t want fame,” he says. “I just want to get a nice house up north somewhere, with my girlfriend and her son, and just go toward the light.”

Source: Toronto Star

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2003 -WINDSPEAKER

Schweig does bad guy role for really nice guy

by Cheryl Petten, Windspeaker Staff Writer, Toronto

Eric Schweig doesn’t see acting as his career. It’s a hobby to him, something he does for fun.

Most recently Schweig was having his fun alongside Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett in director Ron Howard’s new western, The Missing. Nice hobby.

“I play a bad guy, the head villain,” Schweig said of his role as Chidin in the film. His character heads up a group of despicable renegades who kidnap a young girl, forcing the girl’s mother (Blanchett) to turn to her estranged father (Jones) for help to try to save her daughter. The movie is scheduled for release in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York on Nov. 19, with a wide release scheduled for Nov. 26.

“I guess it’s like a western horror movie,” Schweig said.

“I was thinking about it, about catching flack from the Indian community, because my character is so reprehensible. He’s just meaner than a hyena in this, and his face is all scarred up and it looks like he’s been in 50 knife fights. But one of the reasons that I did it is because I really like Ron Howard. I met him about a month before I did the film, and he’s just a nice guy. He’s a straight shooter and he’s for real and he’s just a nice person. And that was one of the reasons.

“And then the other one was that nobody looks good in this film. We’re all dirt bags. Tommy is, and I am. The crew that I have, I have this murderous band of cutthroats that ride with me, and there’s Indian and white alike. Like there’s white army deserters who are actually worse in this. Then we’re always smacking them around in the film trying to straighten them out so we can get things done because they’re always drunk and beating people up and stuff. It’s pretty funny.”

The bad guy role is a bit of a departure for Schweig, who doesn’t usually get cast in the role of the heavy.

“I really like it. It’s lots of fun … I got a total kick out of it. I had to sit in the make-up chair every morning for three hours, but I didn’t care because it looked so cool. Yeah, he’s ugly.”

Schweig’s having quite a bit of success right now, though acting is not something he set out to do. It’s more something he kind of fell into to.

“I’m not classically trained or anything. I wouldn’t spend that much time preparing myself for something as vacuous and narcissistic as acting,” he said.

Schweig, who currently lives in Toronto, was born in the Northwest Territories in 1967 where he was adopted by a German family. He lived in Inuvik until he was six, then moved to Bermuda. After several years, the family moved back to Canada, settling in northern Ontario. His first acting role came in 1987 when he played the shaman in a stage production of The Cradle Will Fall.

In addition to his role in The Missing, Schweig had the starring role in Cowboys and Indians: The Killing of J.J. Harper, in which he played Harper’s brother, Harry Wood. He also stars in Mr. Barrington, where he plays Samuel, the husband of a poet tortured by demons from her past. His past movie credits include roles in Skins, Big Eden, Tom and Huck, Pontiac Moon, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, and Last of the Mohicans. And he has a long list of television appearances to his credit, from playing the part of Joseph Brant in Canada-A People’s History to playing Tonto in a Lipton Side Dish commercial.

“It’s money, you know. And we all need money to live. So that’s pretty much why I do it,” Schweig said of his acting work. “I’m not interested in fortune or fame or whatever. I just want to buy a house and marry my girlfriend and live happily ever after in the bush somewhere.”

In addition to acting, Schweig is a carver, and that is what he sees as his true profession.

His introduction to carving was much the same as his introduction to acting, he said.

“I just kind of fell into it.

“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and a friend of mine who’s been carving since 1980 or something, it took him four years to talk me into it, but finally I just kind of buckled under the peer pressure and just starteddoing it.”

The reason Schweig prefers carving to acting is because it allows him to call the shots.

“I’m my own boss, and I can express myself the way that I want to through that,” he said. “And it doesn’t come along very often in film, of course, because you’ve got to listen to what somebody else is telling you to act like or be like, or whatever. And you can express yourself to an extent like that, but it’s nothing like just creating something from the ground up by yourself, using your own imagination and putting your emotions into it, and not having anybody putting any boundaries or parameters on it. You can just go wild and not worry about what anybody thinks. I don’t anyway.”

Schweig would like to see more artists expand their work past the boundaries of what “Aboriginal art” is expected to be and move out of creating comfortable works and into creating works of true self-expression.

