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'This is everything': Native fans inspired by, excited about second season of 'Reservation Dogs'

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FX
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The cast of 'Reservation Dogs,' left to right: Paulina Alexis, D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor and Devery Jacobs

The second season of FX's Reservation Dogs launches Wednesday on Hulu. The comedy series follows four Native teenagers growing up on a reservation in eastern Oklahoma.

The show is groundbreaking because of its Indigenous representation on and off the screen, from actors and directors to writers and showrunners.

The July 29 premiere at the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa was filled with excited fans who braved the crowds to get a glimpse of the actors and writers on the show.

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Allison Herrera
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OPMX
Actor Paulina Alexis poses for a photo at the season two premiere of Reservation Dogs on Friday, July 29 at River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Okla.

As actor Paulina Alexis walked by — many fans held up their phones to take photos and video of her, shouting, "We love you, Willie Jack!"
Alexis plays the tomboyish, foul-mouthed and kind-hearted character Willie Jack, who is one of the four main characters of Reservation Dogs. Alexis says she's amazed at the show's runaway success, and she's proud to be a role model for other young, Indigenous women.

"We have all kinds of [Indigenous] filmmakers, all kinds of talents," said Alexis. "It just needs to be shown more. I think Native people are about to have a moment here."

Reservation Dogs is filmed and set entirely in Oklahoma, the home state of series co-creator Sterlin Harjo, so having the premiere in Tulsa rather than Los Angeles just makes sense. Judging by the crowds cheering inside the auditorium at the River Spirit Casino during the premiere, Native people are having a moment — no doubt about it, says fan Gina South.

"This is everything," said South, who lined up along the red carpet with friends. "To be able to see yourself and your family represented on television is phenomenal, and I think it's very inspiring to young Native people, and it's important that we can see ourselves to know what we can aspire to."

Season 2 picks right back up after Elora Danan, portrayed by Devery Jacobs, leaves her rural Oklahoma home with frenemy and NDN Mafia boss Jackie, played by Elva Guerra. They set their sights on California in her grandmother's car while Willy Jack is trying to undo a curse from season one.

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Allison Herrera
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OPMX
Writer Ryan RedCorn talks with reporters and fans at the season two premiere of Reservation Dogs on Friday, July 29 at River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Okla

Ryan RedCorn, one of the show's writers, walked the red carpet with his family.

"The most amazing thing about this show right now is that my daughters are going to think this is normal," said RedCorn, in response to a question by another reporter. "None of the people in the writers' room — we didn't have nothing like this growing up, and I wish we would have."

There is a lot of Indigenous joy in the show — from the jokes to the tender moments between the cast as they come together over the loss of their friend Daniel.

In one sense, it's just a normal depiction of four teenagers who face the teenage problems of wanting to leave home and dreaming of something bigger. But, it's complicated with the challenges of what it means to be an Indigenous person in your community and the choice of staying in or leaving your community.

Bobby Wilson is a visual artist, a poet and graffiti artist whose work can be seen in murals across the country, including his hometown of Minneapolis. He's also a writer and actor — portraying the character Jumbo — on Reservation Dogs. He says it's about time for Indigenous creatives to get more opportunities.

"Being able now to be in the position of folks like Sterlin Harjo, folks like Sierra Teller Ornelas who can help like Indigenous creatives and like sort of take them by the braids and be like, come on, like, let's see what you got," said Wilson, who also acts and writes for the Peacock comedy series, Rutherford Falls.

The second season of Reservation Dogs comes at a time when other Indigenous-led shows like Rutherford Falls and AMC's Dark Winds are some of the most talked about and celebrated shows of the summer. There's no excuse, say the stars and creators of Reservation Dogs, for a show that's about Native people to not be written by Native people.

The second season of FX's Reservation Dogs premieres on Wednesday, Aug. 3 on Hulu.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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