Representation is revolutionary. Seeing Native people, who we are today and celebrating us, is necessary and it matters. Let’s face it, Hollywood hasn’t always been willing to see us or celebrate us. From its embarrassingly low levels of diverse representation across the board, to inaccurate and harmful portrayals of people of color, particularly Native peoples, Hollywood has been an accomplice in the institutionalized erasure of Native peoples, impacting how our non-Native children see, think, and feel about Native Americans. For too long, Native people have been erased from history, the present, and popular culture. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In 2018, I co-led the Reclaiming Native Truth (RNT) study, one of the largest investments of its kind to Indian Country to understand how critical the visibility of Native peoples is to increasing public support on the issues that impact Native communities. We found that the invisibility of and toxic misconceptions about Native peoples create very serious biases within people and institutions which impact everything from court decisions to police violence.
Hollywood and the entertainment industry hold an immense power and with it comes responsibility. Popular film and television has a vast reach, even beyond our borders. The stories Hollywood chooses to tell, and how they choose to tell them, often plays a major role in how people understand and empathize with important social issues and diverse communities. That is why we need to increase the authentic representation of Native peoples and inclusion of diverse storytelling in film and television.
We need more Native stories. We need characters and storylines that show our complexity, our humanity, our joy, and our humor.
Over the course of the last year, non-Native audiences have begun to see a glimpse of the talent and power of Native creatives. With the release of critically acclaimed Native-authored and centered shows, “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs,” and complex and powerful films like “Wild Indian” and “Nightraiders,” we’re witnessing a revolutionary shift in representation that moves us beyond the outdated, inaccurate, and often offensive depictions of Native peoples in pop culture – to more compelling, contemporary, and accurate portrayals of our lives today.
Read the full article about Indigenous representation in Hollywood by Mary Dehart at The Madison Leader Gazette.
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