Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton: OPINION: 2024 could be the year for Indigenous Stories

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Jan. 27—The Choctaw Nation is extremely proud for our part in the Disney+/Marvel series "Echo" that is currently streaming on Disney+ and Hulu. The story follows Maya Lopez, a Choctaw superhero, who is deaf, that has broken away from a crime syndicate and is now fighting to keep her Oklahoma family safe from her former crime boss.

Our participation in "Echo" and in the Paramount+ series "Lawmen: Bass Reeves," is groundbreaking for the Choctaw Nation. Our language department worked with both series creators to ensure that the Choctaw language is spoken flawlessly. Both series shine a much welcome spotlight on the Choctaw Nation, our people, our culture, and the heritage that originated from our ancestors.

In my lifetime I can't remember a time when there were so many Native American entertainment choices. The focus on indigenous stories is sort of an awakening by the entertainment industry and shows there is rich soil here to plant their storytelling seeds.

For instance, the groundbreaking, Peabody-award winning Hulu series "Reservation Dogs" tells the story of teenagers on a fictional reservation. The series is helmed by an all-indigenous crew of writers, directors, and actors and it was filmed on the Muscogee reservation in Oklahoma. Also, the Hulu movie, "Prey," that was nominated for six Emmys, is the fifth installment of the "Predator" franchise that tells the story of a young Comanche woman who uses her hunting skills to save herself and her tribe from a killer alien.

Just this month, at the Golden Globe awards, actress Lily Gladstone made history when she became the first indigenous person to win the best performance by a female actor in a dramatic motion picture. Gladstone is also a favorite to win the best actress nod for the Oscar this year for her portrayal of Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who is the wife of Leonardo DiCaprio's Ernest Burkhart in the Martin Scorsese-directed film "Killers of the Flower Moon." Gladstone grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in northwestern Montana and lived on the reservation until the age of 11.

Despite progress, indigenous representation in media is low. Native American representation in entertainment is still less than 1%, according to the social-justice organization IllumiNative. The good news is there are Native American creators who are willing to tell their stories and there are studios that are willing to invest.

The Choctaw Nation remains committed to Native American stories. We are always on the lookout to present the Chahta spirit of Faith, Family and Culture to a larger population. The more content out there that highlights the Choctaw Nation's sovereignty and promotion of self-empowerment is all the better for what we are trying to accomplish here as a thriving tribal nation.

What I challenge you to do is support indigenous storytelling in all forms of media. Watch the movies, tune into the TV series, and read indigenous books. The more in-demand that indigenous stories become, the more that the entertainment industry will want to produce and that is a positive for all indigenous people, including the Choctaw Nation.

Yakoke and God Bless!