Reservation Dogs star says ‘we’re only scratching the surface’ of Indigenous storytelling

It’s been a wildly successful year for Mohawk actress Devery Jacobs.

Jacobs has a starring role in FX’s hit show, Reservation Dogs and a recurring role on Peacock’s Rutherford Falls.

Both shows have been praised for having Indigenous showrunners, writers, actors and both have been renewed for second seasons.

In addition to that, just last month, Jacobs, along with her Reservation Dogs co-stars and co-creator Sterlin Harjo, presented at the Primetime Emmy Awards.

“It’s been overwhelming. The outpouring of love and support and also people just feeling like finally, we are beginning to see ourselves represented on screen,” said Jacobs during a taping of Face to Face in Toronto.

“I’ve never seen Native Twitter and Indigenous Instagram and Facebook behave like this. It’s just been such a huge project and one that I have rarely seen or never have seen Indigenous people take up space in mainstream media like that before,” said Jacobs.

The 28-year-old wishes there was programming like Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls on television when she was growing up in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory.

“It would have changed everything,” says Jacobs. “From my feelings of self-worth, to what I thought was possible in the film industry. I actually pursued something else in schooling for a career because I didn’t think that being an actor or being in film in television would be sustainable or even viable for a career option.

“So, now with a project like Reservation Dogs, like Rutherford Falls, it’s proving to us that we are worthy and that we’ve always been worthy and valid and the industry should be so lucky to have our stories. It’s also proving to non-Indigenous audiences that we’re here to stay and we’re only scratching the surface.”

The hype for Reservation Dogs north of the Medicine Line was intense. The show debuted in the U.S. in August and had already been renewed for a second season before anyone in Canada was able to watch the show, legally that is.

Jacobs says she had to “turn a blind eye” to the way her own family was finding ways to watch the show before it finally debuted in Canada.

It’s been a long and winding road for Jacobs to arrive at this moment who says she used to make “really embarrassing home videos with her sister.”

One of her first roles was as a munchkin in Kahnawake’s Turtle Island Theatre Company’s production of the Wizard of Oz.

The big break for Jacob’s came in 2013 with the release of Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls. Her performance in the film earned her a nomination from the Canadian Screen Awards for best performance by an actress in a leading role.

“After I had been nominated for Rhymes, I was like that’s it, my life’s going to change, I moved to New York and like nothing really happened,” says Jacobs. “What I didn’t realize was my experience on that set, with Indigenous storytellers, was actually the exception.

“And when I had gone out in the world it was a lot of Pocahontas auditions and roles that I wasn’t really interested in or ones that were in support of a white protagonist story.

“I think it’s only fitting that my career is really, gaining traction and is escalating while Indigenous storytellers have been granted access to tell our stories.”

Jacobs feels projects like Blood Quantum, Rutherford Falls and Reservation Dogs are long, overdue and “is coming from ourselves, it isn’t even coming from the industry yet. It’s this need for us to be able to share our stories and for them to reverberate.”

Jacobs has another new project coming, early in 2022. She is one of the actors featured in Ark: The Animated Series that has a stacked cast that also includes Elliot Page, Vin Diesel and Gerard Butler.

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