Representation is revolutionary. Meeting the aborigines, who are celebrating us and us today, is necessary and important. Let’s face it, Hollywood isn’t always willing to see us or celebrate us. From its embarrassingly low-level diverse representation across the board to the misrepresentation and misrepresentation of people of color, especially Aborigines, Hollywood has been instrumental in institutionalizing the aborigines, how our non-Native children see, think, and feel about Native Americans. For a long time, indigenous peoples have been erased from history, current and popular culture. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Indigenous Day, and every day, indigenous peoples and indigenous peoples live, prosper, and lead the United States and around the world. We contribute to every aspect of society in 50 states. We are a living proof of our history of resistance and resilience. Yet, negative and misleading stereotypes and trops, and systemic erasers, have informed local people about misconceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.
In 2018, I co-led the Reclaiming Native Truth (RNT) Study, the largest investment of its kind in India to understand how important the visibility of natives is to increase public support for influencing the indigenous population. We have seen that invisibility and toxic misconceptions about indigenous peoples create extremely serious biases between people and organizations that affect everything from court decisions to police violence. Invisibility in pop culture, media and K-12 education has a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of local youth. Native mascots exist in professional sports and in schools across the country, driving biased and stereotyped native people as aggressive and sarcastic in the past.
Hollywood and the entertainment industry have a huge potential and with it comes responsibility. There is an expansion of popular movies and television, even beyond our borders. The stories that Hollywood likes to tell, and how they like to tell them, often play a big role in how people understand and empathize with important social issues and different communities. This is why we need to increase the true representation of local people and include different storytelling in film and television.
Reclaiming Native Truth data show that the inclusion of native characters in primetime television and popular movies ranges from 0-0.4%. Subsequent studies have found very little progress with native representation. In 2020, the University of California, Los Angeles released the Hollywood Diversity Report, which analyzed content from 2018 to 2018. The report found that domestic representation in the film ranged from 0.3% -0.5%. On television, local representation was virtually non-existent – varying in content, representation was found between 0 and 0.6% where local women were less likely to be represented. The 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report showed local representation in stable movies at 0.6%. The report further found that creative roles such as writer or director showed virtually no local representation.
We need more native stories. We need characters and stories that show our complexity, our humanity, our joy and our humor.
Over the past year, non-local audiences have begun to see a glimpse into the talents and strengths of Native Creatives. With the release of critically acclaimed native-author and centralized shows, complex and powerful films such as “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs” and “Wild Indian” and “Knight Riders”, we are seeing a revolutionary shift in representation that moves us to pop. Indigenous culture is out of the old, wrong, and often offensive image – for a more compelling, contemporary, and accurate portrayal of our lives today.
Americans are eager to see content that shows Native-driven stories and narratives, capturing Native people in a real, fun, and authentic way. Nielsen’s 2020 Inclusion Analytics report highlights the importance of increasing on-screen representation as viewers move and search across different platforms. As Nielsen finds, listeners across all identities are concerned about the quality of the representational program যার which means viewers are looking for better, more positive, and more inclusive stories and characters.
Representation is important – but the value of representation is more important.
Our fight for indigenous representation must help indigenous and local storytellers tell local stories and increase opportunities to include indigenous and native creatives, characters and talents in all areas of art.
We must demand change and investment among local storytellers and make a concerted effort to tell indigenous stories authentic, accurate and contemporary. Hollywood has to go a long way.
Crystal Echo Hawk (Paoni) is the founder and executive director of Illuminati. Throughout his career, he has been a respected, passionate and successful advocate for the rights of Native Americans, helping to transform tribal and Indigenous public perceptions by placing special emphasis on Native children and educating various sectors of the American public. Through Illuminati, Crystal works with a respected team of local artists and leaders in pop culture, media and social justice to advance a new narrative of the Indian country through partnerships with indigenous communities and allies that can transform hearts and minds and disappear, erase and poison The anecdote that influences the aborigines today. Crystal Echo Hawk is a listed member of the Paoni Nation of Oklahoma.