IllumiNative, The Black List, and the Sundance Institute announced the eight finalists of The Indigenous List. The Indigenous screenwriters on the list represent the best and most promising Native creatives in the film and television industry.

The Indigenous List launched in 2020 to provide a platform for Indigenous writers to showcase their scripts, create additional pathways and opportunities within the industry, and support the development of the next generation of screenwriters.

As Native-authored and centered shows like Rutherford Falls and Reservation Dogs, as well as complex and powerful films like Wild Indian and Night Raiders, there has been a rise in demand for Native created and led stories — and it’s about damn time.

This year’s Indigenous List writers will have the opportunity to meet with four Indigenous creatives who have first look and/or overall development deals at major studios, including; Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), producer and former director of the Sundance Indigenous Program, first-look deal for Film and TV at Amazon Studios; Michael Greyeyes (Nêhiyaw-Plains Cree), critically-acclaimed actor (Wildhood and Firestarter) and director (Acting Good), First-look Film deal at Blumhouse, Sierra Teller Ornelas (Navajo), showrunner/co-creator Rutherford Falls, Overall TV deal at Universal TV; and Sterlin Harjo (Seminole Creek/Muskogee Creek), showrunner/co-creator of Reservation Dogs, Overall TV deal at FX.

“The Indigenous List provides an intimate look at the depth of talent and power of Native creatives in the entertainment industry,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of IllumiNative. “These Indigenous writers are leading the way and showing the power of Native authored stories. I’m so grateful to The Black List, the Sundance Institute, and the Indigenous creatives who are supporting the next generation of Native writers.”

“As always it’s a joy to introduce the industry to a new group of incredibly exciting writers and I personally look forward to watching the films and television shows that will be born of these introductions,” said Black List founder Franklin Leonard. “Everyone should be so lucky as to collaborate with folks like IllumiNative, Sundance Institute, Bird, Michael, Sierra, and Sterlin to do this sort of work. Read these scripts, everyone!”

“My team and I are thrilled again to be a part of showcasing the best work by Indigenous artists working across a variety of genres, formats, and stylistic approaches. The work in this year’s list is a testament to the innovation and creative possibilities of what happens when Indigenous talent makes their own work on their own terms.” said Adam Piron, Director of Indigenous Program.

The 2022 Indigenous List screenwriters and their scripts can be read below.

Taietsarón:sere ‘Tai’ Leclaire (Kanien’kehá:ka)
Lyle Westman is dead and over it. When he discovers he has to spend 1400 years haunting in redface, he decides to strike back at the systemic problems plaguing the afterlife. 

Alex Nystrom (Ojibwe)
On a mysterious sinking island off the coast of Louisiana, home to a tight-knit Native community, a compulsive man finds himself up against untold tribal secrets, disappearing children, and the unearthing of a repressed traumatic past.

Bryson Chun (Kanaka Maoli) and Tara Aquino (Kanaka Maoli)
What do you do when your ex writes a song about you and becomes the biggest popstar in the world? If you kidnap your best friend, steal a horse, and crash Good Morning America to confront her were on your breakup bingo card, then you win!

Maya Rose Dittloff (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara (MHA Nation)/ Amskapi Pijkuni)
A young Sacajawea confronts the foreboding spirits of the forest and uses their guidance to navigate first contact with white explorers. Confused by prophecy and puberty, she must learn to discern enemies from friends.

W.A.W. Parker (Northern Cheyenne)
Love is a battlefield when a brash, flamboyant, gay Prussian military commander runs into his ex at Valley Forge after he’s hired by George Washington to whip the fledgling American Army into shape during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War. Comps: THE GREAT meets DICKINSON.

Brian Bahe (Tohono O’odham)
When the United States is given back to Indigenous people, two self-involved millennials are forced into a leadership role they didn’t sign up for.

Neil Tinkham (Chamorro)
A child of divorce goes on a hunt to capture a mythical creature that lives in the jungle, serendipitously bringing his family closer in the process.

Kathryn Machi (Cherokee)
In San Francisco in the late 1960s, a housewife and mother of three teenagers belatedly discovers her Cherokee heritage and defies her conservative husband — and her Cherokee father — to join the Red Power and feminist movements.

Additionally, we are pleased to share the following updates for alumni of the very first Indigenous List:

  • Joey Clift’s BUNKER BOSS and its placement on the inaugural Indigenous List led directly to meetings and writing opportunities on Nickelodeon and PBS projects. 
  • Alika Maikau’s Indigenous List script MOLOKA’I BOUND was selected to receive a $500,000 production grant from Google and ARRAY to help further foster its path towards the big screen. 
  • Kathryn Machi was selected as a finalist for the IllumiNative 2022 Pop Culture Producers Program, was a quarterfinalist in the 2020 Big Break TV pilot competition, and has received additional support from Film Collaborative San Francisco. She was signed by her manager, Brian Judy, Bohemia Group, after his read of JUNE ROSE  in the summer of 2020. Kathryn’s script, FIREBIRD, was optioned by Endeavor Content as a result of her placement on the 2020 Indigenous List.
  • Erica Tremblay and Miciana Alise’s FANCY DANCE is fully financed and will shoot this summer.

To learn more about The Indigenous List, click here.