Despite a largely untold history of erasure and violence against their community, Native Americans are leading and contributing to our society everyday. The community is also growing. In the last decade, The American Indian and Alaska Native population increased from 5.2 million in 2010 to 9.7 million in 2020. Native people now make up almost 3% of the U.S. population. Yet, representation on television for Natives is still less than 1%, as of our most recent reporting.
While we continue to see gains in representation from Capitol Hill to Hollywood, expanding the narrative for Native Americans in media has a long way to go. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we spoke to Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and Executive Director of IllumiNative, and a citizen of the Pawnee Nation. She has been a powerful advocate for Native Americans, focused on amplifying the voices, stories and issues of her community in media content.
In Echo Hawk’s conversation with Nielsen’s Charlene Polite Corley, VP, Diverse Insights and Initiatives, she shares the need for an organization like IllumiNative to raise awareness in the media industry. They also discuss the influence of contemporary Native American representation in recent shows like Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls, on audience perceptions and understanding about Native people.
Content however, is just one aspect of representation. Echo Hawk also talks about her work to educate brands and businesses to stop the cultural appropriation in brand icons or sports mascots.
This is just a glimpse into the broader conversation at SXSW on March 12: Forget Mascots: The Native Representation TV Needs.