‘Reservation Dogs’ Use Humor, Not Magic, To Revive Indigenous Culture


Despite Waititi’s influence, Harjo was surprised that he was sold out so quickly. He said that in the past, white executives killed projects because they didn’t believe they could find enough Indigenous talent to make it happen. Harjo knew better.

“Our communities are full of incredibly talented people,” he said. But we are descendants of people who survived genocide, forced displacement and displacement, so we do not leave home as easily as others. We don’t go to L.A. and say, ‘I’m going to be an actor. That’s why you have to find those people.”

FX made Harjo the showrunner, who directed independent films and created comedy videos in the 1491s. “I didn’t even know what showmanship was,” he said with a laugh. Luckily there was someone to call: Sierra Teller OrnelasThe man who manages “Rutherford Falls”. The series he co-created with Michael Schur (“The Good Place,” “Parks and Recreation”) and Ed Helms (“The Office”) became his television’s first Native American showrunner.

“I called Sierra and said, ‘When do I have to see you?’ I would ask,” he said.

“Rutherford Falls” has an overall sunny and soft tone, befitting a Schur co-created show—the writers’ room is 50 percent Native, and focuses on the complex, though deep, friendship between Helms’ character and the Native American woman played by Jana Schmieding. .

“Reservation Dogs” are more advantageous. Because the all-Indigenous writers’ room was “inside out,” Harjo felt confident enough, for example, not to stop and explain all the cultural nuances and inside jokes to white audiences.

“We will not hold your hand,” he said.

Harjo said he had been back in the writers’ room twice during the first sessions and told everyone, “Well, guys, we’re going to blow this up and do it again.” “This was vital,” he said. They say they’ve found the right balance of humor and naturalism to truly illuminate the truth of Native life in America.


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