Native Americans have appeared in Hollywood movies virtually from the start, but they haven’t often had control of the narrative as writers, directors, or producers.
Thus, Indigenous filmmakers have worked for decades in the world of independent cinema to tell their stories. But over the past year, the number of movies and TV shows with a strong Indigenous presence in front of and behind the camera has grown rapidly. And native creatives based in or native to Oklahoma are playing a key role in many hot new titles.
Now, one of television’s most critically acclaimed sows follows four Native American teenagers in rural Oklahoma, while the most popular title of all time on a major streaming service is a long-running film franchise new episode, which now features an Indigenous heroine.
Here are four new TV series and four new movies you can stream now that are largely made by and about Indigenous people – and three more you can look for in the future:
After:Native Americans explain why growing representation in entertainment is so vital
Where to see it:Hulu.
Filmed entirely in Oklahoma, the FX Networks hit debuted last year to near-universal acclaim and kicked off its second season last week with two new episodes and more acclaim. It paved the way as the first mainstream TV show on which every regular writer, director and performer on the show is Indigenous.
New episodes of the 10-episode second season air on Wednesdays.
Co-created and produced by Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (“Thor: Love and Thunder”), who is of Maori descent, and Tulsa-based filmmaker Sterlin Harjo (“Barking Water”), who is Seminole and Muscogee, the bawdy and rambunctious coming-of-age comedy centers on four present-day Native teenagers who set out to flee their rural Oklahoma home for sunny California.
Where to see it:Peacock.
With a Navajo co-creator and executive producer in Sierra Teller Ornelas and several Indigenous writers, this sitcom launched its second season earlier this summer.
The show centers on the longtime friendship between Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms, “The Office”), a scion of the titular city’s white founding family, and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding, who is Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux listen), the head of the culture center of the fictional Minishonka nation.
Where to see it:AMC+ (or AMC.com if you have a cable or satellite provider or YouTube TV).
The long-awaited big-budget series based on Oklahoma-born and raised novelist Tony Hillerman’s best-selling detective novels about fictional Navajo detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee is created by Chickasaw Nation native Graham Roland. ‘Ardmore.
With Cheyenne-Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre (best known for the groundbreaking 1998 indie film “Smoke Signals”) directing most of its episodes, the series features movie icon Robert Redford and “Game of Thrones” mastermind. George RR Martin among its executive producers, as well as with Roland.
Set in the 1970s, the series stars Lakota actor Zahn McClarnon (“Reservation Dogs”) as Leaphorn and Hualapai actor Kiowa Gordon (“The Twilight Saga”) as Chee. The six-episode first season made a powerful enough impression this summer that it was quickly renewed for a second.
Where to see it:Peacock.
Last fall, Peacock began streaming Canadian Mohawk director Tracey Deer’s acclaimed comedy series – which the show’s creator described as “‘Sex and the City’ for the Indigenous set” – bringing the title to the American public for the first time.
Where to see it:Hulu.
The latest installment in the long-running “Predator” sci-fi film franchise is set on the northern Great Plains of the Comanche Nation in 1719. Filmed in the Stoney Nakoda Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with a predominantly Indigenous cast , the prequel pits one of the now-iconic alien trophy hunters against Naru (Amber Midthunder, “The Ice Road”), a Comanche determined to prove herself as a warrior.
Director Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) worked closely on the creature feature with producer Jhane Myers, a Comanche and Blackfeet artist, dancer and filmmaker originally from Oklahoma. There’s even a fully-dubbed Comanche version of the film — a first for a new film release in an Indigenous language — available on Hulu.
20th Century Studios revealed on Tuesday that the critically acclaimed action-thriller marked the biggest premiere on the Disney-owned streamer to date, surpassing all film and TV series debuts. Based on hours watched in the first three days of release, “Prey” also marked the most-watched movie premiere on Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories, according to a report. Press release.
