Following a letter last week addressed to ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke and series creator David E. Kelley, among others, the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) have now added their voices to the chorus of criticisms.
The series, based on the 2013 novel “The Highway” by C.J. Box, is set in Montana and centers around abductions that occur at truck stops. The Indigenous groups are accusing the show of “at best, cultural insensitivity, and at worst, appropriation” due to being set in area with a disproportionately high rate of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG), yet not having any tribal representation in the show.
Variety has asked ABC for comment.
The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, which represents Montana’s eight federally recognized Indian Tribes, is also among the Indigenous organizations raising concerns about “Big Sky,” pointing to the fact it is shot not in Montana, but in unceded Indigenous territory in British Columbia.
“Making the abduction and trafficking of women for primetime entertainment is bad enough. Erasing the reallife tragedy of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis is unconscionable. We live with the consequences of this loss and trauma on a daily basis, but ABC won’t even acknowledge it, even after they’ve been given an opportunity to do so,” said A. Gay Kingman, executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, in a statement.
In the aforementioned letter, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council executive director William F. Snell and Chairman David Sickey of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana wrote that “tribal members constitute 7% of the population, but the state identifies some 26% of missing persons as Native American,” making the lack of Indigenous representation in “Big Sky” all the more stark.
“The systemic failures of law enforcement in Canada and the US to address the MMIWG tragedy are well known and documented,” added Melissa Moses, UBCIC women’s representative. “Violence against Indigenous women is particularly endemic in British Columbia, where one of the most infamous highways in Canada, ‘the Highway of Tears,’ is located. This highway is a painful and haunting symbol of the violence destroying Indigenous lives and bears resemblance to the one depicted in ‘The Highway,’ the novel ‘Big Sky’ is adapted from…ABC now has the invaluable opportunity to be our ally, to show respect and compassion to victims and impacted family members and loved ones, and to help inform the public in both Canada and the United States of this international and national crisis and dark truth.”