Why ABC’s ‘Big Sky’ Is Receiving Backlash From Indigenous Organizations and Tribes

Big Sky just premiered on Nov. 17. Already, the ABC series is facing backlash. A group of Indigenous organizations and tribes say they have “serious concerns” that the new show is “at best cultural insensitivity, and at worst, appropriation” because it leaves out the fact that Native American women are the biggest kidnapping and murder victims in Indian Country.

ABC's 'Big Sky' | Kharen Hill via Getty Images
ABC’s ‘Big Sky’ | Kharen Hill via Getty Images

What is ‘Big Sky’ about?

Big Sky is brought to you by the same storyteller behind Big Little Lies, David E. Kelly. The series follows detectives Cassie Dewell and Cody Hoyt, along with Cody’s estranged wife, Jenny Hoyt (an ex-cop), as they search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver along a highway in Montana. They soon discover that the sisters aren’t the only girls to go missing in the area. The three need to team together to find the killer before another young woman goes missing.

The series is based on the series of books by C.J. Box.

Why Indigenous organizations and tribes have an issue with ‘Big Sky’

In Big Sky, the sisters who go missing are white. Montana is home to eight federally recognized tribes, which make up the largest minority population in the state. Indian Country is, unfortunately, a hot spot for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Therein lies the issue these tribes have with Big Sky: The failure to mention the real problem.

Native American rights groups Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and the Global Indigenous Council, along with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Blackfeet Nation, and Native American voter turnout organization Four Directions have come together to urge ABC to tell the full story.

“We understand that the plot of Big Sky is based on C. J. Box’s novel The Highway. Unfortunately, neither Big Sky nor The Highway address the fact that the disproportionate majority of missing and murdered women in Montana are Indigenous, a situation replicated across Indian Country, which has made this tragedy an existential threat to Native Americans,” the group of organizations wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to ABC. “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.”

What the Indigenous organizations and tribes want from ABC

The tribes and organizations are not asking the network to pull the series or reshoot any of its scenes. They are asking that ABC takes the time to learn about the MMIW crisis, such as by viewing the documentary Somebody’s Daughter, which explores the depth of the issue. Additionally, the tribes and organizations are requesting the network to add a graphic at the end of future episodes that contains factual information about the MMIW crisis.

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“It is our sincere hope that you will 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 to ABC reads.