8 new Native American shows and movies you can stream now - and 3 coming soon

·8 min read

Native Americans have appeared in Hollywood movies practically from the start, but they haven't often had control of the narrative as writers, directors or producers.

So, Indigenous moviemakers have been working for decades in the independent film world to tell their stories.  But over the past year or so, the number of movies and television shows with a strong Indigenous presence both in front of and behind the camera is rapidly growing. And Native creatives based in or hailing from Oklahoma are playing key roles in many of the hot new titles.

Now, one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television follows four Native teenagers in rural Oklahoma, while the most popular title ever on one major streaming service is a long-running film franchise's new installment, which now features an Indigenous heroine.

Here are four new TV series and four new films that you can stream now that are made largely by and about Indigenous people — and three more you can look for coming soon:

More:Native Americans share why growing representation in entertainment is so vital

Television shows

'Reservation Dogs'

Where to see it: Hulu.

Filmed entirely in Oklahoma, the FX Networks hit debuted last year to almost universal acclaim and premiered its sophomore season last week with two new episodes and more high praise. It has blazed trails as the first mainstream TV show on which every writer, director and series regular performer is Indigenous.

New episodes in the 10-episode second season are premiering on Wednesdays.

Co-created and executive produced by Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi ("Thor: Love and Thunder"), who is of Maori ancestry, and Tulsa-based moviemaker Sterlin Harjo ("Barking Water"), who is Seminole and Muscogee, the bawdy and uproarious coming-of-age comedy focuses on four present-day Native teenagers who set out to escape their rural Oklahoma home for sunny California.

From left, Jesse Leigh plays Bobbie Yang and Michael Greyeyes plays Terry Thomas on the Peacock comedy series "Rutherford Falls."
From left, Jesse Leigh plays Bobbie Yang and Michael Greyeyes plays Terry Thomas on the Peacock comedy series "Rutherford Falls."

'Rutherford Falls'

Where to see it: Peacock.

With a Navajo co-creator and executive producer in Sierra Teller Ornelas and several Native writers, this sitcom rolled out its second season earlier this summer.

The show centers on the lifelong friendship between Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms, "The Office"), a descendant of the titular town's white founding family, and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding, who is Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux), the head of the cultural center for the fictional Minishonka Nation.

Zahn McClarnon stars as Joe Leaphorn in "Dark Winds."
Zahn McClarnon stars as Joe Leaphorn in "Dark Winds."

'Dark Winds'

Where to see it: AMC+ (or AMC.com if you have a cable or satellite provider or YouTube TV).

The long-awaited big-budget series based on Oklahoma-born and bred novelist Tony Hillerman's best-selling mystery novels about fictional Navajo detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee is created by Chickasaw Nation citizen and Ardmore native Graham Roland.

With Cheyenne-Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre (best known for the groundbreaking 1998 indie film "Smoke Signals") directing most of its episodes, the series counts film icon Robert Redford and "Game of Thrones" mastermind George R.R. Martin among its executive producers, along with Roland.

Set in the 1970s, the series stars Lakota actor Zahn McClarnon ("Reservation Dogs") as Leaphorn and Hualapai actor Kiowa Gordon ("The Twilight Saga") as Chee. The six-episode first season made a powerful enough impression this summer that it was quickly renewed for a second.

'Mohawk Girls'

Where to see it: Peacock.

Last fall, Peacock started streaming Canadian Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer's acclaimed comedy series — which the show's creator has described as "'Sex and the City' for the Native set" — bringing the title to U.S. audiences for the first time.

Films

'Prey'

Where to see it: Hulu.

The latest installment in the long-running "Predator" sci-fi film franchise is set in the Northern Great Plains of the Comanche Nation in 1719. Filmed in the Stoney Nakoda Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with a largely Indigenous cast, the prequel pits one of the now-iconic alien trophy hunters against Naru (Amber Midthunder, "The Ice Road"), a Comanche woman determined to prove herself as a warrior.

Director Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) worked closely on the creature feature with producer Jhane Myers, a Comanche and Blackfeet artist, dancer and filmmaker who hails from Oklahoma. There's even a version of the film fully dubbed in Comanche — a first for a new movie release in a Native language — available on Hulu.

20th Century Studios revealed Tuesday that the action-thriller, which earned strong reviews, scored the biggest premiere on the Disney-owned streamer to date, topping all film and TV series debuts. Based on hours watched in the first three days of its release, "Prey" also marked the most-watched film premiere on Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ under the Star Banner in all other territories, according to a news release.

