November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the history and accomplishments of our continent’s Indigenous people, and to celebrate we’ve put together a list of notable TV shows, films, podcasts, books, and albums that amplify and bring attention to Indigenous voices. Signed into law in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, the monthlong event honors and celebrates the 574 federally recognized tribal nations with observances across the country. It’s the perfect time to check out the farewell season of the hit FX series Reservation Dogs, catch Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed film Killers of the Flower Moon, or plug into some Link Wray to celebrate the guitarist’s long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Do you have a favorite piece of media that highlights Native American stories? Tell us about it in the Comment section below.
Killers of the Flower Moon
The latest film from Academy Award–winning director Martin Scorsese is one of his most ambitious. Based on the titular book by David Grann (GRS’92), Killers of the Flower Moon is the true story of a string of mysterious murders that plagued the oil-rich Osage Nation a century ago. The ensuing investigation, undertaken by a nascent FBI (then known as the Bureau of Investigation), is the substance of Scorsese’s three-and-a-half hour epic, starring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a wonderful Lily Gladstone (Piegan Blackfeet and Nez Perce). Odds are this film will be all anyone can talk about come Oscar season. (In theaters now.)
It has been a busy few years for Lily Gladstone: before her turn in Killers of the Flower Moon, she starred opposite Martin Sensmeier (Tlingit, Dinaa) in a cinematic reimagining of the Old West tale of Willie Boy and Carlota. Blending fact and legend, 2022’s The Last Manhunt is the story of two lovers from the Chemehuevi band of the Paiute Nation who flee when Willie Boy shoots and kills Carlota’s father in self-defense. Local sheriffs engage Paiute trackers to find the runaway couple—but the story, of course, ends in tragedy. (A 1969 film with Robert Redford, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, tells the same tale from a different perspective). Gladstone stars as Carlota’s mother, Maria, and the film gets another dose of celebrity from Jason Momoa (Kanaka Maoli, Pawnee), who is executive producer and briefly costars. (Available on Showtime and to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.)
The Black Hills, extending from South Dakota to Wyoming, had been home to the Lakota Nation for centuries before Christopher Columbus’ ships arrived in the New World. But ever since the arrival of white settlers to the Great Plains, the Black Hills, or HeSapa in Lakota, have been contested, sieged, treatied, and carved up with the faces of US presidents—and the conflict persists to this day. In Lakota Nation vs. The United States we learn the ancient story of the tribe’s relationship with its home and its many battles to protect it. Written and narrated by Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota) and directed by Jesse Short Bull (Oglala Lakota) and Laura Tomaselli, the documentary premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival before its commercial release this past summer. (Available on AMC+ and to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.)
by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson, with illustrations by Daniel Sousa (Penguin Random House, 2022)
Based on a 2020 Oscar-shortlisted animated short, Kapaemahu teaches young readers the legend of Mahu, four individuals possessing both male and female spirit who spread their knowledge of science and the healing arts across 15th century Polynesia. The Mahu sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii, landing on the beach at Waikiki, where the islanders erected a monument of four boulders in their honor. These sacred stones were all but forgotten until the 1960s, when the area was designated a protected site. The book was recently honored with a 2023 Stonewall Book Award.
Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Monique Gray Smith, with illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt (Zest Books, 2022)
Robin Wall Kimmerer (Potawatomi) is an Indigenous botanist, professor, lecturer, and scientist whose bestselling Braiding Sweetgrass (Milkweed Editions, 2015) taught a new generation of practitioners the ancient wisdom of plants and kindled a renewed respect for the earth and its bounty. Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults seeks to accomplish the same goal, but for an even newer generation—the book is a frank lesson in natural wisdom, the Indigenous value of land stewardship, and the regenerative power of plants, with sections on plant uses, Indigenous languages, and mythology,and charming illustrations by Nicole Neidhart. If you were moved by the lessons in Braiding Sweetgrass, consider Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults for the aspiring botanist in your life.
Named a best book of the year by NPR, Esquire, the New York Times,Oprah Daily, and more, Night of the Living Rez is an effort by Morgan Talty (Penobscot) to reconcile Native American identity with the 21st century. The collection of 12 short stories, set in a Penobscot community in Maine, begins when a boy unknowingly sets in motion his family’s demise when he discovers a cursed jar. Filled with humor, tragedy, pathos, and insight, Night of the Living Rez was named a winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the American Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Prize, and the New England Book Award.
Reservation Dogs is the first-ever TV and film project with all Indigenous people at the helm. Led by Sterlin Harjo (Seminole, Muskogee) and Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), from New Zealand, the show packs considerable expertise into each 30-minute episode. It also provides a refreshing look at youth life on Native American reservations that gives you “permission to laugh,” according to Harjo, along with main characters Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Elora (Devery Jacobs), and Cheese (Lane Factor), as they navigate an unvarnished world and dream of what lies beyond Oklahoma. It’s a gratingly honest depiction of rez life—warts and all—but the most pervasive aspect of the series, which concluded in August 2023, is its unwavering ability to laugh, and make others laugh in the process. We’ll miss you, Reservation Dogs. (Available on Hulu.)
