Z Nation is a television show on the SyFy network that takes place 3 years after a virus swept across the world, turning those infected into Z’s aka zombies. A ragtag group of survivors must transport the only known survivor of the virus from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab facility needs his blood to create a vaccine.
In its second season, Z Nation has found its niche among the onslaught of zombie TV series like The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and iZombie, which is no easy task given the popularity of these series. However, Z Nation has done a pretty good job in setting itself apart from other series. And this Friday, they will be raising the bar for other Zombie series and making TV History in the process.
On Nov. 13th, Z Nation will be the first mainstream television series set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies to feature NATIVE AMERICANS! The Natives joining the Z Nation cast for this groundbreaking episode, “We Were Nowhere Near the Grand Canyon”, will be Eddie Spears, Gene Tagaban, Tonantzin Carmelo, Tinsel Korey, and Jeff Barehand. When asked about the nature of her character, Ayalla, and her experience on set, actress Tinsel Korey said:
“Our Indigenous women are nurturing, powerful warriors. So, it was an honor to help create such a strong, intelligent, kick butt character like Ayalla. The producers and director really valued all the Native actors’ opinions and helped bring to life multi-dimensional and futuristic Native heroes.”
But, the decision to create a space for Natives within this series is amazing. We love our Walking Dead and zombie horrors, but we NEVER see ourselves represented. Of course, that’s nothing new because we rarely see ourselves represented in the real world outside of the racist stereotypes, tropes and mascots that are so prevalent in the mainstream. It’s also very rare for us to be shown in a modern context as people don’t see us as modern people. So, when it comes to native portrayals, we are usually only seen in more historical and outdated contexts.
“It’s important to have Native characters in future settings. Hollywood normally portrays Native characters in the past. It rarely includes us in the present”, said Tinsel Korey. “It’s important for our youth to see themselves in a modern-day narrative.”
So, THANK YOU SYFY and Z NATION for including us in a more contemporary world and as contemporary people.
You see, Natives surviving and surviving as a community in a post-apocalyptic world is just common sense to us. In a very literal sense, we are just like the survivors featured in zombie horrors. We have survived the end of our worlds that began with arrival of Columbus. We are in that post-apocalyptic phase of learning how to survive in a new world; to deal with the trauma; to reclaim our culture and humanity; and to rebuild our civilizations for the next generations.
As Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy wrote in her blog:
“When I started watching the Walking Dead I immediately thought about Indians. And when people tell me “Man, Indians, they are always going on and on about genocide and stuff and they should just get over it” I often pause and say “Well, consider the Walking Dead…”
Lawrence Gross (he’s a scholar and a Native person) talks about “Post Apocalypse Stress Syndrome” where he says that Native American people have “seen the end of our world” which has created “tremendous social stresses.”
California Indians often refer to the Mission System and the Gold Rush as “the end of the world.” What those who survived experienced was both the “apocalypse” and “post apocalypse.” It was nothing short of zombies running around trying to kill them.”
Natives know that if anyone can survive an apocalypse, it would be us. We’ve already been there, done that. As far as a zombie apocalypse and from conversations that I’ve had with other natives, I’m pretty sure we got it handled. Our communities still hunt, fish, and know how to exist without modern conveniences and it would be a GREAT opportunity for us to reclaim stolen lands.