Plains Cree actor Michael Greyeyes stars in the movie "Wild Indian," which filmed in Oklahoma in early 2020 and made its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
Plains Cree actor Michael Greyeyes stars in the movie "Wild Indian," which filmed in Oklahoma in early 2020 and made its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

'Wild Indian'

How to see it: Roku Channel, Starz, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu, Hulu, Sling TV, Philo, Google Play Movies and Apple TV.

Filmed in Oklahoma in early 2020, the crime drama marks the feature film debut of Native American writer-director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians) and made its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

The harrowing drama centers on two Anishinaabe men — played by Michael Greyeyes ("Rutherford Falls"), who is Nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation — Treaty Six Territory in Saskatchewan, and Tahlequah-born actor Chaske Spencer (“The Twilight Saga”), who is Sioux, Nez Perce, Cherokee, Creek, French and Dutch — who share a traumatic boyhood secret about the murder of a schoolmate. 

'Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher'

Where to see it: Netflix.

Chickasaw Nation Productions spent years turning the epic life of the titular Chickasaw Rancher, Montford Johnson, into a biopic that spans from his birth in 1843, through the tumultuous years of the Civil War and its aftermath and on to the Land Run of 1889.

The son of an Englishman and a Chickasaw woman, Johnson (Martin Sensmeier, who is Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan) befriended Cherokee fur trader and merchant Jesse Chisholm (Chickasaw citizen Eddie Easterling), who convinced him to establish cattle ranches and trading posts in the newly created Indian Territory to serve his fellow First Americans. At the height of his ranching operations, Johnson accumulated a herd of more than 35,000 head of cattle grazing over a million acres.

Oklahoma musician Penny Pitchlynn is featured in Sterlin Harjo's documentary "Love and Fury." [Photo provided]
Oklahoma musician Penny Pitchlynn is featured in Sterlin Harjo's documentary "Love and Fury." [Photo provided]

'Love and Fury'

Where to see it: Netflix.

Before he broke out with "Reservation Dogs," Harjo worked for years making independent narrative and documentary films, including this 2020 deadCenter Film Festival selection.  For this doc, Harjo followed several Indigenous musicians, dancers, visual artists and poets for a year as they pursued their careers in the U.S. and abroad.

ARRAY Releasing, the distribution arm of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s narrative change collective, acquired "Love and Fury" last fall for a streaming and limited theatrical release.

Alaqua Cox starred as Maya Lopez in "Hawkeye" and gets her own show in "Echo."
Alaqua Cox starred as Maya Lopez in "Hawkeye" and gets her own show in "Echo."

3 Native American titles to look for coming soon

Marvel's 'Echo'

Where to see it: Disney+.

Marvel Studios leaps into Native storytelling with a new series due in summer 2023 on Disney's burgeoning streaming service.

As part of the "Hawkeye" series, Native actress Alaqua Cox, who is Menominee and Mohican, was introduced last year in the role of Maya Lopez/Echo, the fearsome commander of the criminal organization the Tracksuit Mafia.

The series, which is filming in Georgia, is being hailed as major moment not only for Native Americans but also for the disability community: Cox is deaf and an amputee.

'Rez Ball'

Where to see it: Netflix.

Along with helming episodes of "Reservation Dogs," Navajo director Sydney Freeland wrote with Harjo this Native American basketball drama, which is based on Michael Powell’s sports novel "Canyon Dreams." LeBron James is among the producers.

Described as "Friday Night Lights" meets "Hoosiers," the coming-of-age sports drama follows the Chuska Warriors, a Native American high school basketball team from Chuska, New Mexico, that must band together after losing their star player if they want to keep their quest for a state championship alive. It's an all-American underdog sports story — with all-American underdogs who happen to be Navajo.

Production is to take place in New Mexico, including filming on reservations with the permission and support of the local sovereign tribal nations.

No release date has been announced.

'Yellow Bird'

Where to see it: Paramount+.

True crime stories have been big hits for streamers (think "Girl in the Picture," "The Innocent Man" and "Tiger King"), so this project definitely has potential.

Harjo and fellow Native writer-director Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga), who is originally from Oklahoma, are co-creating and executive producing a potential series based on Sierra Crane Murdoch’s Pulitzer Prize finalist "Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country." 

When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. When Yellow Bird learned three years later that a young, white oil worker had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became concerned.

The book (and presumably the upcoming series) chronicles her obsessive search for clues, which takes her on two divergent paths: to her own tribe, altered by oil-boom wealth, and to the non-Native, down-on-their-luck oilmen, including many who traveled hundreds of miles to find work toward the end of the Great Recession.

Yellow Bird will be among the executive producers of the show, according to Deadline. No release date has been announced.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: 8 new Indigenous shows and films to stream now - and 3 more to come