Home Entertainment “Native Renaissance.” Local Indigenous folks react to “Reservation Dogs”

“Native Renaissance.” Local Indigenous folks react to “Reservation Dogs”


When the much-anticipated first two episodes of the FX on Hulu series Reservation Dogs dropped on Monday, it created buzz across the country — and a sense of pride and relief here in Wisconsin.

The limited series, created by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Sterlin Harjo (The 1491s), follows four teenagers (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Paulina Alexis and Lane Factor) living on a reservation in Oklahoma, hustling (sometimes legally, sometimes not) to save up enough money to escape to California. Mourning the loss of a friend, they find themselves confronted by a rival gang — strange, since they didn’t consider themselves a gang to begin with.

Written and directed by Indigenous people, the show depicts an authentic Indigenous experience without pausing to explain anything to non-native viewers.

Several members of the Ho-Chunk Nation responded to a social media post seeking reaction, which was universally positive.

“It felt good to see actual Indigenous representation written by Indigenous writers. Finally, our stories can be told,” Ho-Chunk Nation member Martie Simmons wrote. “Reservation Dogs is relatable to many of our upbringings so it’s endearing to identify with these Rez kids. There needs to be more stories like this in mainstream shows & films.”

“I enjoyed it for many reasons. It was great to see Indigenous people portraying Indigenous people in a not so stereotypical fashion for a change, and the humor and usage of slang was hilarious and familiar,” said Jon Thundercloud, a Ho-Chunk Nation member who now lives in Florida.

“You can tell the writers are Native. The characters feel like people you know,” said Madison Alder Arvina Martin, also a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, in a text message to Madison365. “I love that we have Native writers creating the stories, and they are bring brought to life by Native actors. Also, it’s so good to FINALLY see native people represented, but to have show that isn’t based in trauma porn.”
Martin noted that Reservation Dogs arrives shortly after the Peacock original Rutherford Falls and the upcoming Netflix film Rez Ball.
“We are telling our own stories,” she said. “We don’t have to be shown only as stoic people struggling. We get to be funny. Cause if you know Native people, you know that we have a sense of humor. It’s making me hopeful to think that we could be starting a sort of Native Renaissance as far as the entertainment world is concerned.”
Rez Ball was written by Harjo and Sydney Freeland, who also wrote on Reservation Dogs. Freeland is also signed on to direct. LeBron James is a producer on the project.
“To see that (Reservation Dogs) even exists is similar to watching Deb (Haaland) and Sharice (Davids) sworn into Congress for the first time, a feeling of ‘[sigh] there we are,’” wrote Tricia Zunker, an associate justice on the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court and former candidate for US Congress. “Representation matters and these stories help reduce invisibility of Indigenous communities in society. But this series is exciting to me for another reason – the inclusion of Native performers and writers and more job opportunities for Native talent.”

Zunker said she is still a member of the actor’s union SAG/AFTRA after working in the industry when she lived in Los Angeles.

“There is a lack of Native roles and stories which results in significant underrepresentation of Native talent in the industry. I recall so many of the breakdowns for Native roles would often be a stereotype (think along the lines of issues that exist with mascots), not actually reflective of present-day Indigenous folks. That changes with this series, and I hope this series is wildly successful because then we’ll see other stories that will be told (that’s Hollywood for you).”

Reservation Dogs is available exclusively on FX on Hulu, and requires a Hulu subscription, which starts at $5.99 per month. The first two episodes are online now, with new episodes becoming available every Monday through September 6.

This story was updated to include comments from Arvina Martin.