In Person of interest we talk to the people who are catching our attention right now about what they do, eat, read and love. The next step is Jana Schmieding, comedian, actor, podcaster, screenwriter and TV show co-star Rutherford Falls, which premiered on Peacock in April and has just been picked up for a second season.
We see how the story informs the lives of these two characters and how people grow and change when the truth about the story is told, or sink into it and protect their story, Jana Schmieding told me on Zoom. She wears avocado earrings herself beaded, she describes the plot behind Rutherford Falls, a new Peacock Original show that focuses on two friends: Nathan Rutherford, a descendant of city founder Rutherford Falls and his best friend Reagan Wells played by Schmieding, who is a member of the (fictional) Minishonka nation. She continues, and this begs the question, Who in story do we cling to as Americans? And what happens when new truths are told?
Schmieding, who is Miniconjou and Sicangu Lakota, enrolled in the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux tribe, says she got a call from her co-star Michael Greyeyes shortly after the premiere of the show. He has acted in many films, but most of the time his history as an aboriginal and native actor has been erased, she says. He wanted to prepare me for that potential, but he also said: Something different about this show is that they can’t ignore us anymore. With Native showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas, three other native writers and comics in the writers’ room, and Schmieding writing and co-starring, the performance is fundamental to the show. It’s so powerful to be able to say, Were here. We can continue to spread our message, to stand up and claim, and things will change.
In Rutherford Falls, energetic Wells runs a small Minishonka cultural center in a big glitzy casino, drinks a lot of coffee, and genuinely cares about the people in her life (I hope in season two she also spends more time at the fried bread truck shown in eye-catching shows introduction). In real life, Schmieding is funny, intelligent, passionate and optimistic about catering and cultivating Indigenous food and culture. Ahead of the announcement of a second season, we talked about its relationship to food, the importance of food sovereignty, and what the wellness culture lacks.
In the writers’ room I ate lots of SmartPop! Pop corn. I contend that the popcorn is native, and the potato chips are native too. I like good coffee. I love the chocolate bars from this native chocolate company, Bedr, and the Native Food brand and vineyard, Ska Hills, in California, of which almonds with garlic herbs are so good.
Food is a focal point … in my family and my community. We don’t come together without food. I also know the history of my people and the traumas we share, especially the traumas related to food: being separated from their eating habits and having to protect the seeds in times of genocide. This is how important our food culture is to us.
Lots of Indigenous people were separated from … our cultures. There are so many ways of being that have been colonized, silenced and killed. And food culture is something that we as Indigenous people hold onto very tightly because it’s a way of connecting to our land. I am a Miniconjou person, which means a producer by the river. We were corn farmers; we have names for ourselves that have to do with our food culture and our way of being.
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