“I’ve got a problem with the art in our community. I mean, traditional art is fine, but it occurred to me that art is supposed to be something that challenges your emotions and the way you think about things, and we don’t do that a lot in our community. Because when you do that, it makes people uncomfortable. And especially us as Indigenous artists, we just came off the tail end of 500 years of oppression,” he said.

“For me, personally, a painting of an Indian man on horseback looking at the sun just doesn’t do it for me. I’d love to see more art coming from our true emotions and not just what the ruling class wants to see because they’re comfortable with it. Like if they really wanted to see what’s inside our hearts, it would make them uncomfortable. And that’s what I want to see. Because there’s truth in that, and it sets people free. It sets the individual free who’s expressing themselves in that way. And it also lets the ruling class, or the people that buy art, see really what’s going on inside the person that made it. And there’s a real deep, personal connection that youcan make with people by doing that. And you can’t do it painting pictures of guys on horseback or three Navaho women with their backs towards you, sitting there looking at a field. It’s not expression to me. It’s just doing what’s comfortable.”

Because he was adopted as an infant, Schweig didn’t grow up with a connection with his Aboriginal roots and culture, and creating those connections isn’t something that he places a lot of importance on.

“The only sort of connection that I have is through my masks. I’ll do traditional Inuit masks once in a while, but even that’s boring. I like doing my own thing,” he said.

“I acknowledge my roots, but I’m Inuit, Portuguese and German. And I never really paid much attention to that sort of aspect of myself. I always thought that this world would probably be a much better place to live in if people paid less attention to where they’re from and what skin color they are and more attention to what kind of human beings they are. And I’d rather concentrate on being a good person than being a good Eskimo or a good Portuguese person or a good German person, or a good Canadian person.”

Source: Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)

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2008 –  INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY

Watch out for the cars / Carving, art yields expression

By Robin Buda,  June 25 2008

 

CANASTOTA, N.Y. – Eric Schweig, Inuk, isn’t shy. He’s not afraid to share his opinion. His ability to not block that expression is shown with his skill of carving.

Carving was a gift he acquired at an early age. It started as a love that was nurtured into adulthood.

Schweig studied traditional Pacific Coast carvings before refining this scope toward the traditional masks of his ancestors, the Inuit. He hand-carves the masks from the red cedar of Vancouver, British Columbia.

”I’ve been doing it my whole life, since I was a kid, just because it was the most organic form of expression that I could think of.”

Schweig explained how he and his clients conceptualize a mask.

”It’s art. You can do anything with it. It doesn’t matter. … It’s open to interpretation. It’s alchemy. You make something out of nothing. It just depends on what I want to do, or what I feel like doing, or what a client feels like doing, or your state of mind. Whether you’re happy, sad or angry; whether the client’s happy, sad or angry. It just depends on what he or she wants, or what you want. You can do anything. It’s wide open. It’s freestyle and it’s wide open. So, there’s no one way to design something. Absolutely no [limitations].”

The masks can take up to a few months to complete, depending on the level of intricacy. He said that while the colors used can symbolize different things, they’re often chosen because they hold special meaning to the client.

”It’s usually open to interpretation. If somebody wants something done, I’ll usually get a color swatch from them and then I’ll go to an art store and I’ll match it, and that’ll be it.”

His signature style includes a certain distinction.

”To me, the only thing that sort of sticks out that I like is contrast. That’s why I always put a white base coat on everything. So anything I put on top of that is going to pop out.”

Schweig recently received an honorary doctorate in education from Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.

”That’s like a once in a lifetime thing. It was cool. And it was so nice, everybody was so nice. The graduates were polite and accommodating. … It was a really classy event and I was glad to be a part of it.”

Schweig told Indian Country Today the words of wisdom he shared with the graduates.

”Creativity is the building blocks of intelligence. And when they’re given the chance to incorporate as much of that alchemy and creativity, there’s a sort of sense of originality in their schoolwork. Because right now, the reason why everybody is stupid – and everybody is stupid – is because the education system is more preoccupied with teaching kids what to think instead of how to think. And when you teach kids how to draw or let them express themselves through art, they develop their own sense of individuality and identity and then they’re able to form their own thoughts and opinions about a number of issues on a number of different levels.

