Jamake Highwater

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Jackie Marks, Jack Marks, or J. Marks (February 14, 1931-2001), also called Jamake Highwater, was an American writer, news writer and television show host. He was white but he pretended to be Native American. For many years, whites and Native Americans thought he was an expert on Native American culture. He wrote books about Native American culture. He helped make television series that were about Native Americans or had Native Americans in them.[1][2][3][4]

Early life and parents[change | change source]

Marks was born on February 14, 1931. Alexander Hill Marks and Marcia Marks were his parents. Alexander Hill Marks had been born in New York City and Marcia Marks in Russia. Both had ancestors from Eastern Europe. Alexander Hill Marks was Jewish.[1]

Early career[change | change source]

Marks worked for the San Francisco Contemporary Dancers from 1954 to 1967.[5] He was a director and dance arranger. He got in trouble for giving students "American college degrees" even though his school was not accredited,[1] meaning that no accrediting agency had said it was a good enough school to give degrees.[6]

Claims[change | change source]

Marks did not pretend to be a Native American all at once. He started slowly.

In 1969, he said his mother was Cherokee. In 1970, Columbia Records wrote that Marks' mother was Cherokee and called "Marcia Highwater." In Marks' book, Mick Jagger, the author page says that "J Marks" was only a pen name and the author's real name was "Jamake Mamake Highwater."[1]

In 1974, Marks wrote in a legal document that Marcia and Alexander Marks were his adoptive parents, and Marks' birth parents had been a half-Blackfoot woman and Cherokee man.[1] Marks later said his father had also been John Wayne's stunt double.

Response[change | change source]

In the 1980s, Native American activist Hank Adams found out that Marks was not really Native American and printed what he knew in newspapers. For a while, he thought Marks was really Gregory J. Markopoulos, a moviemaker. Markopoulos spoke to Adams and showed he wasn't Marks. In 1986, Adams sued Marks. Adams said in the lawsuit that Marks had lied about being Native American so the federal government would give him money for his work. The court dismissed the charges.[5] However, Marks stopped asking for government money for projects about being Native American at about this time.[1]

President of the National Council of American Indians Joe DeLaCruz removed Marks from the NCAI in 1984. He said this:[1]

This person is not an Indian, has no personal or professional experience or academic expertise regarding Indians, has falsely held himself forth as an Indian and an Indian expert, has claimed academic credentials he does not possess and has published under his own name extremely derivative materials from the works of others. Importantly, this person has invented and repeated stereotypic and biased information about Indians.

However, not everyone believed that Marks wasn't really a Native American. Some people believed but did not care. Marks worked as a Native American Advisor on a television show in the 1990s. When Marks died in 2001, the LA Times, Washington Post, and New York Times all printed articles about his life and death that said he was Native American.[1][7]

Death[change | change source]

Marks died in 2001 of a heart attack.[7] He had been diagnosed with AIDS ten years before. His body was burned to ashes and the ashes were put in the Pacific Ocean.[1]

Work[change | change source]

Marks wrote nonfiction, for example The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America. [8] PBS made this book into a television show, The Primal Mind, in 1984. Marks was the host of the show. The National Educational Film Festival said this was their program of the year. The National Cable Television Association gave it an ACE Award.[7]

Marks wrote fiction, for example Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey and The Sun, He Dies: A Novel About the End of the Aztec World. He also wrote poetry and travel books. In 1978, Anpao won the Newberry Honor Award. It also won many awards from the American Library Association and School Library Journal.[7]

In the 1990s, Marks was the Native American advisor on Star Trek: Voyager, which had a Native American character called Chakotay.[1][2][9]

Novels[change | change source]

  • Mick Jagger: The Singer, Not the Song (1973)
  • Ghost Horse Quartet: Legend Days (1984), The Ceremony of Innocence (1985), I Wear the Morning Star (1986), and Kill Hole
  • Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey (1977)
  • The Sun, He Dies: A Novel About the End of the Aztec World (1980)
  • Eyes of Darkness (1983)
  • Journey to the Sky: A Novel About the True Adventures of Two Men in Search of the Lost Maya Kingdom

Nonfiction books[change | change source]

  • Rock and Other Four-letter Words (1968)
  • Fodor's Indian America (1975)
  • Song From the Earth: American Indian Painting (1976)
  • Ritual of the Wind: North American Indian Ceremonies, Music and Dances (1977)
  • Many Smokes, Many Moons: A Chronology of American Indian History Through Indian Art
  • The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America (1981)
  • Shadow Show: An Autobiographical Insinuation (1986)
  • Myth and Sexuality (1990)
  • A Myth of Our Own: Adventures in World Religions
  • The Mythology of Transgression: Homosexuality as Metaphor

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Alex Jacobs (September 13, 2018). "Fool's Gold: The Story of Jamake Highwater, the Fake Indian Who Won't Die". Indian Country News. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Scammer Who Lied His Way Into a Job on 'Star Trek'". Heavy. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  3. "Alex Jacobs: Fake Indians damage the real Indian community". Indianz. June 30, 2015. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  4. Tim Giago (January 27, 1993). "Phony Indians". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Jamake Highwater papers: 1954-2001". New York Public Library Archives and Manuscripts. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  6. "The Basics of School Accreditation". United States Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Myrna Oliver (June 9, 2001). "Jamake Highwater; Wrote About Native American Culture, History". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  8. Dean Chavers (January 17, 2013). "Around the Campfire: Fake Indians". Native Times. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  9. Ian Spelling (April 7, 1995). "Beltran sees a dignified future for American Indians". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 5, 2021.