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December 22, 2022 61 mins

Fans of streaming video may have noticed there has been a proliferation of Indigenous-led television and movies this year.

On various platforms right now, there is a wealth of Indigenous programming, among them: Reservation Dogs, the bittersweet story of native youth growing up on an Oklahoma reservation; Dark Winds, the big-budget detective drama (executive producer Robert Redford) that takes place on a Navajo reservation; and Three Pines, based on the Chief Insp. Armand Gamache novels (by Canadian author Louise Penny), which confronts issues such as missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the legacy of residential schools.

To get some perspective on how Indigenous people are interpreting all this mainstream content, this week’s episode of Niigaan & the Lone Ranger (the podcast hosted by Free Press columnists Niigaan Sinclair and Dan Lett) features an interview with Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., director of the School of Gender, Race and Nations at Portland State University and a noted expert in Indigenous film and television.

Van Alst talks about the enormous cultural value for Indigenous people of seeing their own people and telling their own stories. He also noted Hollywood, in particular, still has a way to go in its treatment of Indigenous stories.

The panel digs deep into the reasons why many Indigenous people around the world are protesting the next chapter in director James Cameron’s Avatar movie franchise, which seems destined to become one of the highest-grossing films of all times. Despite its commercial success, Van Alst said the film is universally disliked by Indigenous people for its “settler fantasy” motif.

Also this week, we get a very special edition of the Storytellers, featuring none other than Jeanette Sinclair (Niigaan’s mother), who describes her son’s epic performance as Joseph in a school Christmas concert.

Niigaan & the Lone Ranger will be taking next week off and will return in the first week of January.

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