Great Sioux Nation and British Columbia First Nations Join Protest of ABC’s ‘Big Sky’

Two new Indigenous organizations are throwing their weight behind a protest over the lack of representation of Native and Indigenous women on the new ABC show Big Sky.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association issued press releases on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, calling on ABC to incorporate the issue of Montana’s missing and murdered Native and Indigenous women into the storyline of the show, which centers on investigators looking into a high incidence of women disappearing from a highway in the state.

In the GPTCA press release, the association of 16 tribal chairmen, presidents and chairpersons of Great Plains tribes echoed a previous coalition of groups — including the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Global Indigenous Council and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana — in calling for the show to include “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 previous coalition, composed of groups that helped produce the Somebody’s Daughter documentary about the U.S.’s crisis of missing and murdered Native and Indigenous women, sent a letter to ABC executives and Big Sky producers about the omission of the issue from the show on Nov. 17.

“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,” GPTCA executive director A. Gay Kingman said in a statement. “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.”

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to ABC for comment.

In its press release, the UBCIC also asked for ABC to “address and rectify its incomplete depiction of violence against women and girls” alongside other organizations. It also asked for an “information frame” at the end of Big Sky‘s credits to suggest viewers learn more about the issue of missing and murdered Native and Indigenous women.

“Institutions from law enforcement to the entertainment media must engage and consult with First Nations when they are addressing violence against women and girls, and understand the importance of not ignoring the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) tragedy,” UBCIC secretary-treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said in a statement. “UBCIC is based in Vancouver, Big Sky’s central filming location and one of the areas in Canada hit hardest by systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls. As the federal governments in both Canada and the US have failed to address the multi-generational epidemic that is the MMIWG crisis, it is imperative that an influential corporation like ABC demonstrate some awareness and cultural competency regarding it.”

UBCIC women’s representative Melissa Moses added that the setting of Big Sky and The Highway, the novel upon which the show is based, bears a resemblance to a notorious highway in British Columbia: “Violence against Indigenous women is particularly endemic in British Columbia, where one of the most infamous highways in Canada, ‘the Highway of Tears,’ is located. This highway is a painful and haunting symbol of the violence destroying Indigenous lives and bears resemblance to the one depicted in The Highway, the novel Big Sky is adapted from,” Moses said in a statement.

She added, “Unfortunately, the violence and gender-based genocide represented by the Highway of Tears is horrifically prevalent in Montana where 26% of missing persons have been identified as Native American, despite tribal members only making up 7% of the population. ABC now has the invaluable opportunity to be our ally, to show respect and compassion to victims and impacted family members and loved ones, and to help inform the public in both Canada and the United States of this international and national crisis and dark truth.”

Big Sky premiered on Nov. 17 to a 0.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 4.15 million viewers.