Marvel Echo

Indigenous Representation in Media Series: Part 1

By Kendra Germany-Wall
January 5, 2024

Something is happening in Hollywood.

In an industry where it was once acceptable for Italian Americans to be cast in Native American roles, Indigenous actors, directors and writers are now occupying spaces in the spotlight ––bringing accurate representation and stories to the masses.

In a study conducted by the University of Southern California, which evaluated the 1,600 top-grossing films between 2007 and 2022, <0.25% of all speaking roles went to Native American characters. In fact, the percentage of Native American roles did not exceed 1% across any of the years evaluated.

Though the numbers are still low, there is a renaissance of sorts happening when it comes to Indigenous representation on the big screen.

Below are a few examples of Indigenous representation in media that our readers should check out.


Echo begins public streaming on Disney+ starting January 9, 2024.

Part of Marvel’s Phase 5, the series starring Alaqua Cox (Menominee and Mohican), has already begun to receive praise from critics and Marvel fans.

Cox made her debut as Maya Lopez in the “Hawkeye” series.

“Echo” focuses on Maya’s Choctaw heritage and Indigenous roots, a first in the superhero game. If you pay close attention, viewers may even see some of their fellow Choctaw tribal members featured in the series.

As a reminder to our readers, the show, Marvel’s first rated R series, isn’t for everyone. Described by some viewers as “brutal and dark,” the series delves into Marvel’s “Daredevil” world, which is the grittier side of the Marvel Universe.

Reservation Dogs

For many, “Reservation Dogs” was an act of cultural reclamation and driving force for a more accurate representation of Indigenous communities in media.

The series followed four Indigenous teenagers in Okern, Oklahoma—a fictional stand-in for the city of Okmulgee.

It was the first show to feature Indigenous writers and directors exclusively, as well as a primarily Indigenous crew, and to be shot on location in the Muscogee Nation.

The cast was primarily a mix of young, up-and-coming actors and Native American acting staples like Wes Studi and Gary Farmer.

The series, which ended its three-season run in 2023, depicted Native life in an authentic and raw way.

Sterlin Harjo (Muscogee) successfully turned “Reservation Dogs” into an avenue for social representation by highlighting history and culture throughout the series.

“Reservation Dogs” can still be streamed on Hulu and Disney+.

TIME Magazine named “Reservation Dogs” the best television show of 2023 along with HBO’s “Succession.”

The series paved a future for Indigenous actors, writers and directors in the film and television industry.

Within the past three years, viewers have seen an increase in more accurate Indigenous representation in media through shows like AMC’s Dark Winds, Peacock’s Rutherford Falls and Mohawk Girls Netflix’s Spirit Rangers, among other TV shows.

Frybread Face and Me

“Frybread Face and Me,” a new Netflix family drama, is now available on the streaming service as of November 24, 2023.

The film, written, directed and produced by Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo) is the director/producer of the award-winning documentaries Miss Navajo, Grab and Red Lake. In 2018, he launched his web series alter-NATIVE for PBS’ IndieLens StoryCast.

The coming-of-age story had its premiere in March 2023 at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It has since been featured in various film festivals across the U.S.

“Frybread Face and Me” follows two adolescent Navajo cousins from different worlds as they bond during a summer on their grandmother’s Arizona ranch. Produced by Chad Burris and executive-produced by Taika Waititi, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. The film stars Kier Tallman, Charley Hogan, Martin Sensmeier, Kahara Hodges and Sarah Natani.

“The inspiration, I think, came from just growing up, being the multi-tribal kid who lived off the reservation most of his life,” said Luther. “I just wanted to tell a story that was just really personal to me, and the experience that I had is an experience that many other Indigenous people had.”

Speaking about the film, Luther said Benny’s (Tallman) story of learning about rez life and bonding with his cousin Frybread (Hogan) has universal appeal in that it’s ultimately about being somewhere new and feeling alone.

“This is a film that I made with really no intention of saying, ‘this is the specific audience who needs to see it.’ I really wanted to be truthful and honest with myself and my storytelling. Especially with this film since it was do deeply personal.”

“My target audience is pretty wide. I love the fact that people can take their grandparents to see it; they can have all their kids of all ages see it. I really want people to see the love of family and look into a world they haven’t seen before,” said Luther. “That’s really kind of what I love. I’m bringing people into a world that they haven’t seen.” As previously stated, the film was released on Netflix on November 24 and is now available for streaming.

Check out the film’s official trailer.

Lawmen: Bass Reeves

“Yellowstone” regular Mo Brings Plenty has moved on to another Taylor Sheridan production and Paramount+ series, “Lawmen: Bass Reeves.”

The limited series tells the story of Bass Reeves, the first Black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River.

Brings Plenty (Oglala Lakota) plays Minco Dodge, a Choctaw friend of Reeves.

The Chahta Anumpa Aiikhvna (School of Choctaw Language) assisted with Choctaw language on set.

Recently, Teri Billy was showcased on David Oyelowo’s social media, where he thanked her and shared his thoughts on showcasing the language in the show.

Oyelowo, who plays Bass Reeves, said, “One of the things that is just most emotional and impactful and beautiful about what I think we’re doing with this show is the preservation of the Indigenous languages ––the honor being paid.”

The actor thanked Billy for her work on set and off.

“I just want to thank you for the work you are doing to preserve the culture––the history is so beautiful both to those who are part of it and those who are around it,” said Oyelowo. “We’re just so honored to be honoring you and your people, your community and this amazing history and tradition. So, just thank you so much. Thank you so, so, so much.”

“Lawmen: Bass Reeves” can be streamed Sundays on Paramount +.