Reservation Dogs (S3/2023): Native American Show Ends On High

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Reservation Dogs 2023

Reservation Dogs is a path-breaking indigenous Native American show that ended on a high note recently. This series was an emotional roller-coaster ride for all of us.

While watching this, our range of emotions hit a high bandwidth – from a high of happiness to a low of sadness. Furthermore, this unique dramedy from the USA is the first series ever to have all Indigenous Native writers, directors and actors in it. This show was shot entirely in Oklahoma state (USA), which is home to 38 native nations.

Synopsis (summary) of this 2023 Indigenous Native American show

This series is about the four Indigenous Native American teenagers {Bear Smallhill* (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora Danan Postoak (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), and Cheese Williams (Lane Factor)} growing up on a reservation in eastern Oklahoma.

This show follows the exploits of four Indigenous teenagers {Bear Smallhill, Elora Danan Postoak, Willie Jack, and Cheese Williams} in rural Oklahoma who steal, rob and save to get to the exotic, mysterious and faraway land of California. To succeed, they will have to save enough money, outmanoeuvre the methheads at the junkyard on the edge of town and survive a turf war against a much more formidable rival gang {Jackie (Elva Guerra)}.

This first-of-its-kind creative team tells a story that resonates with them and their lived experiences — and invites audiences into a surprisingly familiar and funny world.

*Bear Smallhill's address is 1491. The year 1491 is crucial because it marks the last time the Indigenous Native people of the Americas were thriving in their civilizations. After Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 and other European explorers followed, the cultures were wiped out by diseases they had no natural immunity to.

Spoilers Free review of season three of the Reservation Dogs series

Breakthrough series about Indigenous people

Many people belonging to the indigenous Native community have felt some kind of deep emotional connection with its content, characters and stories. They liked the idea of being seen and heard on a mainstream series from the West. The subtle humour and humourous potshots have been smartly incorporated into its story. And it does not hold back while addressing the various serious issues.

'Mvto' is "Thank You",

'Stoodis' is "Let's do this",

'Skoden' is "Let's go, then",

'Aho' is “Hello” or “Thank you”,

'Hompvks ce' is "“You All Eat” or "Let' eat", 

'Cvpon' is an affectionate word for "Boy or Young Man", etc.

The lesser-seen and heard indigenous Natives have really excelled in this heartwarming tale from the fictional Okern town. This show has a whole lot of unique, endearing, lovable, realistic and believable characters, who charm their way into its viewers’ hearts. The weaving of Native words from the indigenous languages, their rich cultural heritage, their history during the colonial era, and the contemporary issues is just too good.

Boasts of a team of indigenous creative artists

Led by the creators Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi of Reservation Dogs show, its indigenous – writers, directors, actors, musicians and the entire team must be commended for this insightful and wonderful show. Also, the young indigenous Native actors, like, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai (Bear Smallhill), Devery Jacobs (Elora Danan), Paulina Alexis (Willie Jack), Lane Factor (Cheese), Elva Guerra (Jackie), have done a good job.

And not to be outdone, the senior indigenous Native actors Zahn McClarnon (Big), Sarah Podemski (Rita Smallhill), Dallas Goldtooth (Spirit), Jana Schmieding (Bev), Casey Camp-Horinek (Grandma Irene), etc. too had a great outing in this show. To be honest, it entire ensemble cast has given splendid performances.

The conclusion

Now this show has come to an end, we are sure that the Indigenous Native viewers might feel bad, as they lost a wonderful dramedy series that gave them a rare and true form of representation in media. However, we do not wish to say our goodbyes to the Reservation Dogs, as we are sure that they might come back in some other form in the future. Till then, watch it and savour the moment and don’t forget your community.