”But, the education system … is more interested in getting kids in line, pay attention to the rules, watching the stoplights instead of the cars. If I had kids … I’d want them to watch out for the cars, not the stoplights, because stoplights fail, but your eyes don’t.”

In addition to being an artist, he’s an actor, musician, and a volunteer representative and motivational speaker for street outreach. He appears throughout North America speaking to indigenous, American Indian and First Nations youth about suicide prevention, alcohol abuse and adoption, among other things.

He also wanted to prepare the graduates for the world they’re about to enter.

”I was trying to tell them from an outreach point of view, that the kids they’re going to see, they’re going up to some really troubled communities. … They’re going to run into some of the areas in Canada where the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous people up there are horrific. It’s the bottom of the barrel and that’s where they’re being sent.

”A lot of those kids that are graduating don’t have any life experience, so they don’t know. When they get thrown curve balls or fast balls or drop balls, they don’t know how to hit them. They’re going to back off the plate. They might not know how to handle that and they need to be prepared.”

For more information on his masks, or to book a speaking engagement, contact Michelle Shining Elk at (818) 302-6122 or michelleshiningelk@gmail.com

Source : Indian Country Today

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2008 -WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The helpers

By Gabrielle Giroday, December 14 2008

“There’s no miracles,” says Resource Assistance for Youth outreach worker Eric Schweig, left, with partner Cam McGregor.

Those who help…

Four nights a week, the outreach worker clambers down the snowy side of a dark bridge and asks Mark to come inside.

And four nights a week, 29-year-old Mark declines, saying he’d rather crash on the dry dirt under a Main Street bridge than take a bed at a crowded local shelter.

For Eric Schweig, a Resource Assistance for Youth outreach worker, it’s a tale of two Winnipegs: the world of hot chocolate and indoor heating versus a life he calls “a little more feral,” where the next meal is a mystery and a pile of blankets is the only insulation against cold that can kill.

There’s only one lonely set of snowy footprints snaking down the side of the bridge until the outreach workers arrive. Mark won’t come out tonight.

“There’s no miracles,” said Schweig, out tonight with Cam McGregor, another RAY outreach worker, to hand out supplies like knit blankets and granola bars to street-involved youth and adults in Broadway, the West End and the North End.  “For some people just getting a bite to eat and not going through the bins is success.”

The duo say the number of clients they deal with decreases by about 70 per cent during severe winter weather.

However, they say there are still people like Mark who choose to stay on the streets.

Mark may or may not have mental health issues, with his eyes bugging out of his head and an odd smile stretched across this face, even in this stinging -24 C weather that leaves the face smarting and the lungs burning.

His responses, too, are short and often contradictory.

Asked why he chooses to stay outside, he replies simply of his four-blanket pile: “It’s warmer under here.”

He doesn’t like to be around other people, and tells Schweig and McGregor he’s colder sleeping inside than he is outdoors.  McGregor, who specializes in mental health outreach, says there’s no quick fix.

Asked about how a mentally ill person with no fixed address can access health care, McGregor says the pickings of local clinics are slim.

“It sucks for us and for them because we can’t give them the services they need when they’re out on the street,” he said. Among the five to 30 people Schweig and McGregor estimate they encounter each winter night, most can be persuaded to go to a shelter eventually.  But Mark’s been outside for at least a month.

Their job description doesn’t mean forcibly removing people like Mark from their makeshift homes, they say.

“All you can do is talk and keep making them aware of the weather,” said Schweig, who’s outfitted in a neoprene face mask for protection from the cold. “We’re sort of the last gas station for the next 1,000 miles.”

Schweig and McGregor – who share their joking, light-hearted manner with clients – say they find it’s “really rare” to encounter street-involved people who resist shelters.

But there are bout six Parr Street sex workers out by 8 p.m., teen girls with downcast eyes and hooded ski jackets, and two Osborne Street bus shelters with men camped inside for warmth.

Mostly, both McGregor and Schweig fear finding a client who’s died on them from hypothermia.

That fear intensifies the chill.

“It’s colder next to somebody who going to sleep (in the cold) rather than walking past somebody who’ll be going inside,” said Schweig.

