Why did I decide to co-write a Voting PSA targeting Native Americans? 1) Because I am a writer and 2) because I am Native American. It was fitting and an important message to deliver. Beyond that and beyond my role as Executive Assistant at Native Americans in Philanthropy, I am a moonlighting screenwriter whose mission is to use my creativity and storytelling to create opportunities for Native Americans in Hollywood, an industry in which we are grossly underrepresented. The stories I typically write are within the “dramedy” genre, and though this Voting PSA is political and informational video, it is still an important story to be told — the story of Native Americans being left out of the national conversation and for those reasons, why we have to encourage Natives to go out and vote. It’s especially important to remind Native communities that our vote matters because we often feel invisible, unseen and unheard in the American narrative.
Several points we were sure to hit:
- Native Americans have 26 times the power in determining the senate in states like North Dakota where we make up the largest minority group.
- Native Americans couldn’t vote until 1948 in states like New Mexico.
- SNAP, EBT, Medicaid, TANF are in jeopardy depending on the outcome of this election. These social programs affect many people’s daily lives.
- Natives need to double-check registration; in some states, they have been purged from voter lists. Tribal IDs count in most, if not all elections. Most recently, North Dakota put new laws into place that support voter suppression against Native Americans by not allowing Tribal IDs with P.O. Box addresses.
The one-day shoot day and overall experience was both memorable and educational for me. I learned a lot working on this project as a co-writer and producer. All of the logistical planning and creative calls that went into pulling this shoot together was more than my typical workload but well worth it. From working with Mark Ruffalo on a film set to Susan Sarandon’s surprise visit, I would say that this project was an exciting opportunity for all of the young Native talent involved. We were all welcomed graciously and these Hollywood A-listers took a genuine interest in what we were there to accomplish, our stories, and our talent. But what I am most proud of is that this video was mostly produced by young Native creatives and voices, to tell an important story and spread an important message through the Native lens and in the best way we know how — through humor and laughter. A huge thank you to our Director Razelle Benally (Diné/Oglala Lakota), Co-Writer Lucas Brown Eyes (Oglala Lakota), Executive Producer Sarah Eagle Heart (Oglala Lakota), Producer Kevin Killer (Oglala Lakota), and our non-Native producers and allies, We Stand United.