Spoilers Alert – a peek into the ten episodes of season three

10 Episodes (3rd Season) of this 2023 Indigenous Native American show

1. Bussin’

{Perhaps, this title is derived from their Bus travel}

In the final episode of the second season, we followed Bear, Elora, Cheese, and Willie Jack, as they put to rest the spirit of their deceased friend Daniel by travelling to Los Angeles together. Now, in the first episode of the third season, Aunt Teenie (Tamara Podemski) brings the Reservation Dogs {Rez Dogs} group comprising {Bear Smallhill, Elora Danan, Willie Jack, and Cheese} head home Okern on a Bus.

So, their trip to California has offered the Reservation Dogs some kind of closure, but they are still searching for their places among community and family, along with their identities and future plans.

In this episode, the comedians from the 1491s (on YouTube) group — the all-Native comedy group started by Harjo, Goldtooth, Redcorn, Bobby Wilson, and Migizi Pensoneau are also featured.

2. Maximus

{This title is about a Native man}

Bear is at a crossroads.

Bear continues with his aimless walking, as he is left behind by his friends, inadvertently. On the road, he meets the Spirit {Spanish Conquistador and William Knifeman}, perhaps he has a unique gift to communicate with the dead from the past. In addition, Bear comes across an older Indigenous Native man called Maximus (Graham Greene), who it seems is also from Okern.

It marks the beginning of a spiritual and historical journey for Bear.

3. Deer Lady

{This title is about an indigenous Native American legend}

Deer Lady (Kaniehtiio Horn) sees a glimpse of her past while helping Bear, as he heads back home.

In this episode, we learn about the backstory of the Deer Lady, when she meets Bear at a diner and invites him over to share some pie. Then we come to know her tragic past, beginning with being taken from her home to a Natives Boarding School run by Christian nuns, where kids like her were mistreated and abused on a daily basis.

It is really an eye-opener, as her story is a reminder of the unhappy and painful historical past that lies behind the smiles and the cheerfulness of Indigenous Natives, they are tough and resilient, indeed.

“They (White colonists) can’t stop you (indigenous Natives) from smiling.”

The Deer Lady advises Bear from her own experiences

4. Friday

The Rez Dogs get punished for going to California.

So, Cheese, Willie Jack, Bear, and Elora are punished for running away to California, and they did not forget to include Jackie, who also knew about their runaway plans. Willie Jack joins old man Fixico (Richard Ray Whitman) at his medicine kiosk to gain knowledge about the Native medicines. Ellora tries to figure out her future study plans at college and find out more about her White dad – Rick Miller.

5. House Made of Bongs

{The bongs mean a water pipe for smoking marijuana or other drugs}

Dazed and confused.

In a flashback to the past, Maximus is back in this episode’s story, as a young man named Chebon. As we travel into the past, we get to meet Mabel (Elora’s grandmother – Geraldine Keams), Irene (Cheese’s adoptive grandmother – Casey Camp-Horinek), Brownie (Elora’s uncle), and Bucky (town elder and artist), when they were young and still studying in the school.

6. Frankfurter Sandwich

{The title is the 1920’s slang for a hotdog}

Cheese goes camping.

Grandma Irene (Casey Camp-Horinek) requests Bucky (Wes Studi), Brownie (Gary Farmer), and Big (Zahn McClarnon) to get Cheese out of the house. as he has been hiding in his home for far too long and is busy playing video games. In a way, it highlights the sense of community among the Natives, as they all take time out of their schedule to care for and raise the orphan Cheese.

So, it appears that Cheese’s family is his entire community.

These are bonds you don’t want to break.


7. Wahoo!

{It is a kind of board game}

Rita gets an unexpected visit from an old friend (Cookie’s Spirit – Janae Collins) in this episode.

It seems like her son Bear, even Rita can see the Spirit in this case Cookie. Rita is offered a job in an IHS that’s out of town. So, Rita has to decide about her future plans and take the right direction.

8. Send It

The gang is interrogated by the police officials.

It is heartening to note that both Rez Dogs (old generation and new gen) come together for each other. Also, the Rez Dogs and the NDN Mafia join hands as a part of the bigger community.

“That’s what we do… we show up for each other. We’re a community.”