Source : Winnipeg Free Press

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MAGAZINE COVER – URBAN NDN 2009

Urban NDN, January 2009 © Aaron Pierre - www.aaronpierre.com

Urban NDN, January 2009 © Aaron Pierre – http://www.aaronpierre.com

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2009 – URBAN NDN

Article NDN

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2009 – CTV WINNIPEG NEWS

Aboriginal man taunted while dying: Witness

By Jon Woodward, ctvbc.ca

An aboriginal agency says a man left lying still for hours by passersby in Grandview Park on one of the hottest days of the year was ignored for too long — and then taunted by firefighters and paramedics. The man, named Curtis Brick, eventually died in hospital that night. Vancouver Firefighters and the B.C. Ambulance Service are both launching reviews of how they handled the call for help. Brick was first seen lying prone at about 9 a.m. on July 29, said one of the people who found him, Eric Schweig.

When Schweig returned at about 4 p.m. that day, Brick was there, only this time he was convulsing. “His skin was like a furnace,” Schweig told CTV News. “He was baking in the sun.” Schweig says he called a local aboriginal agency, which arrived with cold wet blankets to cool Brick down. But he says that the firefighters and ambulances didn’t arrive until much later. When they got there, he said the firefighters started their care with what he called a racist comment. “They said ‘That’s what you get for drinking Lysol all day,'” said Schweig. Then a paramedic pointed to a gathered crowd of native children, and asked Schweig to get “his children out of the way,” he said. Brick was taken away in the ambulance, but he died in hospital. “This is the kind of thing that shouldn’t happen,” said Schweig.

Fire department spokesperson Gabe Roder says he didn’t get the complaint until late Friday night, and the department hasn’t had a chance to investigate yet. “We’re going to look at the records of that emergency crew and have a chat with them to find out what happened,” Roder said. “It’s really regretful that someone died.” When contacted by CTV News, the B.C. Ambulance Service would not release information about when the 911 call was first made, or any information about how long it took to respond. But they did say they would start a review of how the call was handled. Christine Smith-Parnell of the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Service said the agency plans to hold a vigil for Brick on Wednesday, August 19, in Grandview Park at 4 p.m. She said she is also trying to get ahold of Brick’s family to let them know what happened.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jon Woodward

Source : CTV Winnipeg News

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2009 – ALISON’S TV OR NOT TV BLOG

Award-winning actor Eric Schweig sees life – and death – imitate art with the passing of Curtis Brick, a homeless man in Vancouver

By  Alison Cunningham

As award-winning actor Eric Schweig led a column of mourners yesterday to a sunburned patch of grass at Vancouver’s Grandview Park (the place where a man called Curtis Brick spent his dying moments) the drama seemed like a movie scene.

Schweig has, in fact, appeared in similar scenes on screen many times.

A carver and actor born in Nunavut, Schweig’s credits track like a highlight reel of First Nations history. He took a star turn opposite Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans and more recently in HBO’s Emmy Award-winning miniseries Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007).

Schweig has also starred in some well-known Canadian TV projects, movies that explored and exposed Canada’s less-than-impressive treatment of its First Nations people; TV movies like One Dead Indian  (2006), about the 1995 death of Dudley George, Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis (2006) and Cowboys and Indians: The J.J. Harper Story (2003), a recounting of native leader J.J. Harper’s shooting death by a Winnipeg police officer (an incident that sparked the establishment of Manitoba’s Public Inquiry into the Administration of Justice and Aboriginal People in 1988).

But the scene at Grandview Park was real. And Schweig was there with about 250 others to remember Brick, 46, who died  July 29, after spending the day incapacitated and roasting on the park grass. Sick and sweltering for hours in 34C heat, it’s believed nobody came to Brick’s aid; his suffering allegedly went unnoticed in the crowded park until Schweig spotted him again, around 4 pm, he says.

The death prompted a call (this morning) for a Coroner’s Inquest into Brick’s treatment by emergency workers, at a media conference held by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

And yesterday, BC chief Bob Chamberlin, of the Kwicksutaineuk-Ah-Kwaw-Ah-Mish First Nation, told the crowd assembled at Grandview, “There are too many pieces of information that don’t hold together.”  Activist David Dennis, founder of the Westcoast Warrior Society, also called for action at the memorial.

Some facts about Brick’s death are in dispute, but Schweig has no doubt about the most basic: namely that nobody should die after “baking like a potato” all day, when help, water and people were just steps away.

Schweig says he first noticed Brick lying on the grass asleep on the morning of July 29.

