The Russell Bates Indigenous Peoples Screenwriters Award
by Leslie Owen @simeyowen
The Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival is proud to announce the creation of The Russell Bates Indigenous Peoples Screenwriters Award. This award will be given annually to a screenwriter of a submitted/nominated screenplay who is a member of the worldwide community of Indigenous Peoples.
It is our desire to further the memory and the work of Kiowa writer Russell Bates, the first Native American writer to win an Emmy Award, for the 1974 episode of Star Trek The Animated Adventures, “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth.”
Russell Bates was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on June 6, 1941, a member of the Kiowa tribe. He joined the Air Force in the 1960s and. during his service at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, he was the sole survivor of an explosion. While in the hospital, he wrote a Star Trek story which he submitted to the original series. It was not accepted, but his work caught the eye of Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana, and she became one of Russell’s mentors. She orchestrated Russell’s attendance at a Writer’s Guild program for minorities and at the Clarion West Writers Conference. Russell created the character of Dawson Walking Bear in his next screenplay, but it was only after Russell received the attention of Star Trek co-creator Gene L. Coon that Russell wrote his Walking Bear screenplay, “How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth.” This was accepted for the second incarnation of Star Trek, which was a depiction of the last year of the five-year-mission of the Enterprise, in the children’s show Star Trek The Animated Adventures. “How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth” won the Daytime Emmy Award in 1974-75 for Outstanding Entertainment, Children’s Series for Russell and co-writer David Wise.
Russell continued to write screenplays, one of which was broadcast in the series “Isis” and many which were uncredited for shows such as “The Name of the Game.” Russell also acted in two films. He was interviewed by Star Trek podcaster Larry Nemacek and that interview led to a video essay by Kyle Sullivan and Katie Boyer for the YouTube series Trekspertise. Russell was the Guest of Honor at the 2017 Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival and won a Lifetime Achievement award.
Russell Bates died after a brief illness on April 9, 2018, in Anadarko, Oklahoma, surrounded by his family. He was seventy-six years old.