HELENA- Thousands of people tuned in last week to ABC's new drama "Big Sky".
The story follows private detectives and an ex-cop as they search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote Montana highway.
While many Montanans are following along with the storyline, for some this concept hits too close to home.
There has been criticism of the show's failure to accurately address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples movement and human trafficking in the Treasure State.
We spoke with the president of the Global Indigenous Council, Tom Rodgers, and he says the show completely ignores the MMIP crisis impacting our state.
“There is not a word, there’s not a character, there is no dialogue, there’s no reference… Women are dying, young girls are dying, they’re disappearing. So, you don’t even have the closure of death when you can identify the body. They just disappear… So, my one, two, three concerns are we are erased, we are erased, we are erased," said Rodgers
Duane Williams, the CEO of the Motor Carriers of Montana said the show isn't portraying the trucking industry in a positive light either.
Adding many truckers are working hard to fight against human trafficking and all truck drivers are trained to look for signs.
"Making sure that we're eyes and ears. So, they're trained for what to look for. There are a lot of signs that they can look for. And then so if they do see something, they know to call the hotline number and to report it," said Williams.
Both the Global Indigenous Council and truckers say this is a teachable moment. And they're asking ABC to tell their stories.
We have reached out to ABC for a response and have yet to hear back.
Here is the full Statement from Global Indigenous Council:
ABC’s Big Sky Ignores Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis
Native American Groups Urge ABC Studios to Show Some Cultural Sensitivity
BROWNING, Montana – A collective of Indigenous organizations notified ABC Studios this week that it has “serious concerns” its new series Big Sky reflects “at best cultural insensitivity, and at worst, appropriation” by ignoring the staggering statistics that show Native American women are the biggest victims of kidnapping, murder and mayhem in Indian Country.
The show is set in Montana, home to eight federally recognized tribes, which make up the largest minority population in the state. Unfortunately, Big Sky casts white women as the victims in its made-for-TV production, disregarding the epidemic of violence known as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) plaguing Indian Country. Montana is one of the extreme MMIW hot spots. Efforts to halt the MMIW tragedy have the backing of dozens of powerful allies, including President-elect Joe Biden, Rep. Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, civil rights icon John Lewis, Big Sky Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“All of the progress we’ve made on this issue is because of you,” Biden said upon the release of the documentary Somebody’sDaughter, which exposed the depth of the MMIW crisis. “You’ve demanded attention. You’ve fought for changes to the law, and you continue to fight for the authority to ensure justice and fairness for everyone in your nations,” added Biden, who appears in the documentary.
Concerned that Big Sky is a missed opportunity for ABC, Native American rights groups Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and the Global Indigenous Council; along with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana (executive producer of Somebody’s Daughter); Blackfeet Nation and Native American voter turnout organization Four Directions have banded together to urge the television network to bring clarity and compassion to the issue. Other Native American leaders and groups are expected to join the effort to educate the Disney-owned network of its uninformed program.
The first episode of Big Sky was set in Livingston, Montana, a vibrant crossroads for Indigenous peoples for thousands of years – a fact missing in the pilot that aired Tuesday.
“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 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.”
The tribes and organizations have two reasonable requests of ABC: view and learn from the recently updated and re-released documentary Somebody’s Daughter, which was produced to pressure policymakers to take up the cause; and add a graphic at the end of future episodes that contains factual information about the MMIW crisis. The group is not asking ABC at this time to pull the series or reshoot any future segments.
“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 states. The letter is attached.