Highlighting Native American Media: Reservation Dogs on FX

Tiara Starks, Entertainment Editor

The FX on Hulu comedy-drama show “Reservation Dogs” has been out for a year and is already making a huge impact in Indigenous-led entertainment.

The Sterlin-Harjo produced series follows the lives of four Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma spending their days committing crimes in an effort to get to California. Harjo has almost exclusively received accolades in filmmaking for the past decade, having directed three feature narrative films and a feature documentary. His films have been screened at Sundance and the Independent Spirit Awards, making Harjo’s foray into television even more noteworthy as an Indigenous creator.

“Reservation Dogs” premiered earlier this year in August on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is observed to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous population. According to USA Today, the series features “an all-Indigenous team of writers, directors and series regulars.”

Taika Watiti, who is best known for his work on Marvel projects such as “Thor: Ragnarok” and the Disney+ television series “The Mandalorian,” co-developed the project with Harjo but said that “people need to tell their own stories and especially from whatever area they are from.”

What makes the show even more unique is that there was a precedent set early on to cast unknown Indigenous actors. Lane Factor and Paulina Alexis, who respectively portray the characters Cheese and Willie Jack, were chosen through a local casting process. Factor, the only Oklahoma-native in the cast, received word that he got the role before he turned 16.

There haven’t been many forms of positive representation of Indigenous people. Statistically, Native and Indigenous representation in media had been at an all-time low and the public’s perception of these communities had been far from positive or respected. A show like “Reservation Dogs,” which depicts young Indigenous characters with narrative arcs and character development, alongside other popular shows such as Peacock’s “Rutherford Falls,” gives a platform to Indigenous creators has proven that getting these projects greenlighted is possible and necessary.

While the series has been renewed for a second season, Harjo also has other Native-led projects coming out, including a Netflix Native American basketball drama, “Rez Ball.”

The show’s first season trailer can be found here.