Arts & Culture

“Reservation Dogs” An Indigenous Coming-of-Age Comedy

Percy Bartelt, contributor

With an entirely Indigenous group of writers and directors, and a mostly Indigenous cast of actors, “Reservation Dogs” is the show to watch. Released August 9, 2021, “Reservation Dogs” shows their audience the lives of four Indigenous kids, ages ranging from fourteen to seventeen, going around their neighborhood committing petty crimes to make quick money in order for them to live their California dreams. The show was written by Sterlin Harjo, previously known for directing “Mekko,” and other small works, as well as Taika Waititi, known for directing the Oscar Award-winning “Jojo Rabbit” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” This new show intends to shine a new light on Indigenous communities in both a dramatic and comedic way.

“Reservation Dogs” was inspired by the movie “Reservoir Dogs,” directed by Quentin Tarantino, where six strangers are made to perform a robbery. Instead, “Reservation Dogs” follows four Indigenous kids, first: Bear Smallhill, who was born to be a leader within his community, but he seems to lack the skill in order to do so. Next is Elora Danan, who’s big dream is to live in California, next is Willie Jack, a strong, tough individual who always had the rest of her gang’s back, and lastly is “Cheese,” a young boy who is rather quiet, introverted, and generally does what the rest of the gang does or says, regardless of what his opinion might be. They all are struggling with the loss of the fifth member of their gang, Daniel, who dreamt of going to California, thus the gang wants to honor their friend. Together, they’re a tight-knit gang who are willing to support each other, get into trouble around their neighborhood, and are trying to pursue their dreams – and their friend’s honor – of travelling to Los Angeles, California. 

For my own personal analysis, “Reservation Dogs” shows an interesting depiction of Indigenous culture and communities, both in a comedic and a dramatic way, and I greatly appreciate the harmony of the two. This coming-of-age show is one everyone needs to see, especially if you know little to nothing about Indigenous culture, as this show intends to rewrite the often overlooked narrative of Indigenious voices. I would have to say, by far, my favorite character is Willie Jack. A tough character, someone that stays true to who she is, whilst also protecting her gang anyway she can. She’s a natural leader, protector, and all over someone that will support those they care about. Even the actress, Paulina Jewel Alexis, herself is a strong and charismatic individual that does as many creative things you can think of! She creates songs and dances within the Treaty Six Territory in Canada, her hometown, and she has said that she enjoys athletics, as well as filmmaking, where she made short films with her siblings. All the more reasons to love both Alexis and her character in the show.

All eight episodes of “Reservation Dogs” are up on Hulu, and the series will be renewed for a second season sometime in 2022.