With Reservation Dogs, Sterlin Harjo Upended All of TV’s Old Rules

Adweek’s Game Changer of the Year gives Indigenous people a long-overdue spotlight in Hollywood

After spending most of his career as an independent filmmaker, Sterlin Harjo had grown accustomed to the routine of debuting his movies at small film festivals, “and then they kind of die on the vine after that, and no one gets to see them,” he recalls. So Harjo kept expectations low for his first TV creation, FX on Hulu’s Reservation Dogs, about four Indigenous teenagers coming of age in a rural Oklahoma town: “I just thought, well, I hope at least a few people watch it and like it.”

Instead, Reservation Dogs quickly became a critically acclaimed sensation, and just a month after its August debut, Harjo found himself and his cast presenting at the Emmys, where he fielded well-wishes from A-list fans like JJ Abrams.



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This story first appeared in the Oct. 25, 2021, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.