“I saw him lying there with his shirt over his head, and usually the weather will wake up someone who’s crashed out in the park,” says Schweig. “So I figured that’s what would happen. And when I came by around six hours later, he was still there. Except this time, he’s floundering, he’s convulsing on his back and he’s lying in the direct sunlight right over there [on the slope near the sidewalk).

“And I look around and it’s like a bad Fellini movie. There’s a kids’ water area, families are together, and there’s hippies over there playing music and dancing around and this f***ing guy is dying from heat stroke 20 yards from them, and about 50 yards from a water fountain.”

Schweig says he contacted a friend by text message, who in turn called for help. These specifics of the time line are at the heart of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs’ call for an inquest. Those who helped Brick allege that more than 30 minutes passed before Vancouver Fire and Rescue arrived, followed by BC Ambulance workers.  Officials dispute that.

“They went to work on him…he was unresponsive.  He was choking on his tongue and his tongue was like a dried-up piece of meat from having no water all day,” recalls Schweig. “He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t think, he couldn’t move.”

Schweig says while  trying to help Brick, he gleaned from him that he (Brick) had been drinking Lysol. Schweig says he told firefighters that, hoping that the information would help. A firefighter allegedly replied, “Well, that’s what you get for drinking Lysol,” and spoke dismissively to Schweig.

The familiarity of it was almost too much for Schweig, who says officials too often stick to the same old script of disrespect when they deal with impoverished, poor and often aboriginal homeless folks.

“That’s no way to die,” he says. “I know exactly what’s going to happen almost every time they come along.

“The best EMT I know is a former co-worker from Resource Assistance for Youth in Winnipeg. He used to go around to schools and teach kids about homeless people and make them aware of their needs. He did all these wicked workshops all over Winnipeg and Manitoba. He’s going to be a kick-ass paramedic because he gives a shit and he understands the dynamics of homelessness.”

About six years ago, I interviewed Schweig about his work in Cowboys & Indians. In the film, he played Harper’s brother Harry Wood, who spearheaded the campaign for an official review into Harper’s wrongful death.

Schweig then said (to me in an interview for CanWest’s TV Times), “We’re all from the human family and if there’s other humans getting picked on, we should do something about it – it doesn’t matter what colour they are.”

Life, death and art again seemed tragically linked.

Schweig can currently be seen starring in the APTN-CanWest comedy series Cashing In.

Source: Alison’s TV or Not TV

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2009 –  COCHRANE EAGLE

Kids unite against bullying

By Sarah Junkin

To recognize Anti-Bullying Week and to raise awareness about the damage bullying can cause, students at the Morley Community School organized a day of special events.

Aboriginal actor Eric Schweig stopped by to talk about the importance of kindness and tolerance. Schweig is best known for his performance in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), but he has also suffered much physical abuse in his life, and currently works with inner city youth in Winnipeg.

To end the day, all of the students dressed in pink shirts joined together to create a giant human peace sign.

“It’s important not to just talk about bullying, but to do something about it,” said Schweig.

Source : Cochrane Eagle Online

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MAGAZINE COVER – SAY 2011

SAY Magazine, issue 45, 2011

SAY Magazine, issue 45, 2011

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2011 –  SAY

Recently SAY Magazine had the opportunity to talk with Eric Schweig when he was one of the key-note presenters at the 2012 Vision Quest Conference, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Born in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, from Inuvialuit lineage on his mother’s side andChippewa/Dene with German descent on his father’s side, Eric was the oldest of seven children.

As part of an assimilation program, all seven siblings were adopted out. Schweig was adopted at the age of six months by an English speaking German-French family. He spent his childhood in Inuvik until he was six, when his family moved to Bermuda.

They later moved back to Ontario, Canada where he spent the majority of his childhood. Schweig’s adoptive parents were severely abusive.

Trapped in rooms naked and beaten he eventually ran away when he was 16. What transpired next was a roller coaster of alcohol, drugs, violence, failed relationships, despair and confusion.

Eric ran away to Toronto, Ontario. His first experience as an actor was in 1985, and in 1987, at twenty years old, he was approached by a producer who suggested he audition for a role in the movie called The Shaman’s Source (1990). With little formal education or experience he won the role. The film launched his career in the film industry.

