“Dogs” break stereotypes about American Indians

TULSA – Two Indigenous filmmakers shatter caricatures and stereotypes of American Indians, who from the earliest days of film and television have often played supporting roles or have been portrayed as bloodthirsty killers standing in the way of l white expansion to the west.

Sterlin Harjo, a seminole and muscogee filmmaker from Oklahoma, has teamed up with Taika Waititi, a Maori director from New Zealand, on “Reservation Dogs,” a new series airing Monday on FX on Hulu and starring four restless teens who swear, fight and steal their way to adulthood in a rural Oklahoma town. Shot entirely on the Muscogee Nation reservation in eastern Oklahoma, the network claims the half-hour comedy is the first cable TV show in which all of the show’s regular writers, directors and characters are indigenous.

“To be able to tell a real story about real people through comedy, it’s about time,” said Harjo, who directed “Mekko” and “Barking Water”. “There have been some 130 years of cinema and we are finally showing ourselves as human beings, which shouldn’t be drastic, but it’s pretty drastic today.”

Devery Jacobs, a Mohawk actor from Quebec, Canada, who plays one of the show’s main characters, said working on a set with so many Indigenous actors and crews was a breath of fresh air.

“On many projects, I was the only Indigenous person for miles,” said Jacobs. “Getting on the ‘Reservation Dogs’ set and seeing my community around me, a community of fellow native people from different walks of life, was really to be welcomed home.

“I had never experienced it before, and it meant so much to me, and I know it will mean so much to the public in Turtle Island and beyond,” she said, using a term from many indigenous peoples, mainly in the northeast. part of North America, used to refer to the continent.

Longtime friends and first-time collaborator Waititi and Harjo said the show was born out of discussions about what kind of show they would like to see, and before they knew it, ” had this idea about those kids who had become vigilantes and wanted to clean up their community, ”recalled Waititi, the Oscar-winning writer and director of“ Jojo Rabbit, ”whose credits also include“ Thor: Ragnarok ”and the TV series “What We Do in the Shadows”.

“We weren’t quite sure where he would be, and then we were struck that placing him here would be perfect.”

Shot primarily in the small town of Okmulgee, in eastern Oklahoma, where the headquarters of the Muscogee Nation is located, the show’s restless young characters are familiar beyond native communities and small towns, have said Waititi and Harjo.

“The idea of ​​just wandering around the suburbs or a small community doing nothing, wondering what’s in it for me and what I’m going to do with my life,” Waititi said. “That’s the heart of what drives these kids … a lot of teenagers all over the world, they feel like that.”

Although the characters are not identified as members of a specific Native American tribe, the Muscogee Nation has been heavily involved in assisting with locating, and a public premiere at its River Spirit Resort and Casino in Tulsa drew near. 2,000 people.

“The real value of this show and its portrayal is its authenticity,” said Jason Salsman, spokesperson for Muscogee Nation. “There have been so many years and examples of invisibility, distortion and misuse of Indigenous culture in movies and films.”

“It’s a welcome change,” he said.

Like many of the 39 federally recognized tribes of Oklahoma, the Muscogee Nation diversified its economy with an injection of cash from tribal gambling approved by voters in 2004. The State Supreme Court United also confirmed the nation’s reserve boundaries – 3 million acres (12,100 square kilometers), including most of the city of Tulsa – in a landmark ruling last year on tribal sovereignty .

The show’s production in Oklahoma comes amid a filming boom in the state. The Oklahoma Film and Music Office estimates that the 33 film and television productions, including “Reservation Dogs,” which were eligible for state reimbursement on qualifying expenses, had a direct tax impact of more than $ 161 million. of dollars. Other films shot in Oklahoma include “Killers of the Flower Moon”, https: //www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/aug/12/dogs-smashes-stereotypes-of-american-indians/ “Stillwater” and this year’s Oscar-winning film “Minari”.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, himself a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, passed a bill earlier this year that increases the film reimbursement cap from $ 8 million to $ 30 million per year, which is expected to attract more productions, diversify the state’s workforce and strengthen its film infrastructure.

Associated Press television writer Lynn Elber contributed to this Los Angeles report.

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