What Taika Waititi – director of JoJo Rabbit – and Sterlin Harjo – Director of Mekko – present in their new show, Reservation Dogs, is the indigenous perspective that has been long overdue. For decades Indigenous people have been misrepresented and rarely the main character in films.
Through Reservation Dogs, we are given the experience of what life on the reservation is like through the lenses of four teenagers whose dream is to make it to California. What makes Reservation Dogs even more unique is that the cast and crew are all Indigenous and it was filmed entirely at the Muscogee Nation reservation in eastern Oklahoma. Something that is rarely seen on a mainstream network.
The “leader” Bear Smallhill played by D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Elona Danan played by Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, Cheese played by Lane Factor, and Wille-Jack played by Paulina Jewel Alexis, are known in the reservation as the Reservation Dogs or Rez Dogs. There used to be a fifth member of the Rez Dogs named Danny Bighead played by Keland Lee Bearpaw, but who as Bear puts it “this place killed him.”
The show dives into the political aspects of reservation life such as the clinic where there is a lack of doctors, the perspective of white folks on indigenous people, and the lack of support from the U.S. government, all while somehow keeping a sense of humor.
The show really shines in the dialogue. The four teenagers talk in a way that makes it so that they are family not by blood but by bond.Characters introduce emotional moments too, such as when Bear spent a majority of the California fund to get his father a gift — who in the end doesn’t show up.
Reservation Dogs is doing what Smoked Signals did back in 1998, it broke down stereotypes and gives a glimpse into what it looks like when Indigenous people tell their own story.
You can catch Reservation Dogs on Hulu and Disney+. New episodes come out every Sunday at 9 pm.