"Native humor has always been close to tragedy because it is about survival; like laughing in the face of all this tragedy that's surrounding us." Sterlin Harjo
Reservation Dogs is a television show focusing on Indian youth in a small community in the United States. The show has been developed by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. Reservation Dogs has been receiving great reviews in mainstream entertainment critic media. For me, my first glimpse of Reservation Dogs, was through video snippets on social media, like Facebook. The short clips of the tv show roped me in just like a calf in one of those Rodeos where the big Cowboys, Cowgirls break the necks of those baby cows as they run for their little lives. The calves are hooked in the neck by ropes and they are stopped so quick the back part of them keeps going forward and their head is stopped in mid-air. That is what happened to me, I was stopped dead in my couch and just had to spin around and watch the videos again. The show features some great performances from new talent and old talent: Pauline Alexis (reminds me of my niece), K. Devery Jacobs, Elva Guerra, along with Zahn McClarnon, Wes Studi, Gary Farmer. These are just a few of the many people acting in the show, even Bill Burr is featured in one episode. If you don't know who Bill Burr is, he is not Indian.
The thing I like about the show is the "inside knowledge." As Chief Dan George famously said to Clint Eastwood, "Only an Indian can do something like this." There are many things going on in the show beside the story which is in front of you. There are the Little People (who actually exist, I have seen one), the Bad Medicine (exists cause it happened to me) which no one wants to do because it comes back on you. There is the Owl thing, the show pixels out the eyes of the owl because Owls are messengers of Death! Or at least we believed this growing up. I like they don't shy away and get to make fun of all the good stuff. The Elder things, we know they are human and do human things like be jealous of each other. The "watch your hair" is a message we all grew up with because you don't want someone to put your hair in a rat's nest to make you crazy. The other thing they use in the show is the contrary, the backwards people. In the show the backward being is a Spirit, Dallas Goldtooth. Dallas is a well-known sketch comedian and was part of the 1491's. This group has so much talent and some fun videos.
Of course there are going to be some things in the show which won't resonate with people. The representation thing won't encompass all for sure and it shouldn't. We are such diverse peoples in the Indigenous-Native world. Still it's cool to see those young Neechies, those old Neechies on the tv screen. We now have 85 inch tv screens, so those Neechies are kind of on the Big Screen. It is entertainment and it is fun. They do touch on some realities in our community (the larger Indigenous community) like suicide. It does really fit in the story of the youth in the show; the struggle, the living on and the coping. Believe me, as a community we know this reality. We also know humor and it is part of our lives.
Just a little bit ago, our Aunt was buried and we went to visit. Our Aunt Francis lived in Muscowpetung Reserve in Saskatchewan. So family came to the service from different provinces; Manitoba Alberta. Allan our cousin said a few words at the service; "we have to get together more, visit and not just at funerals." My brother Howard, and cousin Barry went to visit with Allan just after he spoke. Both of them live in Alberta and Allan is in Manitoba, so they don't often get to see their cousin Allan. Allan could not be found. Turns out he took off from the Reserve as soon as he finished speaking and didn't stay for the service to end. Barry, smiling, says "didn't he say we should visit more?" It was a good laugh.