Native Max had the opportunity to cover this year’s Emmys earlier this week, which we noticed something blatantly obvious–where is the Indigenous representation?
Indigenous representation in television is seeing an all-new age with the rise of shows like Reservation Dogs and Dark Winds, bringing Natives to the screen in an authentic and long-awaited way. However, there’s been a slew of disappointing news in this area recently, not only in the unfortunate cancellation of Rutherford Falls but also in the countless snubs in this year’s Emmys. Despite the nuanced excellence seen in these shows and their wonderful casts, they’re still being disregarded by these long-standing institutions.
Reservation Dogs is truly among the first of its kind in television, a show which focuses on and features Indigenous youth battling and overcoming the issues plaguing their community, and connecting with their culture throughout it. While an award is by no means necessary to understand the value of the story or to see it as a success or not, it does point to an ongoing issue in the culture of show business and those who run it.
While Indigenous creators are making history with their art and uplifting their community, they still aren’t being recognized on the same level as other shows. While there are instances of inclusion, such as in the 2021 Emmys where the main cast of Reservation Dogs and Sterlin Harjo were part of the presenters that night, the lack of nominations is still painfully apparent.
There has only been one instance of an Indigenous person being nominated for an acting role in the Emmys, that being August Schellenberg for his role in “Bury My Heart at Wounded” back in 2007. Without even having to list the many stellar performances of Indigenous actors and actresses across the years, it’s disappointing to see the lack of recognition for so much hard work.
Roberto Fatal, an Indigenous filmmaker, added that:
Roberto Fatal, director, writer, and producer
“It is sad to see the lack of Indigenous nominations at the Emmys. I think the biggest snub is Res Dogs. It is a shock, but also not surprising. I don’t think it’s intentional malice towards the Indigenous communities, but instead is that unconscious racism that still causes harm…There are always people, often white gatekeepers, who say our stories told uncompromisingly by us are too niche for everyone to get. Yet those same people have no problems connecting with elves in middle earth, mermaids in the deep sea, robots in a future starship…If the demographics of voting members change to folks who are more open-minded to Indigenous filmmaking and television, then perhaps we can see some change in what shows are nominated.”
Earlier this year, Reservation Dogs won in two categories in the Independent Spirit Awards. It’s a step forward towards proper inclusion, though there’s still a long way to go. With the Indigenous creatives we see in the business today, there’s so much to look forward to in the stories being told and those we’ve still yet to see. Awards don’t and shouldn’t define the success of any of these stories, as the value they hold goes far beyond that. Still, to see Indigenous artists be nominated and win these awards is not only proper recognition and a step towards inclusion but can be an inspiration for the generations of Indigenous creatives yet to come.