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From ‘Reservation Dogs’ to ‘Rutherford Falls,’ Native people are having a moment on TV

(L-R): Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Elora Danan Postoak (Devery Jacobs), Bear (D???Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Cheese (Lane Factor) in RESERVATION DOGS.

Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Cheese (Lane Factor) and Willie (Paulina Alexis) in the FX on Hulu comedy series “Reservation Dogs.”

When the character Bear is visited by the spirit of an unknown warrior in the series premiere of “Reservation Dogs,” he asks if the man before him is “Crazy Horse” or another legendary Native American leader.It turns out, however, that the man in the beads and feathers is not the kind of brave or formidable Native hero long romanticized in Hollywood. The unknown warrior instead departed this earth in a most anticlimactic fashion — his horse tripped over a gopher hole and squashed him dead before the battle even started.”The spirit world is cold,” he tells Bear. “My nipples are always hard.”

It’s a deeply clever and funny scene, one that flips the tired trope of the Indigenous warrior on its head. It winks at Native viewers in the audience, who are all too used to seeing stereotypical portrayals of their people on screen. And it gently mocks those who still think of Native people as relics of the past, as if to say, “C’mon … really?”

“It’s bringing non-Natives into the joke and saying, ‘Hey, this is what you think we look like and we’re gonna let you laugh at it with us,'” Sterlin Harjo, a Seminole and Muscogee filmmaker who created “Reservation Dogs” with Taika Waititi, told CNN. “‘But it’s crazy that you think we still dress like that.'”

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