It took nearly 30 years for Dark Winds, an adaptation of best-selling author Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee detective novels, to be made. The show was reportedly a passion project of Robert Redford’s, but it spent nearly three decades in his back pocket. It finally made it to the small screen in 2022, after filmmaker Chris Eyre (Cheyenne, Arapaho), who directed most of the series, and George R. R. Martin, the show’s executive producer, signed on. The series stars Zahn McClarnon and Kiowa Gordon as Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, two Navajo police officers tasked with investigating a double murder that will have them reevaluating their spiritual beliefs and their understandings of good and evil. (Available on AMC+.)
In 2018, PBS aired the first four-part season of Native America, a docuseries that explors Native American history, traditions, and innovations while also focusing on present-day Indigenous peoples and cultures. Season 2, which premiered in October 2023, follows the same format, with four all-new episodes—focused on women leaders, warriors, ancient and modern leaders, and more. From the ancient Aztec civilization of Central America to the modern tribal nations of the Pacific Northwest, the series takes an expansive approach to the concept of Native America: its people, its history, and its future. (Available on pbs.org/nativeamerica.)
Formerly known as A Tribe Called Red, musicians Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas (Cayuga First Nations) and Tim “2oolman” Hill (Mohawk) serve up a unique blend of powwow vocals and electronic music under their rebranded name, The Halluci Nation. The tracks featured in their latest EP, Path of the Heel, showcase the rhythmic and lyrical malleability of powwow music by laying it over dubstep effects. The new album also showcases two collaborations with Northern Cree, a First Nations powwow drum-and-vocal group. Tracks like “The Eater of Worlds” and “Atomic Drop” move away from the duo’s earlier rhythm-oriented minimalism and toward a more synthy, shimmery club sound, with plenty of DJ effects for good measure.
One of the most influential unsung figures in American rock ’n’ roll, Link Wray (Shawnee), who died in 2005, was inducted posthumously into the venerable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month, alongside Missy Elliot, Willie Nelson, Kate Bush, and others. At Wray’s induction ceremony, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page turned out a hard-driving tribute with his performance of Wray’s biggest hit, “Rumble.” Wray’s guitar riffs are undeniable in their impact on future generations of musicians: not only did they predict later genres like surf guitar and swamp rock, they were seminal listening for rock stars Iggy Pop, Pete Townshend, and Neil Young, as well as filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino. Wraymen Unbound, a 2021 compilation, is a great intro to what the young man from Harnett County, N.C., was capable of.
Black Belt Eagle Scout is the moniker for Katherine Paul (Swinomish, Iñupiaq) who churns out moody, wistful, country-tinged melodies on her second album, The Land, The Water, The Sky. The album is full of big-sky romanticism that reflects her Pacific Northwest upbringing, growing up as a member of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community on Puget Sound. Soft lyrics accompany persistent rhythms on tracks like “Treeline,” while “My Blood Runs Through This Land” marries Santana-sized riffs with a fuzzy, shoegaze backdrop. Josh Amen of Popmatters, who gave the 2023 album a 9/10 rating, writes: “Black Belt Eagle Scout teaches us, guides and inspires us, all the while dazzling us with lush atmospheres, seismic rhythms, and a voice that unfurls from another and perhaps a better world.”
A gut-wrenching personal account of the rampant abuse within Canadian residential schools, where First Nations children were sent against their wills to receive religious education, Stolen proved a deeply personal project for journalist Connie Walker (Okanese First Nation). Her father and his siblings were subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse at the hands of nuns and priests employed by the school they attended. The podcast was released a year after the discovery of the remains of 215 children found near the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Ontario, one of the most notorious residential schools in the country. Walker’s story is unflinching, intimate, and powerful, and her relatives’ accounts are harrowing, which makes the podcast a testament to resiliency and the power of storytelling to address the legacy of institutional abuse.
Hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), All My Relations was born of a desire to include more Native American voices in media. With representation as its chief goal, the podcast invites guests from different countries and tribal nations to share stories, laugh, and heal together. “To be an Indigenous person is to be engaged in relationships—relationships to land and place, to a people, to nonhuman relatives, and to one another,” the hosts write. “All My Relations is a place to explore those relationships, and to think through Indigeneity in all its complexities.” With topics ranging from Native mascots to fashion, sex, literature, and identity, All My Relations sounds like a group of friends who have gathered together for an intimate, often entertaining conversation that could last all night.
Andi Murphy (Navajo Nation) is hungry, and she wants you to be hungry, too. Toasted Sister is not just an audio love letter to her favorite Native American dishes, it’s a crash course on Native American foodways. The history of these dishes was largely forgotten, but has enjoyed renewed interest. Named #26 on the 2020 Saveur 100 list, Toasted Sister includes interviews with Native American chefs and devotees of Native American cuisine. Episodes explore subjects ranging from the delights of chiles, corn, and frybread to land sovereignty, cultural resilience, and the myriad achievements of Indigenous top chefs. Pull up a chair and dig into a double portion of heritage and innovation.
Associate Editor, BU Today; Managing Editor Bostonia
is a BU Today associate editor and Bostonia managing editor. She graduated from Emerson College's journalism program and has experience in digital and print publications as a hybrid writer/editor. A lifelong fan of local art and music, she's constantly on the hunt for stories that shine light on Boston's unique creative communities. She lives in Jamaica Plain with her partner and their cats, Ringo and Xerxes, but she’s usually out getting iced coffee.