Home Lifestyle Indigenous actors Harjo, Means inspire audience during UNCP visit

Indigenous actors Harjo, Means inspire audience during UNCP visit

Sterlin Harjo, left, and Tatanka Means (far right), speak during a fireside chat with Nancy Fields at James A. Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Photo by UNCP

Dressed in matching black “Reservation Dogs” T-shirts, Denise Salvetti and her teenage son, Chayton,­ were all smiles as they stood in line to snap pictures with “Reservation Dogs” creator Sterlin Harjo and fellow Indigenous actor and comedian Tatanka Means.

Harjo and Means spoke to a room full of students, faculty, staff and community members last week at James A. Thomas Hall at UNC Pembroke.

“We loved it! It was interesting to learn the director’s mindset when he was in his creative genius. It’s important to bring speakers like this here,” said Salvetti, a UNCP alumna. “It gives not only the local students but all students an opportunity to hear from successful Indigenous people.”

Harjo and Means’ talk was among several campus events held in celebration of American Indian Heritage Month. They spoke to more than 200 high school students at UNCP during the day. That evening, Harjo and Means talked about their careers and how important it is to influence the Indian community positively. Most of the talk focused on the popular FX comedy series that follows the exploits of four American Indian teenagers in rural Oklahoma.

Rez Dogs is breaking new ground in Indigenous representation on television. Every writer, director and actor with a reoccurring role is Indigenous.

Harjo’s life experiences inspired the idea for the show.

“Every episode is my life,” he said. “I was always trying to find a way to tell these stories. I always thought I would be a short story writer because I didn’t know there would be a platform for the stories I wanted to tell, but with ‘Reservation Dogs,’ I was able to find the right vehicle.”

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Means appears in season two of the show and is currently in “Horizons,” a film directed by and starring Kevin Costner. He’s also cast in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

UNCP junior Isabella Locklear walked away from the event with deep pride.

“We struggle so much with Indian representation, so it means the world to have two very influential natives come to campus and talk about their Native American experience. It shows people that we are still here, and we are still strong!”

The event was presented by the Office of Campus Engagement and Leadership, the American Indian Heritage Center, REACH, and Undergraduate Admissions and co-sponsored by the Lumbee Tribe.

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