VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Veteran Native American actor August Schellenberg died yesterday at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer.
Schellenberg, a Canadian Mohawk, was best known for playing Jesse's mentor in "Free Willy," but he boasted a long, storied career that spanned four decades. He was nominated for an Emmy for playing Sitting Bull in the HBO miniseries "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."
Born to a Swiss father and Canadian mother, Schellenberg trained at the National Theatre School of Canada before moving on to the stage, television, and film. His first role was in the 1971 movie "Rip-Off," and he acted steadily in various TV shows and movies ever since.
In 1993, Schellenberg took on his most famous role -- as mentor Randolph Johnson in "Free Willy." He went on to appear in both of the hit movie's sequels.
Schellenberg often played Native Americans; in 2005, he starred as Chief Powhatan in Terrence Malick's "The New World." He was quoted as saying that his favorite character was Sitting Bull, whom he played three times.
He was a force in the Canadian acting scene, teaching seminars at Toronto's Centre for Indigenous Theatre and York University and speaking at cultural centers across North America. Last year, he headlined an all-aboriginal production of "King Lear" in Ottawa.
Schellenberg is survived by his wife, actress Joan Karasevich, and their three daughters.