There has already been some vocal confusion about the use of the word ‘reservation’ in the title. Does Northeastern Oklahoma even have reservations? To save those who might not know a Google search, there was a major Supreme Court decision last year in McGirt v. Oklahoma that is still a source of debate. The specifics of the crime in question are gruesome and not necessary to the SCOTUS decision, but basically, the question of tribal criminal jurisdiction was brought by the Muscogee Nation to the federal court. The tribe argued that despite Indian Territory becoming part of the 46th state of Oklahoma in 1907, their reservation was never disestablished during the allotment era that broke up the communal land into individual property.
Essentially, this would mean that any Native person that was tried in state court was done so without the state holding jurisdiction. Obviously, the State of Oklahoma didn’t like the possibility of losing power over the Muscogee Nation but alas, the SCOTUS agreed that the reservation was never disestablished. While this decision only applied to the Muscogees, other tribes who had been told their reservations were no longer a thing in 1907—the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole—followed with similar court cases and won as well. The harmful ramifications of legislation from the 1800s is still very much relevant to today, especially for Native communities like the one seen in this new show.
Land is more than a background character in “Reservation Dogs.” It holds onto the memories, the good and the bad. Bear lies on the land after being ambushed with paintballs from a rival gang. The broken dirt is seen like little mole hills as Willie Jack’s uncle (Gary Farmer) searches for weed he buried decades prior. And in a more solemn moment, the sun shines on the four friends as they conduct a ceremony and swear to leave this land on the anniversary of Daniel’s death.
“Reservation Dogs” is the definition of authentic storytelling. The first four episodes capture the intangible feeling and nuanced truth that is specific to the Oklahoma Native experience unlike anything that has aired prior. Here’s to all the Indigenous kids who will watch this show and feel the joy of representation. Skoden!
Four episodes screened for review. “Reservation Dogs” is now playing on FX on Hulu.
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