Lee Whitestar, Quechan Tribal Member, In Two Current Films
I met Lee several years ago when I asked him to critique a new novel of mine – In The Name of Honor – featuring a Native American, Elvis “Indio” Sandoval, as an L.A.P.D. detective struggling to solve the murder of his prime suspect in an assault and battery case.“Honor” is going to be serialized beginning April 19th on a new Internet Project called “Another Chapter.”
We have been friends ever since. We finally met in person two and a half years ago when Lee and some of the cast were in town for a special Quechan showing of “The Homecoming of Jimmy Whitecloud”. I also had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with the film’s writer, director, producer, actor Paul Winters and as well as actors Karen Genaro, Victoria Regina and Mark S. Brien.
All of them are in Winter’s latest film, “Nate And The Colonel” which was recently named “Best Picture” at the Native American Film and TV Awards Ceremony on March 5th held at the Burbank Holiday Inn.
Vaughn writes,“Leland Jaeger has found himself in all kinds of places and situations since taking up acting as a second career. Jaeger, a Quechan tribal member who grew up in the shadow of Fort Yuma but now lives in Pomona, Calif., has appeared in commercials. He’s been in episodes of such TV series as ’Judging Amy’,’Family Law’ and ‘Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’.”
Lee has had starring roles in Winter’s two feature films. First,“The Homecoming Of Jimmy Whitecloud” as medicine man “John Spotted Bear” who is also Jimmy’s grandfather. It is the story of routine Mafia hit gone bad when the mob meets its match from unlikely opponents – Jimmy Whitecloud (actor David Midthunder) and his family and friends. This film, now billed as “Red Blood”, and is being distributed through MTI Video and available at Hollywood Video stores.
The second film, “Nate and The Colonel” is a story of a post Civil War Colonel and his Black friend who head West to escape the war-torn South and meet a band of Chippewa who later accept them as tribal members. Lee has the role of tribal chieftain,“Offers the Pipe”
“He was born on the Quechan Reservation and grew up, like everyone else, ‘in a mud house with dirt floors’. He didn’t speak a word of English until he went to school at Fort Yuma. He completed high school at Phoenix Indian School, then served in the army in Germany during the Korean War. Following military service Lee returned to Yuma, then finding no job opportunities, he went to LA and made his living in commercial printing.”
Upon retiring in 1995, Lee achieved a long-time goal by attending acting school. If he wanted Indian roles in film, he was told to change his name and let his hair grow. Thus, Leland Jaeger became long-haired Native American actor Lee Whitestar.
Winters is now writing the script for a new film,“Lost On Black Mesa” where Lee is being cast in the role of “Turtle”, a 19th century Indian whose spirit takes on present-day human form to come to the rescue of two boyhood friends – one Indian, the other White - who are being pursued by two men who have robbed the tribal casino.
A man who typecasts himself as a metaphysical person, Lee says he will be in his element in the film. Production for the “Black Mesa” is months away but when it comes to the filming stage, he would like to see it shot on his old home turf – the Quechan Reservation.
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