Kenny Boy (Kirk Fox)

9. Elora’s Dad

Elora meets her dad Rick Miller {Ethan Hawke} for the first time. She learns that her Elora Danan name traces her roots to Ron Howard’s Willow movie.

This was a real tear-jerker of an episode. Their reunion really brought all sorts of emotions to the fore. It is about making a connection, talking honestly, seeking forgiveness, and starting afresh.

10. Dig

{The series and the season finale}

Love you, B*tch.

After the demise of old man Fixico, Willie Jack visits the prison to share the sad news with Hokti (Lily Gladstone) in the prison. In the important scene, Hokti teaches invaluable life lessons to Willie about the importance of the community. One should always stay in touch with the community and care for them. The people in the community can all come together like this despite their individual lives.

To bid a final farewell to Fixico, the entire community comes together. Maximus conveys his goodbyes to Fixico, and at the funeral, he reunites with all his old friends: Irene, Brownie, and Bucky.

Ellora sells her house and leaves for college. Cheese hangs out with his grandma. Rita takes up the job offer and moves away, meanwhile, her son Bear stays back in Okern with Jackie, perhaps. Bear even gets to meet the Warrior Spirit, bid adieu and learn an important life lesson that he doesn’t have to be the only leader and that he’s just proud to be a part of his loving community. Willie too learnt from Fixico to take care of people and the community.

Rez Dogs learns that Natives don’t have a word for goodbye. So, they will keep in touch.

Key details about this 2023 Indigenous Native American show

GenreComedy, Drama
Original languageEnglish (USA) and Indigenous Native American languages
Age – restrictionsUA (16+)
Season3rd – Third and Final Season (3rd August to 27 September, 2023)
Episodes10 – Ten episodes
CreatorsSterlin Harjo & Taika Waititi
CastD’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai (Bear Smallhill), Devery Jacobs (Elora Danan), Paulina Alexis (Willie Jack), Lane Factor (Cheese), Elva Guerra (Jackie), Zahn McClarnon (Big), Sarah Podemski (Rita Smallhill), Dallas Goldtooth (Spirit), Jana Schmieding (Bev), Casey Camp-Horinek (Grandma Irene), etc.
Network Hulu
About – Reservation Dogs (S3/2023) Show.

Poster of this 2023 Indigenous Native American show

Reservation Dogs S3
Reservation Dogs (S3/2023) Show – poster.

Rating of this 2023 Indigenous Native American show

EpisodesFocus Magazine – FM’s ratings
1. Bussin’ 3.95/5
2. Maximus 4.05/5
3. Deer Lady 4.45/5
4. Friday 4.00/5
5. House Made of Bongs 3.90/5
6. Frankfurter Sandwich 4.25/5
7. Wahoo! 4.30/5
8. Send It 4.35/5
9. Elora’s Dad4.55/5
10. Dig 4.50/5
Overall rating of the show4.23/5
FM Ratings – Reservation Dogs (S3/2023) Show.

Trailer of this 2023 Indigenous Native American show

Trailer of Reservation Dogs (2023) Season 3 Series – Movie Coverage | YouTube.

Bonus info. about Indigenous Native Country map in this show

While we were writing about season one and season two of Reservation Dogs in our Focus Magazine, we decided to share the Indigenous Native Country map, wherein the people belonging to the different Indigenous Native Communities used to reside in the North American continent. But then the arrival of Colonial Powers destroyed their lives.

To give you all an idea about a little bit of History, in 1620 North America was not a vast, unpopulated wilderness when white colonizers arrived. Up to 100 million people of more than 1,000 sovereign Indigenous nations occupied the area that would become the United States. At the time, fewer than 80 million people lived in Europe.
Indian Country map of north america in Reservation Dogs series image
IndiaIndigenous Native Country map of North America in Reservation Dogs series

If you take a closer look at this Indigenous Native Country map, then you might find the names of different Indigenous communities spread all across the North American territory.

And this is indeed a bold statement.

Featured image, Other image and poster courtesy of Reservation Dogs | FX – Hulu.

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