Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

One last beautiful ride for ‘Reservation Dogs’

One last beautiful ride for ‘Reservation Dogs’
Photo courtesy of Hulu/FX
The main characters of ‘Reservation Dogs’ filming during an episode of the show’s final season.

Hulu’s critically acclaimed TV show ‘Reservation Dogs’ is finishing up its last season with a final episode airing on Sept. 27. The show is an indigenous television series co-created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. The show follows four young indigenous teenagers from Oklahoma battling the struggles of reservation life and searching for their place in the world.

The group is portrayed by K. Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear, Lane Factor as Cheese and Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack. The show has broken down Hollywood stereotypes of Native Americans and integrated dark humor into a uniquely realistic representation of modern Native people and reservation life.

The show’s success includes nominations for Golden Globes, Emmy’s and Critic’s Choice Awards. It was named the best show of 2022 by the New York Times and Rolling Stone. Throughout its three seasons, the themes of family, friendship and culture recur to show what Native people value most in their lives.

Last spring, Black Hills State University invited Mato Wayuhi to speak during American Indian Awareness Week. Wayuhi wrote music for the TV series and recently appeared in season three of the show. During his presentation, he talked about how he got roped into working on the show.

Harjo reached out to him multiple times because he believed that Wayuhi was going to be a great asset for the show. Wayuhi expressed how grateful he was for the experience he gained in filmmaking and how to improve his own music writing.

The series is popular among many Native people because there isn’t a show that represents indigenous people as accurately. The main thing that the show has correctly done was having it created, produced and portrayed entirely by indigenous people.

Cheree Ferguson, a student at BHSU, watched the show and believes it represents Native people in a great way.

“It shows the harsh reality of the reservation for the youth,” Ferguson said.

The show is inspired by real-life experiences. Reservation life is difficult because there are not as many resources and opportunities. “Reservation Dogs” manages to represent the difficulties and inequalities of Native American life while still expressing the beauty and community of life on the reservation.

“My favorite character is Willie Jack because she is really funny, but you also see her step up as a leader,” said Kayla McCloskey, a student at BHSU. “Her maturity is what makes her who she is.”

Most Native youth struggle having a positive role model in their life. The youth often grow up missing out on aspects of their childhoods. Many step-up at a young age to take care of their family and siblings, much like the character Willie Jack. She is very head strong and puts others before herself.

Tristine Cross Dog, a student at BHSU, believed the show cut deep and told the truth of the youth.

“It shows what the youth go through on the rez,” Cross Dog said. “How things actually are with like gangs on the rez.”

Criminal activity is a rising conflict in reservation communities. The show portrayed the main characters stealing in order to gain money. Even though they were stealing they were using the money to get away from the reservation.

Stealing is, although wrong, was portrayed as survival technique used by the young characters on the show. Native people
still struggle with poverty today and the negative aspects of the reservation are why the characters strive to experience life outside of the reservation.

“It tells how the youth want to get off the rez,” Cross Dog said. “In the end though they always want to go back because it’s home.”

While many young people wait their whole lives to get off the reservation, they often tend to return. This is due to many reasons, such as wanting to improve the reservation or giving back to the community. Another reason for staying or returning is because of family. At one point in the show the main characters chose to stay on the reservation instead of traveling to California because of their ties to the reservation and their family.

“The show also represented the good of the rez,” Ferguson said. “It shows that everyone is a family and how everyone supports each other.”

The series teaches viewers lessons such as land acknowledgement, respecting your elders, taking your time to live life and remembering to still love when life gets tough. The show brings up hard topics such as suicide, the struggles of losing a family member, the grieving process and learning how to cope with life struggles. The show demonstrates how family will support you in your most dire needs. It had a heartwarming, authentic and emotional portrayal of how one’s ancestors are the ones that hold everyone together in times of need and will guide you through the hardest times in life.

“There is no other show like it and the series that will hold a special place in Native people’s hearts for a lifetime,” McCloskey said.

About the Contributor
Sapphire Tiger, Senior Staff Writer