Alum Roger Amerman Brings Native American Heritage to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Classroom
By Heidi Pitts ’01
Whitman College announces the return of Roger Amerman, alumnus of the Class of 1980, as the O'Donnell Visiting Educator in Global Studies for Spring 2024. Amerman, a Choctaw Nation member who lives in Stites, Idaho, brings a wealth of experience educating about Native American culture and history. Amerman's journey from beadwork consultant for Marvel's just-premiered Disney+ series "Echo" to the college classroom underscores the intersection of pop culture with modern academia.
Marvel Studios Collaboration: Promoting Genuine Representation
Amerman's artistic contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is highlighted in the eagerly awaited Disney+ series, "Echo." The show, portraying Choctaw superhero Maya Lopez, features Amerman's traditional beadwork emphasizing traditional tribal designs.
The beadwork process, spanning five months, involved a meticulous exchange of ideas and packages between Amerman and the Marvel team. The central feature of Echo's belt, a Sun and Fire medallion designed by Amerman, evolved into a visual testament to Choctaw cosmology and spirituality, showcasing sacred ancestral symbols.
While noting that Lopez’s final outfits are not strict representations of Choctaw regalia, Amerman says, “I would be happy to see young kids wearing the Echo-inspired clothing and have the opportunity to explain the symbolism to them.”
Reflecting on the collaboration, Amerman says, "Marvel is working closely with many Choctaw Nation individuals to ensure authenticity and true integrity. I look forward to seeing what tribal consultants in linguistics, weaponry, and other subjects contributed to the series."
Ethnogeology Class: Understanding of Native American Wisdom
Following the close of his work with Marvel, Amerman will teach an interdisciplinary and interdivisional Ethnogeology class at Whitman during Spring 2024. Unique in the world of higher education, this semester-long course delves into the paleo-history, history and ethnogeology of salmon-centric Tribal Peoples in the southern Columbia River Plateau.
Amerman is passionate about connecting Indigenous understanding with academic education. "We will 'Indigenize' earth sciences by looking at soils, geomorphology, geologic resources and geologic phenomena within the contextual portal and cosmos of Indigenous understanding." The ethnogeology course explores traditional knowledge and customs related to landscapes, including rivers, rocks, soils, and other geologic features.
The course aims to deepen students' appreciation for the intricate relationship between Indigenous knowledge and the land. While he’s excited to discuss his work on “Echo” with his students, Amerman envisions the course as a gateway to recognizing that Indigenous stories are not mere "entertainment" but convey both historic and prehistoric information and cultural identity.
Art and Education: Creating A Pathway to Understanding
This is not Amerman’s first time returning to Whitman to celebrate and educate about Native American culture. In 2022, he co-directed The Long Tent, a months-long series including public lectures and classroom discussions culminating in the erection of a Plateau-style long tent on Whitman’s campus. And his hand-beaded crown graced the head of the first Miss Pášx̣apa at the college’s inaugural Pášx̣apa Powwow in November 2023.
Navigating between the comic book world of Marvel Cinematic University and Whitman College’s academic community, Amerman uses art and education to create a meaningful pathway for fostering authentic understanding of his Choctaw heritage and the multitude of Indigenous cultures and histories.