Eric has been an artist since he was a kid. Basically self taught, he looked at Russian books of Inuit masks for inspiration. Under the coaching of artist Vern Etzerza, he studied traditional Pacific Coast carving before directing his talent specifically towards traditional Inuit Spirit Masks, in collaboration with master carver Art Thompson.

Sober for fourteen years, Eric struggled for many years against alcohol abuse and drug abuse. His experience with violence, abuse and lack of roots led him to volunteer doing outreach with street people and the homeless. Clearly this is an area of great passion for Eric.

His definition of success is dealing with immediate issues, i.e. if someone is hungry – feed them; if someone is homeless – find them housing.

Eric points out that we are all humans and our natural instincts are to help others. His message is: “We are all connected so do whatever you can do.”

Currently residing in Winnipeg, Manitoba he works full time with Resource Assistance for Youth, providing assistance to inner-city youth and homeless people.

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2012 –INDIAN COUNTRY

A CONVERSATION WITH ERIC SCHWEIG, STAR OF APTN’S BLACKSTONE

By Vincent Schilling January 11, 2012

Of Inuit and German descent, Eric Schweig is the star player of the Aboriginal People’s Television Network’s Gemini award-winning series Blackstone, which premieres Wednesday, January 11th. Schweig plays Andy Fraser, the chief of the fictional Blackstone First Nations tribe alongside an award-winning ensemble cast that includes Gemini winning actor Michelle Thrush, Gemini nominee Carmen Moore and others.

Since his feature debut in the 1990 drama “The Shaman’s Source”, Schweig has made an impressive mark on the acting world in such productions as Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, The Scarlet Letter, Ron Howard’s The Missing, Cowboys and Indians: The J.J. Harper Story, Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis, Cashing In, Casino Jack, and the Emmy-winning Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

In an interview with ICTMN, Schweig discussed life experiences that have helped him to play his role in Blackstone, his belief in giving back to the community, and how he has obtained such success in his career.

Tell us about Andy Fraser, the character you’re playing.

They sort of fashioned him after Tony Soprano, I think. He is corrupt and if he can’t get what he wants done one way, he’ll get it done another. He will muscle people or threaten them, he is duplicitous and two-faced when he has to be. Of course then he will do something that is sweet and redeeming. Some people don’t know whether to love him or hate him. And that works to create a well-rounded villain. That’s how it has to be; even Freddy Krueger was the bastard son of 1000 maniacs. You have to have some sort of sympathy or empathy for villains like otherwise. That’s Andy Fraser.

Do you enjoy playing a villain of sorts?

Yeah, ask any actor and they will tell you one of the most fun things to do is to make a departure from yourself and play a villain. It is fun because you can do morally reprehensible shit and get away with it.

Do you really feel as though you’re making a departure from yourself?

Yeah, you know, I am a good guy. I am an outreach worker in real life. I am a resource assistant for youth, I work in the street. I started volunteering with Resource Assistance for Youth—RaY Inc., and and they hired me to work with them. I now work with homeless people in Winnipeg, Manitoba—we feed them and clothe them. I work with sex trade workers and I try to hook them up with agencies that can help them. I don’t just talk about it, I do it. I was homeless when I was a kid. I walked the streets with holes in my shoes and I stood in line at soup kitchens. I lived in hostels and I was an alcoholic until 14 years ago. I never met my biological mother. I was adopted at six months of age. My mother died of alcoholism and she was homeless as well. I also am an adult survivor of abuse by my adoptive parents.

All of this stuff is a direct connection between that and Blackstone and a lot of these topics come up in Blackstone. All of this helps a lot in my performance. Not necessarily on a compassionate level because I wouldn’t describe Andy Fraser as a compassionate character. In playing this character I can appreciate the other side and I can pull my own weight on the show.

What is it like working with Blackstone‘s all-star cast?

I’ve been doing this for 25 years now. In regards to the entire star system and awards system—I don’t care who has won what or who has done this or that or the other thing. I am just concerned that whoever is doing it is pulling their weight. I’ve never told anyone I am a Marlon Brando or whoever. All I expect from anybody—and this is what I like about Blackstone—is that people on the show can do their job. That’s what I love about it. It is hard to do this if someone is not interested in it—mind, body and soul. Fortunately, we have the type of material that forces you to be into it and serious, otherwise you would just come across as phony. I love working with everyone on it.

