Welcome to this week’s installment of Geek Girl Authority Indigenerd Wire, wherein we shine a spotlight on the indigenous people in pop culture. This bi-monthly column will feature the people, shows, movies, art and books that celebrate the progress of indigenous perspectives in mainstream pop culture and STEM.

Indigenerds are constantly working to bring forth Indigenous stories and visibility to the pop culture mainstream.  2018 was a good year for Native Americans. Visibility increased in politics with the election of the first Native Americans in Congress…both were women. Indigenous people made strides in pop culture as well. To end the year, I present to you the GGA Indigenerd Wire Best of 2018.

RELATED: GGA Indigenerd Wire: Wes Studi Is More Than a Token Indian

Wes Studi at the Oscars

Wes Studi

Wes Studi at the 2018 Academy Awards Ceremony. Photo by Kevin Winter – © 2018 Getty Images, Kevin Winter – Image courtesy gettyimages.com

In March, Wes Studi became the first to Native American actor present at the Academy Awards in over 80 years.  As soon as the announcement was made that Studi would present, Indian Country went nuts. His appearance is long overdue.  Studi has appeared in over 80 movies since the 1980s, making Studi the most recognizable Indigenous actor to date.

Studi presented a new segment paying tribute to the United States Armed Forces. He spoke briefly about his military service during the Vietnam War.  He ended his segment by saying “Hello. Appreciation to all veterans & Cherokees who’ve served. Thank you!” in the Cherokee language. It was the first time a Native American language was spoken in the Oscar broadcast.

Jason Momoa Haka on the Blue Carpet

Jason Momoa stands out in everything he does.  His first solo superhero, DC film Aquaman premiered last week and Momoa wanted to make the occasion very special. At the Aquaman premiere, Momoa led a traditional Maori dance known as the haka on the blue carpet as seen in the video above from Momoa’s YouTube Channel.  His Maori co-star Temuera Morrison, his children, and others joined him.  Momoa and his children are of Hawaiian descent, but the haka dance is from his Pacific cousins in New Zealand.

According to Maori Television, the haka performed at the premiere is called Tangaroa Ararau. It was written and choreographed specifically for the Aquaman premiere.   For the most part, people enjoyed it and it highlights a culture that not many Americans know anything about.  

Rebecca Roanhorse Wins Multiple Literary Awards

Indigenerd Wire

Roanhorse’s 2018 Nebula Award for the short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” Via Rebecca Roanhorse Twitter

Rebecca Roanhorse, an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo/African American lawyer from New Mexico didn’t see any real representation of indigenous people in these genre books. And if there are native people, they had no real identity or tribal ties.  And they are probably werewolves.   So she thought if non-native writers can write Native characters, so can she.

Roanhorse gained literary fame from the short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experi­ence, ™” a virtual reality story about cultural appropriation.  The short story won Hugo and Nebula Awards, was nominated for a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and was a World Fan­tasy Award finalist. In her Nebula Award speech, Roanhorse made the declaration, “Let this be a call to all the editors and gatekeepers in this room: Indigenous people are still here. We are writing, and we have stories to tell.”

Roanhorse created a world of Native futurism in her first novel Trial of Lightning, book one of four in The Sixth World series.  The book features a Navajo woman as the lead in a futuristic world affected by climate change.  The second book, Storm of Locusts will be released in April 2019.  

RELATED: The Wonder of Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING and Why You Should Read It

HBO’s Westworld Episode Spoken Mostly in Lakota

Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, Portrayed by Zahn McClarnon.CREDIT: HBO

The Lakota language is the most commonly used native language in the film industry.  Westworld season two episode eight, “Kiksuya” is unlike any other episode in the hit HBO Series.  Mainly because the dialogue in this episode is about 80% Lakota.  The character Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) tells his story in Lakota, giving the episode more authenticity and showing respect to the people he represents. 

The episode focuses on the Ghost Nation and how they have handled life in the park.  It’s symbolic of the past because the guests are afraid of the Ghost Nation, and the park administrators pretty much ignore the indigenous hosts, much like the federal government did in the late 1800s.  Because of this oversight, Akecheta is able to realize the truth much sooner than the rest of the hosts.  It’s more interesting that Akecheta is the one who leads the hosts to freedom, and not one of his white-savior counterparts. 

Onward to 2019

I’ve been writing this column for four months now and I am so amazed by the response.  I started this column to highlight the positive exposure of indigenous people in film, art, music, STEM, television, and pop culture in general. It’s my hope that I can help increase the visibility of Native people and bring the stories written by Native people, to the forefront.  We have made strides, but we still have a long way to go. 2018 was a good year. And things can only get better from here.

Thank you all for reading.  I hope I have opened some eyes to the great work and dedication that indigenous people have when it comes to pop culture and STEM fields.  I am excited for what 2019 brings for the Indigenerd Wire. Have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Read all of the Indigenerd Wire Articles Here!




Noetta Harjo
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