Ava DuVernay, Sydney Freeland & Bird Runningwater Team up for Upcoming Drama Featuring Indigenous Family

Lead Photo: Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE
Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE
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Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th) is making history in the TV industry. According to the Hollywood Reporter, DuVernay is developing network television’s first-ever drama featuring a Native American family.

The series, which is being developed at NBC, is called Sovereign. Along with DuVernay, the project will welcome writer and executive producer Sydney Freeland, a member of the Navajo Nation, and executive producer Bird Runningwater who is from the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Runningwater was raised in New Mexico on the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

“These moments don’t happen without allies willing to risk their name and relationships to open the door for others and their stories,” Runningwater wrote on Twitter. “[Ava] is that ally standing with the Indigenous community to center Indigenous voices on screen.”

DuVernay is no stranger to history-making feats in the entertainment industry. In 2012, she became the first black woman to win the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival for her drama Middle of Nowhere. She also became the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Golden Globes for her 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma.

“We all deserve to see ourselves on television,” DuVernay wrote on Twitter.

Native American TV watchers agree. When news broke late last week about Sovereign, Twitter users showed their enthusiasm.

“As an artist, actor and woman who is Native, this is very exciting,” wrote @BurgandiPhoenix. “It gives me hope, and I look forward to seeing more people like me represented on screen as well as being given the opportunity to act in more film and TV shows.”

Crystal EchoHawk, executive director of IllumiNative, an organization “created and led by Natives, to challenge the negative narrative that surrounds Native communities,” also voiced her support for the upcoming series.

“Thank you [Ava]…for all you do to partner with Indigenous storytellers and champion Indigenous representation,” she wrote on Twitter. “Together with allies like Ava, we are finally starting to see the needle move on Indigenous representation in TV.”