The last few years in film and television have been a golden age of Indigenous representation culminating in the Golden Globe win for Blackfeet Actor Lily Gladstone for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon as Mollie Burkhart.
From animated television to films, the staff of Four Points Press present our picks for entertainment options with positive Indigenous representation.
From Rusty: “Drunk History” provides a very unique, albeit hysterically funny, version of history lessons told by intoxicated celebrities and reenacted by a separate cast of regulars. Ranging from American to World history, Comedy Central chose to select two Native American stories to present to the world on a wider scale – the story of Jim Thorpe and the Occupation of Alcatraz Island. Most of the comedic genius comes from the storyteller themselves. On top of the hilarious narration, add into it the commentary from the presenter of the show, who often cameos in the reenactment. One major, yet ironic point, of the entire episode however, was Comedy Central’s commitment to authenticity in securing real Native actors to portray Native characters. We as an audience get to see real Native actors, portraying real Native people, and hearing real native stories. We’ve all had that drunken story moment where we mostly laugh instead of telling the actual story, but that is what makes the show SO good. It feels like you’re just hanging out with one of your drunk buddies, but you discover that they’re actually REALLY good at making people laugh through storytelling. The show feels like that.
From Angelina: "The Grizzlies" directed by Miranda De Pencier is based on the actual Grizzlies Lacrosse team from 2005. This 2018 film documents a true story of a community's struggles. Based around an Indigenous community that had the highest suicide rate in North America, with the cause of youth suicide as a result of generational trauma of residential school, colonialism, substance abuse, and domestic violence. While this movie paints a bleak outlook of life on a reservation. It also details how a community found hope after being introduced to the game of Lacrosse by a non-Native outsider Russ Sheppard who used the game to distract the youth from their reality, but also to teach them about becoming a community and not just teammates. This film was heartbreaking but with a motivational side with a strong message that there is hope within what can be the smallest things and how you can never depict what is going on in someone's life.
From Niklas: “Ghosts” is a sitcom, based on a BBC sitcom, about a couple, Sam and Jay, who come to own an old, haunted manor inhabited by ghosts from various eras of American history. After having a near death experience, Samantha (Rose McIver) is able to see and talk to the ghosts despite being alive, she uses her abilities to befriend and help them deal with unfinished business. One of the ghosts in the manor is Sasappis, a member of the Lenape tribe who died in 1513. Played by Román Zaragoza. Zaragoza, in an interview with Whitney Friedlander for Metacritic, said he wanted to bring in a Lenape consultant, to which the show runners agreed and brought in Joe Baker, Executive Director and co-founder of The Lenape Center. Baker made changes to the character’s costume and spoke with Zarazoga on the portrayal. Zarazoga is not Lenape, but is mixed race Akimel O'otham, Mexican from his father’s side and Japanese and Taiwanese from his mother’s side. Other native characters on the show include Shiki, a Lenape ghost residing in the town’s newspaper played by Crystle Lightning, and Bob, a contemporary Lenape man played by Dallas Goldtooth.
From Luella: “The Great North” is an animated family comedy on Fox from the production team behind "Bob's Burgers." It follows the large Tobin Family and their adventures in Lone Moose, Alaska. Many characters on the show are Alaska Natives including the town mayor, the family patriarch’s adopted father, daughter Judy’s best friend and her family and many classmates at the school. The representation on the show is comfortable because it doesn’t make a big deal out of interacting with the Indigenous people, it treats the characters with familiarity, which I appreciate. The show itself is funny, heartwarming and not as crass as other animated shows like “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” The cast of characters is well-rounded, even the Indigenous ones, everyone has backstory, careers and great personalities. This is a show that a family can watch together.