Kiawentiio Tarbell: Avatar Star Hails From Akwesasne Community

Kiawentiio Tarbell, a multifaceted talent encompassing singer-songwriting and visual artistry, commanded attention as she stepped into the role of Katara in Netflix’s live-action rendition of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender‘ in 2024. Not only does she embody the character’s essence, but her striking resemblance to Katara adds an authentic touch to the adaptation. Kiawentiio initially garnered recognition for her prowess as a visual artist, gaining prominence for her paintings and handmade jewelry in 2017 and setting the stage for a remarkable journey from the canvas to the screen.

Kiawentiio Tarbell Belongs to the Mohawk Community

Kiawentiio Tarbell, born in April 2006, has emerged as a remarkable talent hailing from the Mohawk community, an Iroquoian-speaking Indigenous people in North America. Her roots trace back to Akwesasne, a First Nations reserve straddling the Ontario-Quebec-New York border. She was raised in a Mohawk family by parents Barbara and Corey Tarbell. Corey, her father, serves as an Infrastructure Specialist at the Ontario First Nation Technical Services Corporation (OFN TSC), dedicating himself not only to his profession but also as a volunteer firefighter and building inspector for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. Barbara, Kiawentiio’s mother, plays a pivotal role as the Akwesasne Cultural Restoration director of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.

With a rich cultural background, Barbara previously served as the program manager for the tribe. Kiawentiio has an older sister, Kasennakohe David, born in 1994, and an elder brother, Rasentonkwa Tarbell, born in August 1998. Kasennakohe resides in Hogansburg, New York with her husband, Tyler Laffin. Growing up on Kawehno:ke, also known as Cornwall Island, Kiawentiio attended the Akwesasne Freedom School, an institution dedicated to preserving the Mohawk language. In a heartwarming gesture, she organized a virtual concert to support the Akwesasne Freedom School, showcasing her commitment to cultural preservation. Currently, she divides her time between Ottawa, Montreal, and New York, holding dual citizenship in both Canada and the United States.

In 2023, Kiawentiio achieved a significant academic milestone by graduating from Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School. Beyond her scholastic endeavors, she balances her life with a variety of interests. Notably, she is an avid painter, infusing her creativity into visual art. However, she enjoys an active lifestyle, engaging in sports like softball, volleyball, and ping-pong, reflecting a well-rounded personality. Beyond the lens, Kiawentiio aspires to collaborate with renowned actor Jim Carrey in the future, harboring dreams of creating memorable cinematic moments. Her passion for storytelling and cultural preservation hints at a promising career that extends beyond acting, encompassing a commitment to social and artistic endeavors.

Kiawentiio Tarbell is Also a Singer-Songwriter

Kiawentiio Tarbell’s journey in the entertainment industry is a harmonious blend of artistic prowess and cultural significance. Her musical talents took center stage when she sang “My Baby Girl” live at Ribfest Idol in 2018, offering a glimpse into her multifaceted skills. The following year, she showcased her vocal range by posting a captivating cover of Kodaline’s “All I Want” on her YouTube channel, earning admiration for her musical expression. Her foray into television began with her debut in the third season of the CBC series ‘Anne with an E‘ in 2019. The path to this role was a competitive one, as she triumphed over 235 young girls nationwide. Remarkably, she secured the part while still attending school, exemplifying her commitment to both academics and her burgeoning acting career.

Her dedication did not go unnoticed, as she clinched an award from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle for her impactful performance. In 2020, her film debut in ‘Beans’ marked a significant milestone, portraying a 12-year-old Mohawk girl during the Oka Crisis in Kahnawake in 1990. To authentically embody her character, Kiawentiio immersed herself in the learning of the Mi’kmaq language, showcasing a commitment to cultural authenticity and storytelling that resonates beyond the screen. She extended her acting portfolio with a notable appearance in ‘Rutherford Falls‘ and lent her voice to the character Wahta in the animated series ‘What If’ in 2023. Her versatility shines through as she embraces diverse roles, contributing to the representation of indigenous stories and voices in the industry.

As a true Renaissance artist, her musical talents extend to songwriting. She wrote and performed the captivating song “Light At The End,” featured in the final credits of ‘Beans,’ providing a poignant musical backdrop to the film. Her prowess as a singer-songwriter further manifested in her first EP, “In My Head,” released in 2021. Her musical repertoire includes notable titles such as “Saying Goodnight,” “Unfamiliar,” and “This Moment,” reflecting a depth of emotion and storytelling that transcends genres.

Beyond acting and music, Kiawentiio showcased her vocal talents by giving voice to the character Zarya in ‘N’xaxaitkw’ in 2022, contributing to the rich tapestry of indigenous representation in animation. Her commitment to cultural preservation and storytelling also finds expression in her participation in the films, ensuring that indigenous stories are authentically told and celebrated on-screen. Kiawentiio’s career trajectory embodies a blend of talent, authenticity, and a commitment to showcasing diverse narratives, solidifying her place as a rising star in the entertainment industry.

Read More: Ian Ousley: Avatar Star Represents a Rich Cultural Heritage