Native American storytellers enjoying a rare spotlight

NEW YORK – The financial crisis of 2008 impacted playwright and Cherokee Nation citizen Mary Kathryn Nagle in a unique way. Drawing parallels to events that negatively impacted Indigenous people centuries ago, Nagle’s play “Manahatta” juxtaposes the recent mortgage meltdown with the history of the Dutch who forcibly pushed Native Americans off their ancestral lands.

Nagle’s play is currently being showcased in New York City at the prestigious Public Theater, marking a significant moment in the growing Native storytelling movement. From “Reservation Dogs” and “Dark Winds” on television to “Prey” on the big screen and Larissa FastHorse becoming the first Indigenous female playwright on Broadway, barriers are being shattered.

According to 2020 Census data, 9.7 million Americans claimed some Indigenous heritage, yet media representation of Native people has historically been virtually nonexistent. However, there is a shift taking place, with non-Native storytellers also exploring the history of white atrocities against Native Americans.

FastHorse, who made history on Broadway in 2023 with her satirical comedy “The Thanksgiving Play,” is now reworking classic stage musicals like the 1954 classic “Peter Pan” to be more culturally sensitive. Her goal is to create opportunities for Native stories to be produced and to ensure long-term support from theaters and programs.

Nagle, who is currently making her debut at the Public Theater, hopes to leave audiences wanting to learn more about Native tribal nations and people. Her goal is to create compelling, impactful stories while showcasing the brilliance, resilience, and humor of Native characters.

The growing momentum of the Native storytelling movement represents a significant shift in the Entertainment industry, providing a platform for Indigenous voices and stories that have long been overlooked and underrepresented.

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