Tatanka Means on Balancing Fatherhood & His Career

Photo by Matika Wilbur



The media have been overlooking positive stories about Native American and First Nations fathers, so we decided to feature and tell the stories of Native dads in our special Native Dad’s feature.

Tatanka Means (Lakota/Diné/Omaha) is a comedian, actor, entrepreneur and a father, who balances so much at the same time. So far, it seems Tatanka’s schedule is crazy busy as he stars in AMC’s “The Son” and is now filming another movie in Oklahoma. However, no matter what he’s up to, Tatanka always puts being a father first. It’s also cute to see that he includes his young daughter in some of the projects he’s working on as evident in some of the photos he posts to his Instagram.

Tatanka took a small break from filming to speak with us about how he balances being a father with his career, the importance of teaching his cultures to his daughter and what he plans on doing this Father’s Day.

Native Max: How do you balance your family, being a father and your careers together?

Tatanka Means: I am fortunate to have a supportive wife. It’s definitely not easy but communication is key! She helps me maintain balance and enforce family time because it is hard for me to stop working and just relax when I am home. Being fully present and giving my full attention to my daughter is always the goal.

NM: What lessons or values do you hope to teach to your daughter? Anything that you want to pass onto her that you learned from your father?

TM: I want her to learn the traditions and values of our people. They all hold valuable teachings and life lessons on being a good human being. Our ways are powerful and strong and need to be passed on to the next generation and carried on. I am trying my best and am still myself learning all of the time. Most of all I want her to learn compassion and generosity, these are some important virtues I learned early on from my Mom and Dad.

A post shared by Tatanka Means (@tatankameans) on

NM: What is your advice or words of encouragement to Native fathers out there?

TM: I can’t give advice but one of my personal aspirations was to live a sober lifestyle for my family. I have the responsibility as a parent and that became a priority once I helped bring a child into this world. My grandpa Leon always used to say, “Children are innocent, they didn’t ask to born you brought them into this world so take care and protect them.”

NM: Wow! Wise words. What are you looking forward to for Father’s Day this year?

TM: Usually every Father’s Day I am with my family in the Black Hills at our annual Sun Dance. This year I’m working in Oklahoma filming on a new movie. So I’ll be thinking about my family at the ceremony and keeping all the Dads in my life in my prayers. I miss my own Dad every day. Be grateful for your loved ones don’t take them granted especially the elders we still have with us that hold knowledge. Ask them questions! Old people are funny and tell good stories!

A post shared by Tatanka Means (@tatankameans) on

NM: How do you teach your culture and traditions to your daughter?

TM: Creating interesting conversation and making learning fun is always good for kids. We speak and sing to her in our languages and try not to make it a “thing”, just a normal everyday habit. My daughter and all kids are not shy at that age to speak their language because they have not been embarrassed or made fun of. She speaks words, tells stories and sings songs any time of the day to anyone. I wish we were fluent enough so that she could speak it fluently but we are both constantly educating ourselves. Learning with your kids can be fun because they don’t judge you. *Laughs*. Upholding our ways of life and teaching our kids the truth about our history in this country and our relationship with the US government is important before they get into school and become brainwashed by biased history books and teachers.

Watch Native Max TV: Q&A with Quannah Chasinghorse