Tribe: Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Location: Oneida, Wisconsin
1951 - 2013
2012 Community Spirit Award Honoree
A member of the Oneida Tribes of Wisconsin, Charlie Hill honed his skills at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles before going on to become a true legend in stand-up comedy and to do theater, television and film. According to fellow entertainer Jennifer Kreisberg who nominated him for the Community Spirit Award, "Charlie opened a door and paved a road for Native performers all over Indian Country. He strengthened our community in his own unique ways—first and foremost is his use of humor as medicine.
Through his humor for over more than 37 years in the entertainment industry, Hill took on topics of race, Native identity and oppression. "I feel strongly that laughter is one of the ultimate forms of quick healing," he says.
Kreisberg adds, "Charlie is a profile and a voice for the people and for Indian Country at large through his work. He tirelessly vaporized the persistent stereotypes of our people."
Charlie felt strongly that laughter truly is the best medicine..."I feel strongly that laughter is one of the ultimate forms of quick healing. It is science that when a person laughs, chemicals are immediately released in the brain that make us feel good and ease stress, and actually take away pain. Oxytocin, dopamine. I feel that the alcohol and drug problems in our communities are a direct result of historical trauma and our people just trying to self-medicate and ease that always nagging physical, spiritual and emotional pain. Attempting to release those same chemicals in our brains. Well, the humor directly does the same thing, it releases those chemicals and eases that pain, so on a practical physical level (stay with me here) every time we make lots of jokes and every time we laugh, we are making ourselves feel better (l know it sounds like a stretch, but it's true). I learned this just by listening to my family growing up and watching the obvious, everybody feels better when they are laughing."
We miss Charlie and his humor everyday, and are so very thankful to have been a part of his journey, and he a part of ours.