The producers behind Big Sky, ABC's new Montana-set police drama created by Big Little Lies executive producer David E. Kelley, are speaking out after the series faced criticism over its lack of representation for Native and Indigenous women. Shortly after groups representing Indigenous communities sent a letter before the series' Nov. 17 premiere urging the network to "enter into a dialogue" about representation, Big Sky's executive producers said they are "working with Indigenous groups" to help bring awareness to issues affecting Indigenous communities.
In a statement provided to Entertainment Tonight, the producers confirmed that they had "meaningful conversations with representatives of the Indigenous community," which they said opened their eyes "to the outsized number of Native American and Indigenous women who go missing and are murdered each year, a sad and shocking fact." The statement added they "are grateful for this education." The producers vowed that they are "working with Indigenous groups to help bring attention to this important issue."
The statement came after the series faced criticism ahead of its premiere. Based on a series of novels by C.J. Box, Big Sky centers on the disappearance of two sisters, who are White, after their disappearance from a Montana highway. In their letter, the collective of Indigenous organizations expressed concern that the series and its source novel do not "address the fact that the disproportionate majority of missing and murdered women in Montana are Indigenous, a situation replicated across Indian Country." According to the letter, while Indigenous people make up only 7% of Montana's population, 26% of the state's missing persons are identified as Native American. The letter said that "to ignore this fact, and to portray this devastation with a white female face, is the height of cultural insensitivity, made even more egregious given the national awakening to the need for racial justice."
The letter went on to encourage the network "to enter into a dialogue with us to discuss including an information frame at the end of future Big Sky show credits that directs viewers to the Somebody's Daughter documentary and factual information on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women crisis." The letter said that doing so would "be an important signal of your willingness to work with other entities to ensure that the magnitude of the MMIW crisis is not diminished."
Following the producers' addressing of these concerns, Global Indigenous Council president Tom Rodgers seemed to contradict their words, stating that "we have not heard from the honchos at Big Sky, ABC Studios, or parent company Disney." He added that "we have no idea what they are talking about, but we would be very interested to hear from ABC on its ideas for remedying the injustice done by its series, Big Sky. So we're interested in learning who ABC is working with, since it is curious that no purported Indigenous partners are named in its statement. In our culture, trust can only be earned, not promised."