What sort of career advice do you have for kids interested in acting?

I try to say this to kids: It has to do with that fear of success. If you don’t love what you’re doing then don’t do it. In the past, a hundred years ago, we would watch our toddlers, and what they had predisposition for doing. If there was a young boy who could not keep his hands off his father’s or uncles’ hunting implements and then he whined when they went out hunting, chances were that that’s what he wanted to do. If you cultivate that, when he is 30 years old he would be the best possible asset for his community. I encourage kids to do this now.

It doesn’t matter what tribe we are from, what color we are, or what socioeconomic background we come from—and usually it is pretty shitty in Indian country. This may be bad energy but it is energy nonetheless and that is power.

Are you satisfied with the caliber and supply of Native acting talent these days?

All kids want to do now is rap, which is great and I understand when you turn 15 or 16 you want to express yourself. But we are running out of actors and we need new blood. I’m getting sick of looking at the same usual suspects all the time.

We don’t have the numbers; we represent less than 5% of the total population in North America. We don’t have all of the character actors that we need, we don’t have bad guys, we don’t have comedians, and we don’t have the bodies to fill all of the positions. I keep trying to get people to get into acting so we have someone who can focus on just being a funny guy or a bad guy or a psycho or a love interest.

Why do you think Blackstone is so popular?

It’s jacked up obviously for television so the story is more interesting. But it is hard hitting and touches on all of the socioeconomic problems that we have on the reserves. It is up front and it is brutally honest. People either love it or they hate it and that’s what you want.

I just wish this had a bit more exposure down in the States. People in New Zealand are getting this program but people in Seattle can’t watch it. We need to come together as a global indigenous community.

Source : Indian Country

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June 19th 2015 – Vancouver 24hrs

‘DUDES’ club helps guys feel safe in the Downtown Eastside

By Patrick Colvin

Eric Schweig at the 2014 Annual Dude’s Health Fair, Vancouver (Canada) © The Dudes Club.

Eric Schweig at the 2014 Annual Dude’s Health Fair, Vancouver (Canada) © The Dudes Club.

For more than five years the DUDES Club has provided a safe social setting in the Downtown Eastside where vulnerable men can gain access to health services, a warm meal, spiritual guidance, and all with enough time left over for bingo.

The DUDES club, which stands for Downtown Urban Knights Defending Equality and Solidarity, meets every second Thursday and is a community outreach project headed by the Vancouver Native Health Society in collaboration with the Men’s Depression and Suicide Network at UBC.

The bi-weekly event is usually home to around 50-60 men from the DTES, both from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal backgrounds.

“The one philosophy that we really embodied is that you bring health to where men feel safe, because men don’t come in to see the doctor,” said Paul Gross, medical director of the club and a professor at UBC. “Because these guys go to a drop in centre where they normally hang out, it’s a place where they already feel comfortable and we’re coming to them, rather than the opposite – it just flips the dynamic.”

According to Eric Schweig, project organizer for the DUDES Club, the group has become a great focal point for fostering community ties and strengthening positive social dynamics.

“It’s just about having a good meal, and some camaraderie, and we have some bingo we play some games, and just bringing the guys together and keeping them aware of some of the things that are available to them,” said Schweig.

Coming up in August, the group will be hosting its fourth annual men’s health fair where there will be screening stations for oral and prostate cancer, blood pressure, STDs, diabetes, and cirrhosis, ending with a big feast. The fair usually draws between 100 to 150 men from the DTES.

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  1. I think one of Eric Schweig’s most powerful qualities that fills the screen, no matter what sort of character he protrays, is the feeling that he is holding back some huge part of that emotion.
    One has the impression that the burden they carry within would be too heavy to shift to someone else so he must continue carrying it himself and it is this that gives such weight to the character. It is this that makes them so real, so human.
    We share, for a moment, this loneliness, love, resignation, compassion or anger at a different level, so these characters remain with us.
    We leave the spectator mode to share, like an echo or the resonance of a bell or a drum. – something that is rare.
    l admire this powerful actor’s work.

  2. P: I’d like to add that I feel sure that if Eric Schweig’s mother were still alive she would be very proud of her son.

