“What we’ve been doing this last year is much bigger than I had in my dreams,” the Ponca and Ojibwe writer and producer Migizi Pensoneau said recently. “You think it’s getting to be this incremental thing then suddenly there are these two massive TV shows, and therefore the aftershocks are getting to be massive, too.” The two shows he’s pertaining to are “Reservation Dogs,” which arrives Monday on FX on Hulu, and “Rutherford Falls,” which premiered in April on the NBC Universal streaming service Peacock, and has been renewed for an additional season.
They are vastly different comedies. The first, created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”), maybe a genre-mixing series about four Indigenous teenagers in Oklahoma. The second, from Sierra Teller Ornelas (“Superstore”), Michael Schur (“The Good Place”), and Ed Helms (“The Office”), may be a sweetly biting sitcom that re-examines an upstate NY town’s colonial history. ‘Reservation Dogs’ Uses Humor, Not Magic, to Conjure Native Culture Sierra Teller Ornelas on the Roots of ‘Rutherford Falls’ But what they share is that they’re both Native stories told largely by Native actors, writers, producers, and directors. The upshot has been a flourishing of latest opportunities for Hollywood’s small but growing community of Native creators and performers, many of whom worked on both shows. they’re determined to make sure that this long-awaited moment for Native American representation on television isn’t a fleeting one.
“Right now, you’ve got an entire bunch of individuals on the come-up that have a way different point of view than has been seen within the world thus far,” said Pensoneau, an actor on “Rutherford Falls” and writer on “Reservation Dogs.” The otherwise dissimilar series also illustrates that a “Native show” is often anything, and suggests the multitude of various Indigenous stories available to a show business that has rarely tapped into them, said Tazbah Chavez, a writer on “Rutherford Falls” and writer-director on “Reservation Dogs.” “[Networks and studios] desire they’re running out of stories — it’s because they need a 200-year-old story,” said Chavez, a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe. “We’ve got thousands of years.”
Pensoneau added, “The incontrovertible fact that we’re all Native doesn’t preclude us from being during a global space — it actually makes us much richer.” In a group video call last month, Pensoneau, Chavez, the Navajo director Sydney Freeland, the Lakota actor and writer Jana Schmieding, the Mohawk actor Devery Jacobs and therefore the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota actor and writer Bobby Wilson, who all worked on both “Reservation Dogs” and “Rutherford Falls,” discussed the Native American experience within the TV industry and therefore the importance of opening doors for others. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.