How to see it: Roku Channel, Starz, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu, Hulu, Sling TV, Philo, Google Play Movies and Apple TV.
Filmed in Oklahoma in early 2020, the crime drama marks the feature film debut of Native American writer-director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians) and had its world premiere at the Film Festival. from Sundance 2021.
The heartbreaking drama centers on two Anishinaabe men – played by Michael Greyeyes (“Rutherford Falls”), who is Nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation – Treaty Six Territory in Saskatchewan, and the actor born in Tahlequah Chaske Spencer (“The Twilight Saga”), who is Sioux, Nez Perce, Cherokee, Creek, French and Dutch – who share a traumatic childhood secret about the murder of a classmate.
‘Montford: The Chickasaw Breeder’
Where to see it:Netflix.
Chickasaw Nation Productions has spent years transforming the epic life of Chickasaw Rancher owner Montford Johnson into a biopic that spans from his birth in 1843, through the tumultuous years of the Civil War and its aftermath, and to the Land Run of 1889.
The son of an Englishman and a Chickasaw, Johnson (Martin Sensmeier, who is Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan) befriended Cherokee trader and fur trader Jesse Chisholm (Eddie Easterling, Chickasaw citizen), which convinced him to establish cattle ranches and trading posts in the newly created Indian Territory to serve his fellow First Americans. At the height of his ranching operations, Johnson accumulated a herd of over 35,000 head of cattle grazing over one million acres.
“Love and Fury”
Where to see it:Netflix.
Before breaking out with “Reservation Dogs,” Harjo worked for years directing independent narrative and documentary films, including this selection from the 2020 DeadCenter Film Festival. For this documentary, Harjo followed several musicians, dancers and , visual artists and poets as they pursued their careers in the United States and abroad.
ARRAY Releasing, the distribution arm of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s narrative change collective, acquired “Love and Fury” last fall for limited theatrical and streaming release.
3 Native American titles to research soon
Where to see it: Disney+.
Marvel Studios is jumping into native storytelling with a new series slated for summer 2023 on Disney’s booming streaming service.
As part of the “Hawkeye” series, Indigenous actress Alaqua Cox, who is Menominee and Mohican, was cast last year as Maya Lopez/Echo, the fearsome commander of the criminal organization Tracksuit Mafia.
The series, which shoots in Georgia, is hailed as a major moment not only for Native Americans but also for the disability community: Cox is deaf and an amputee.
Where to see it: Netflix.
Along with episodes of “Reservation Dogs,” Navajo director Sydney Freeland co-wrote this Native American basketball drama with Harjo, based on the sports novel “Canyon Dreams” by Michael Powell. LeBron James is one of the producers.
Described as “Friday Night Lights” meets “Hoosiers,” the coming-of-age sports drama follows the Chuska Warriors, a Native American basketball team from Chuska, New Mexico, who must unite after lost their star player if they want to keep their quest for a state championship alive. It’s an all-American underdog sports story – with all-American underdogs who happen to be Navajos.
Production is to take place in New Mexico, including filming on reservations with permission and support from local sovereign tribal nations.
No release date has been announced.
Where to see it: Paramount+.
True crime stories have been big hits for streamers (think “Girl in the Picture,” “The Innocent Man,” and “Tiger King”), so this project definitely has potential.
Harjo and fellow Indigenous writer and director Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga), originally from Oklahoma, are co-creating and producing a potential series based on Sierra Crane Murdoch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning finalist “Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country.”
When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. When Yellow Bird learns three years later that a young white oil worker has disappeared from her back-up job site, she becomes concerned.
The book (and presumably the upcoming series) chronicles his obsessive search for clues, which takes him down two diverging paths: to his own tribe, tainted by the wealth of the oil boom, to the unlucky, non-native oilmen. , many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to find work towards the end of the Great Recession.
Yellow Bird will be among the show’s executive producers, according to Deadline. No release date has been announced.