Big Sky recently premiered on ABC, sparking a conversation following a massive cliffhanger that saw one of its leading characters shot. However, the series — which hails from Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley — is already facing backlash from Indigenous communities for failing to include Indigenous women in its narrative about murdered and missing persons cases.
Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council executive director William F. Snell, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana chairman David Sickey, and Global Indigenous Council president Tom Rodgers penned a letter to ABC execs expressing their concerns over Big Sky’s “cultural insensitivity, and at worst, appropriation.” The Indigenous leaders also included The Highway, the 2013 novel the series is based on, for also failing in its lack of representation and focus on Indigenous communities in the area where the story is set. Here’s what the Indigenous leaders wrote (via THR):
Big Sky nor The Highway address the fact that the disproportionate majority of missing and murdered women in Montana are Indigenous, a situation replicated across Indian Country, which has made this tragedy an existential threat to Native Americans. To ignore this fact, and to portray this devastation with a white female face, is the height of cultural insensitivity, made even more egregious given the national awakening to the need for racial justice. Please be aware that Indigenous people constitute 7 percent of Montana’s population, but the state identifies some 26 percent of missing persons as Native American.
Despite some forward movement, representation on television still has a long way to go. That lack of diversity is prevalent in ABC’s Big Sky, which follows a private detective and an ex-cop as they work to find two women who have gone missing in Montana. The series’ cast is primarily white and the leaders of several Indigenous organizations have clearly taken issue with Big Sky neglecting to address the high percentage of Indigenous women who disappear and are killed every year in Montana.
The Indigenous leaders who wrote the letter are also producers on the documentary Somebody’s Daughter, which is about the amount of Indigenous and Native women who are murdered or go missing annually. The letter goes on to add how Big Sky and ABC can make amends. Here’s what it reads:
It is our sincere hope that you will enter into a dialogue with us to discuss including an information frame at the end of future Big Sky show credits that directs viewers to the Somebody’s Daughter documentary and factual information on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women crisis. We believe that such an inclusion will be an important signal of your willingness to work with other entities to ensure that the magnitude of the MMIW crisis is not diminished … It would be extremely unfortunate for you to miss this opportunity to tell the entire, truthful story.
As of this writing, no one at ABC has responded publicly to the letter from the Indigenous leaders. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for updates on this story and more news about Big Sky.