Gone Native is a series of comedic digital shorts that shines a satirical light on some of the weird, ignorant microaggressions people make toward Native Americans. In a time where much of the country assumes that Natives still live in teepees like it’s the 1700s, it’s obvious that as a society, we could use a tiny bit of education about what it means to be an American Indian in 2022. The series was created by enrolled Cowlitz Indian Tribal member Joey Clift (Spirit Rangers, Netflix) after being on the receiving end of years of well-meaning questions and uncomfortable misconceptions to outright hostility from ignorant friends and strangers alike. Comedy has always been an effective way to soften up an audience that may be closed off to uncomfortable truths that challenge their assumptions or beliefs. Gone Native tackles a range of issues Native Americans like Clift encounter regularly, including explaining why Native mascots aren't ok, schools need to teach contemporary Native American history, and certain tropes are so damaging.
While some of the ignorance about Native people Clift encounted was in person, most of it was on social media. In order to counter these ideas on sites like Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, it was important to create content that could easily be shared on those platforms. This is why Clift focused on creating digital shorts. By making the shorts animated comedies, Clift was able to push some of his concepts to their most absurd, and hilarious, conclusions.
To create the shorts, Clift brought on a team of Native American talent, including voice actors, writers, and animators like Román Zaragoza (Ghosts on CBS), Siena East (HBO’s The Sex Lives of College Girls) and animator Marie Bower (Fox ADHD). This not only provided creative opportunities for Native Americans in Hollywood, it also meant the series would be a shared endeavor by those who have experienced the very challenges detailed in the videos.
A grant from the Becoming America Fund supported the production of the most recent three digital shorts. Moore + Associates came on board as impact producer. Gone Native is being distributed by Comedy Central Animation across its digital platforms. Comedy Central is helping the Gone Native shorts reach a wide audience, far beyond the Native community, while helping to credential the series with viewers. Gone Native also established partnerships with a range of non-profit allies including organizations known for advocating greater inclusion in Hollywood, like Harness; issue organizations that work on subject matter featured in the series, like Reparations Lab; and Native organizations with shared values and sensibility, like IllumiNative and the National Indian Education Association.
The shorts were rolled out over the course of several months in late 2022 and early 2023. Each video had its own press outreach, influencer engagement, and impact strategy. Finally, GoneNative.TV was launched to serve as the permanent home for the series, including any future videos. The website not only showcases all of the episodes, it provides links where visitors can learn more about the issues, and organizations where they can take action.
The response to the digitial shorts has exceeded our expections. Across online platforms, the videos have been viewed more than seven millions times; the three most recent have been viewed more than 2.2 million times. On TikTok in particular, hundreds of Native creators have created reaction videos, adding their own perspective to the Gone Native content. The series has received positive press coverage from outlets including Yahoo’s In The Know, The A.V. Club, The Mary Sue, Crosscut, Axios and NPR’s Live Wire Radio. These media appearings, along with many appearances on podcasts like Yo, Is This Racist?, The Daily Zeitgeist and NPR's All Things Considered have exponentially expanded the number of people we have been able to reach; each time, we have witnessed assumptions about Native people challenged and changed. Teachers across the country have used the Gone Native series to educate students, from K-12 to accredited universities about contemporary Native history and the migroaggresions that Native people often face.
Dozens of high profile artists and accounts have promoted videos from the series, including Mark Ruffalo, Dead Meat, IllumiNative and additional influencers, with a combined audience reach of 57 million people. Shorts from the series have been accepted at film festivals across the country, including Just For Laughs and The Smithsonian Museum's Native Cinema Showcase. Gone Native was one of six projects selected for the inaugural Yes, And... Laughter Lab pitch showcase.