Native American woman creates dream show that she wanted as a child longing for representation



Animated films and cartoons are great ways to introduce children to the real world. Even though these shows are based in a fantasy world, the stories teach children valuable lessons. The representation of different ethnicites is extremely important so that the children can relate to them. In the United States, cartoons often ignore the community of Native Americans. Native children often grow up without seeing any characters that look like them. So, Karissa Valencia, who is half Mexican and half Chumash, took the matter into her own hands and created the Netflix show "Spirit Rangers."


The fantasy-adventure preschool series is all about appreciating community, environment, and Native American storytelling traditions. It's also the type of show Valencia wishes she had as a youngster. She told TODAY, "Growing up on and off the reservation, when I was home it was always so meaningful to me that my family and my tribe were doing everything they could to keep our culture alive and would always share our traditional stories of our land and place."

"So I grew up hearing stories of trickster coyote and how the condor got its black feathers," she said.

She explained that she always had the "feeling of being invisible" when growing up among the thriving kids animation in the 90s, per HuffPost. She doesn't want other children like her to feel the same. She entered Hollywood after working with Chris Nee, the creator of "Doc McStuffins." Her ideas for stories with Native characters were frequently rejected, but she persevered and finally won her first job at Nickelodeon. Chriss Nee agreed to be the executive producer of the series.

She said, "I feel like this show is now healing my inner child of feeling so not acknowledged that I existed in the present day just because I didn’t look like what was in the history textbooks. So it was really great to give these traditional stories a home to live in and take a life of their own."

She told HuffPost, "Natives are so much more than just leathers and feathers and [being] only in history books." Native actors such as "Reservation Dogs" actor Devery Jacobs, Wes Studi, Brooke Simpson, and voice legend Cree Summer lend their voices to the animated children's program. The story features three Indigenous siblings, Kodi, Summer, and Eddy Skycedar, who are charged with becoming Spirit Rangers and taking on the forms of various animals in order to defend the national park where they live.

Valencia was able to attain her dream show thanks to the production's all-Native writers' room. She explained, "The writers’ room is the heart of the show. That’s where you’re building the world, the characters, creating all the magic and I didn’t want my perspective to be the only perspective."

Valencia's background and the tribal traditions her father would tell her about nature and animals inspired the series. She said, "In Indigenous culture, we really feel this reciprocity with nature in general. We’re all connected. In some cultures like mine, a really high honor is if you can transform. At the end of the day, while not everyone can transform, you can take care of your land. I feel like you are a park protector, a land protector, or a spirit ranger by taking care of your land."

She also wanted to be sensitive to the history of the tribes she decided to depict. She actually went to the Chumash and Cowlitz tribes. and got their blessing for the show. She said, "We took the time to go to the tribes and get their blessing and do everything correctly so that we can move forward with their partnership and collaboration."

The showrunner said that "Spirit Rangers" has "healed her inner child." It has been a learning experience for her where she got to know about the history of Indigenous communities in the US. She hopes that people, especially children from these communities feel a "sense of acknowledgment" when they see this series. She also wants to give them "a sense of pride that they can go around, tell everybody they’re Native, and it won’t come with such a stigma or a stereotype."

The first episode of "Spirit Rangers" aired on Netflix on October 10 and is available for all age groups.




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