Indigenous representation has been growing at a rapid rate these days and the Academy’s recent apology to Sacheen Littlefeather made waves — signaling to those who oppose diversity that time’s are changing. In addition to the uptick in Indigenous series on-air, the live-action series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, has cast the water tribe with Indigenous actors.
A group that was on the brink of erasure and only used as a caricature for sports team logos has pushed through their dark past and made it to the other side by sharing with us stories and perspectives that have been intentionally swept under the rug. No time has been wasted as there have been a handful of amazing television series and movies that have come out that feature a cast and crew that is mostly made up of Indigenous people.
1. Prey (2022)
Where to watch: Hulu
A skilled Comanche warrior (Amber Midthunder) protects her tribe from a highly evolved alien predator (Dane DiLiegro) that hunts humans for sport, fighting against wilderness, dangerous colonizers and this mysterious creature to keep her people safe.
2. Dark Winds (2022-present)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, The Roku Channel
Based on the Leaphorn & Chee novel series by Tony Hillerman and set in the 1970s, Dark Winds follows the FBI investigation of a bank robbery in Gallup, New Mexico, and the Navajo Tribal inquiry into the local murder of two Native residents. Lt. Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon), his new deputy Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon), and Sgt. Bernadette Manuelito (Jessica Matten) do the heavy lifting around the reservation, which is near Monument Valley. The strange behaviors of some of the residents and the newcomers intertwine with their personal stories as the two men battle the forces of evil and their own personal demons on the path to salvation.
3. Reservation Dogs (2021-present)
Where to watch: Hulu
This series follows the exploits of 4 Indigenous teenagers (Paulina Alexis, Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor) in rural Oklahoma who steal, rob and save in order to get to the exotic, mysterious and faraway land of California. To succeed, they will have to save enough money, outmaneuver the meth heads (Kirk Fox, Matthew Cardarople) at the junkyard on the edge of town and survive a turf war against a much tougher rival gang. This first-of-its-kind creative team tells a story that resonates with them and their lived experiences — and invites audiences into a surprisingly familiar and funny world.
4. Rutherford Falls (2021-2022)
Where to watch: Peacock
The series is a comedy about two lifelong friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), whose relationship is tested when a crisis hits their fictional small town. After the mayor decides to move a statue of Nathan’s ancestor, the town founder, because drivers keep hitting it, Nathan begins a quest to keep the statue in its place. Reagan has to juggle loyalty to her friend and to her people, the (fictional) Minishonka Nation. She wants to develop a cultural center to highlight their history, and Rutherford’s ancestor has become known for attacks on her people in the colonial era.
5. Echo (2023-?)
Where to watch: Disney+ (Summer 2023)
The origin story of Echo revisits Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), whose ruthless behavior in New York City catches up with her in her hometown. She must face her past, reconnect with her Native American roots, and embrace the meaning of family and community if she ever hopes to move forward.
Sacheen Littlefeather’s amazing speech at the Oscars 50 years ago made history, and her courage and bravery will always be remembered.
Photo via AMC