  3. I have watched all the Blackstone episodes and enjoyed them; my one complaint is that the music score is very often so loud during important dialog that it is difficult to make out what the players are saying, distracting, annoying and I think, unnecessary. Would it not be possible to take a look and either omit the ‘music’ or at least tone it down so it’s not outshouting the dialog among the actors. Has no one else made a similar criticism?

    • That’s a good point because it’s really difficult and frustrating for hearing impaired folks or those who are stone deaf with cochlear implants and TV assists that change the electromagnetic field so dialogue can be heard….the extraneous sounds block out any dialogue…and so many programs and/or DVDs are not Closed Captioned to make up the difference. With the Baby Boomers reaching ‘that magic age’ of retirement and beyond…there are a lot of hearing impaired people out there.

  4. Ingrid Szczesinski

    “Good guy gone bad” I know this picture and its outline poorly cut, it was mine on myspace

  5. What I’ve read about him so far since a year ago, I think he’s a great person and human being

  6. Why can’t we get Canadian TV in the States? We get BBC and used to get the rare shows like Corner Gas….which was light fare but we loved it.

  7. An moving and powerful actor, his screen presence has a way of drawing you in as well as his look has always had a way of wanting to make you watch him, then and now! his efforts for the Indian Nation and continued work in humanitarian causes makes him an even more appealing person than he is even as an actor and that is very difficult to do in my opinion. I hope he has peace now after all the trauma of his past, whatever path brings him happiness that is the one I wish for him. Oh, but he is still stunning to behold! And Yes, I would love to get Canadian t.v. here in the states, maybe I could see him on occasion, that WOULD be nice!!!!

  8. Oh I agree with Julie Barnes….he is truly stunning to behold….better stop there.

  9. I would love to see this series because I’ve seen other works of this actor Eric Schweig and as I say a lot is very strong on screen. The theme of the series I am very interested because I have always felt solidarity with the earliest Native Americans in particular – I think it’s because as a child I wondered if I was American Indian , for my physicists features and in general because I do social work. Therefore all these injustices affect me much, it’s hard to see the abuses that exist in our whole world as technological , but hipocrita.Los advanced human beings , no matter where we harm each other … luckily there good people and supportive but not enough ….
    Well I ‘m leaving the subject. I would love to see this series but as I think we are sold to the US if they do not see , we, the countries not little ones.
    Eric reminds me of an actor of my country that had much interpretive power , not if anyone knows , ” Javier Bardem ” was great! although since that victory a little Holliwood is no longer plain and simple man who was , has gone to his success and fame is a shame . So I think the simplicity and humility of Eric S. worth as much as his way of interpreting , help progimo be a sculptor and artist.

  10. I remember Mr.Schweig left me a strong impression back in 1992 when I watched The Last of the Mohicans in a movie theater overseas. I had no idea who he was until a few years ago when I watched the movie again on DVD. Ever since I have learned a lot about him and really admire him now. But I also read some negative critics about Mr.Schweig on other places. I think we need to remember to see him just like ourselves: a human being. Consider what he had to go through, I think he really has done very well, for himself and for his people. I respect him for his strength. I think he has stayed true to himself and tried his best, which I think it’s not a very easy thing to do for anyone, even in a privileged environment. I think we as his fans should just appreciate the beauty and hope he and his works (film and art) bring to us and stop being critical..

  11. It was a big surprise to see my son Josh’s interview with Eric here. Josh is 28 now and has had his own experience with drugs and alcohol. He’s been sober for five years and is the custodial parent of a beautiful 5 year old daughter. Her mother is currently in a half way house attempting to get her life together. Josh has volunteered with a variety of programs over the years and has spoken publicly about his addictions. It’s interesting to look at these two men, so very different and from different backgrounds, share experiences in their current lives. I applaud Eric for all he has done for the homeless, the addicted, the needy. I hope he someday finds out that the young boy he was so kind to you many years ago has done many similar things.

  12. I have been, I guess, a fan, for a long time, following his career, on and off. He does have a beautiful visage, but that really is not who he is. One thing he is, a survivor. We none of us kno what life holds tomorrow. But the pain we carry w us, if used well, turns us into servants to humanity, his abuse did that for him, as it and cancer did for me. You almost can’t help but to pour yourself into those around you, man and beast alike, I can’t bear to kill a spider anymore, pain is good, if you use it for good. I feel deep love for this man, bc he knows pain, and forgiveness, and most importantly empathy. God bless and keep you, always..

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