"The pandemic has definitely had a big effect on a lot of things in the world and probably the smallest on the list is my writing process. The way that it's changed is prior to this, when I would be working on a show, I would go into a writer's room, sit in an office, usually eat a lot of free snacks from the office kitchen while cracking jokes in a room full of people. And now instead of doing that, I do most of my writing at my apartment. Most of my meetings are on zoom or on some video chat. I would say that the way that my writing process has changed for meetings is now I am hyper-aware of how messy my room is at any given time. So I'm just like, Oh, that closet door is open. Oh, nobody should see that. Oh, my bed's messy. So I would say that a big part of my writing process is making sure I don't look like a slob."
"So many of us came up through live comedy spaces where we would do shows together and we would riff on stage and make an audience crack up. It's still there over zoom a little bit but like sometimes we'll kind of step on each other's jokes just cause there's like a latency and a lag. And a lot of standup shows and comedy shows are over video chat now. So it's kind of the same deal. Instead of driving to a comedy theater at midnight on a Tuesday to do a show. I'm just sitting in my darkroom and just being like, I really want to go to bed right now, but I have to do this show."
"So the way that this production is different from other Netflix series is that for the first time ever in the history of animated TV in the United States, it's an all Native writers room. And it's just a very very Native forward show in kind of like how I look at all aspects of storytelling for the show. I would say that it's different from a lot of other writing jobs that I've had. Usually when I'm working in rooms in writers rooms, I'm the only Native on staff. So because of that, and because as we know, it's like your average person probably doesn't know as much about Natives as they maybe probably should. Whenever I would pitch Native jokes, storylines, or anything like that, to like a non-Native writer's room I would usually have to start every pitch by establishing first things first. I was born in a hospital, not a cave. My mom is not an eagle. Because it's an all Native writers room, we can just kind of jump into it. Everybody knows what smudging is. Everybody knows what fry bread is. You know, we're all aware of a lot of Native lore and stuff like that. So we can just get to like the heart of the stories and the meat of what makes these stories great. I think that that's something that I really appreciate and cherish about this experience. I've got to shoutout the creator/show runner of Spirit Rangers Karissa Valencia. She's a genius Chumash animation/writer. She's doing great stuff. She put this team together and she's really created a great space for us to make some cool stuff."
"Well, let me tell you, when I pursued going into higher education off my reservation, there was always that fear of, am I going to make it, you know, am I going to finish? And honestly, choosing a school in New Mexico was probably the best thing ever because it landed me the opportunity to meet wonderful people in New Mexico. I was going to University of New Mexico and I was reached out by a famous artist out of Santa Fe. Her name is Glenna Goodacre and rest in peace, she actually passed away earlier this year. But she reached out to me in search of a Shoshone girl to get a better sense of what Sacajawea, who she knew at that time was Shoshone from Idaho. And myself, I am Shoshone-Bannock from Fort Hall, Idaho. And you know, she reached out, she went to the nearby Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in downtown Santa Fe and happened to talk to my mother, who actually was a former museum director for my tribe, for our tribal museum. And in that conversation, she was able to learn a lot of things about Sacajawea."
"And if I can just take a step back, Glenna Goodacre was approached by the United States Mint for a project to replace the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. That was not doing so well in the public, people didn't really utilize it. So, there was a huge list of potential females that made an impact in United States history. And we're so thankful Sacajawea was chosen. And so this artist did not know anything about who Sacajawea was other than she traveled with Lewis and Clark."
"And when she had a conversation with my mother for about three hours, her last question was, is, do you have any daughters? My mother at that time took out her wallet that had all of our pictures in it, and immediately, the artist says I want her. And I happened to look pretty much the same that I do, kind of have that natural look, the long black hair. And my mom said, you know, you're lucky because she is going to school at University of New Mexico. So, I got a call. My mom said that this lady would like me to model. I agreed. I didn't really know what that meant. I didn't really understand at that time what the project was about. I went to Santa Fe, I spent a whole weekend with Glenna Goodacre understanding what this secret project is about."
"And I was just thankful to be part of this historical project, to be honest. I really did not know that my face would be on United States currency. I am labeled today as the youngest and only living model on the United States currency. And I have a story to share just with my journey, but also understanding who Sacajawea is as a Shoshone girl. I don't believe she was a woman yet when she traveled with Lewis and Clark. She was probably about 14 with her baby, a brand new baby. And if you can imagine being 14 with a brand new baby and having to take care of 20 plus men that you don't know, that was her situation. And honestly, I can't think of being in her moccasins of what she was thinking daily of being a young wife, a young mother, and being able to have this responsibility on her. But what I am glad about is that she was chosen to be on the new dollar coin. So you know, lots of good stuff here."
Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.