Is Val Kilmer Native American?
Source: Getty Images

Is Val Kilmer Really of Cherokee Descent?


Aug. 6 2021, Published 7:15 p.m. ET

People are fascinated with their ancestral history. It's definitely an advantage to understand your genealogy from a medical perspective; knowing your family's history could help you to nip any potential health issues in the bud so you can get ahead of them. From an emotional perspective, it could also be great to know of the tribulations your elders went through the next time you feel like berating a Starbucks employee for getting your drink order wrong.

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But then there are some people who, in an effort to appear instantly more interesting rather than actually accomplishing something interesting, will wax on about their heritage as a surface-level "intrigue" placeholder. There are a large number of "pretendians"; heck, there are even high-ranking members of government who claim that they carry indigenous bloodlines. But is Val Kilmer one of them? Or is he actually part Native American?

Is Val Kilmer Native American?

Wikiquote states Val "is an American actor and film director. He is of Cherokee, English, French Huguenot, German, Native American, Scotch-Irish, Welsh and Swedish descent."

Kilmer himself took out a newspaper ad in 2003 in response to a Rolling Stone article which quoted the actor saying some unkind things about the folks in the New Mexico county that he lived in at the time.

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val kilmer
Source: Getty Images

The Santa Fe New Mexican ad discussed his Cherokee heritage and read that Val is "part Native American and would never conceive of slandering a human in any way because of the color of their skin," according to the Associated Press (per Val has also reportedly stated that his grandmother was Cherokee.

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So what did Kilmer say in the Rolling Stone interview that got people so up in arms? "80 percent of the people in my county are drunk." He also reportedly said the reason he owns a gun while living in New Mexico is because "I live in the homicide capital of the Southwest ... so driving home on the highway, especially with kids it's just a precaution."

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The Albuquerque Journal also questioned local residents who didn't appreciate Val's words, but the director of the state's tourism department John Hendry stated that Val's comments were probably meant in jest in response to the writer's question: "I don't believe for a minute he meant any of it; I know him and I have a feeling that you had to be there."

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Val Kilmer also discussed his native American heritage while doing press for the 1992 film 'Thunderheart.'

In the movie, Kilmer plays an FBI agent who is part Native American. Kilmer said at the time (per The Morning Call): "My father's grandmother was Cherokee. He was raised on reservation land in New Mexico for most of his youth. So I grew up with stories that were real-life, romantic stories of the Wild West. A lot of the stories that my father told me that happened to him when he was a kid are quite vivid and got me interested in Indians."

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Kilmer can often be seen in public appearances wearing Native American–styled jewelry, but a verification of his genealogy isn't readily available online. Anyone want to gift him a 23andMe?

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