‘It’s a completely new day’: the rise of Indigenous films and TV shows

Successes such as Prey and Reservation Dogs highlight an important shift for a community who have been demonised and under-represented on screen

This summer on TV, you could have caught a ragtag group of Indigenous teens in rural Oklahoma get up to “kid shit” – beefing, making up, running away, hanging around. You could have laughed when a couple, played by Lakota actor Jana Schmieding and Bdewakantunwan Dakota and Dińe actor Dallas Goldtooth, work out insecurities while wearing ketchup and hot dog costumes at a Halloween party. You could have immersed yourself in a tribal police detective’s investigation of an eerie murder and car heist in 1970s Navajo country. Or you could go have seen a Comanche woman, played by Assiniboine Sioux actor Amber Midthunder, battle a humanoid alien in the pre-colonial Great Plains.

Any one of these options alone would be remarkable, given that as recently as two years ago, there was not a single Indigenous lead character on US television, let alone three series and a hit film predominantly starring Indigenous people. Taken together, the summer of 2022 has marked a watershed moment for Indigenous representation in US pop culture, which for decades has slighted or misrepresented Indigenous people, if it acknowledged their existence at all. “This is just shattering so many excuses for so long that have erased Native people,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation and the president and CEO of IllumiNative, an Indigenous women-led research and advocacy organization.

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