Big Sky originally premiered on ABC on November 17, but it’s based on the 2013 book The Highway by C.J. Box. In it, we follow a series of abductions that take place at truck stops across Montana, along with the law enforcement dedicated to finding the missing victims. While the series diverts from the book in some ways, most notably with the inclusion of a transgender actor (because of course), the plot is relatively similar, surrounding the disappearance of sisters Grace (Jade Pettyjohn) and Danielle (Natalie Alyn Lind) Sullivan.
Unfortunately, that was enough for organizations to start complaining. On November 25, several indigenous groups, including the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, began petitioning the show for “at best, cultural insensitivity, and at worst, appropriation.” The reason? The girls portraying the victims are white instead of Native American. Yes, casting white girls as kidnapping victims is now a form of cultural appropriation.
Executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association A. Gay Kingman says as much in an official statement:
Making the abduction and trafficking of women for primetime entertainment is bad enough. Erasing the real-life 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.
Additional statements from Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council executive director William F. Snell and Chairman David Sickey of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana note that “tribal members constitute 7% of the population, but the state identifies some 26% of missing persons as Native American.”
Of course, this is a clear and tragic reality in the Native American community, but it not a problem exclusive to it. Kidnapping and murder have taken place across human history in every corner of the globe among all ethnicities, sadly.
The groups want ABC to add information in the credits of the show pointing viewers to their documentary Somebody’s Daughter on MMIWG, which is a little convenient. We’ll see how the network responds.
Big Sky currently airs Tuesdays on ABC.