SXSW does a better job of Native representation in 2022: Here’s what’s happening

Deb Haaland, Sierra Teller Ornelas, Rob Capriccioso from Indigenous Wire, Status/Non-Status, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and several others are making a splash

Last year I attended SXSW virtually as the Native Nerd and had an admittedly tough time finding much in the way of anything Indigenous. Sure, there was a great film on the Native skater Joe Buffalo, and a few events that focused on diversity, but otherwise I didn’t see much.

I wrote the article for ICT, and I also told some of the organizers how disappointed I was that one of the nation’s biggest events celebrating media, music and technology, in the heart of the southwest, had nearly no Indigenous flavor.

As I said in my tweet last year:

#NativeNerd: My 2021 #SXSW virtual experience

I watched fun festival films, listened to festival music, and met business entrepreneurs and industry mentors. There were a few Native elements, but more would have been nice.

Here is the ICT article via tweet that I wrote:

So far, SXSW 2022 is a nice surprise, even if Rob Capriccioso, the editor and founder of Indigenous Wire on Substack, who is there now has told me, “there are still more cowboys than Indians.” 

Good one, Rob. (I love this guy, we have worked together for years, including meeting with former secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a few years ago. I photographed, he interviewed Sally Jewell.) 

By the way, Rob’s 12-year-old daughter, Bella Capriccioso, took the image for his latest Indigenous Wire post. How fantastic is that? 

Rob’s 12-year-old daughter, Bella Capriccioso, took the image for his latest Indigenous Wire post. (Credit Bella Capriccioso)

Talking with Anishinaabe citizen and Indigenous Wire founder and editor Rob Capriccioso

Here’s Rob’s take so far as I was fortunate to catch up with him before he got too caught up in the events at SXSW.

Vincent Schilling: What’s the atmosphere of SXSW?

Rob Capriccioso: For me, the early atmosphere is colder than expected, but it’s set to warm up later in the week, figuratively and literally. I see a bit of Native inclusion on the agenda, and the tweets are pouring in from Natives who I expected would be here. Bird Runningwater had to have his cowboy boots searched at the airport, he tweeted — he’ll fit right in here in Austin with those steel-toed boots in a way that I never will. No cowboy boots for this Anishinaabe citizen! 

Vincent Schilling: I reported at SXSW in 2021 regarding my experience last year and to be honest there was very little Indigenous content of any sort. I contacted the organizers to say this. In my view, they have stepped it up this year … That said, what is your opinion?

Rob Capriccioso: I’d always like to see more Indigenous inclusion. CNN Plus has invited me to a few of their SXSW events after I noted on social media that no Indigenous reporters seem to have been hired by that new, well-funded mainstream outlet thus far. It’s nice to be invited to their parties, but we need staffers in their news rooms! Non-Indian owners of major media, tech, music and cultural projects are understanding that reality more and more, but I don’t always see it translated in the execution of their latest projects. Native voices are out here, and they need to find us. Our voices matter. SXSW seems to have more inclusion of Indigenous people in 2022 than I’ve seen in the past, which is a step in the right direction.

Vincent Schilling: What are you on the lookout for as a Native journalist and a Native voice? Are you doing anything to assist in influencing more indigenous content moving forward?

Rob Capriccioso: Indigenous Wire is doing our best to represent. My 12-year-old daughter, Bella, is here with me snapping shots for her own middle school project about her experience, and my 10-year-old son, Loretto, is loving everything about it, seeing some of the age-appropriate music acts and just thrilled in general by the vibe. He has been noticing memes everywhere around Austin, like something called South Bonk Southwest and the Doge dog who is popping up in some strange places. I have limited capacity in this big noggin’ to truly understand why those kinds of things are so very cool, but the younger Native generation is tuned in and taking it all in. And that makes me so happy! They are making their presence known early on, so that our people won’t be forgotten in the future. I always want them to be part of these kinds of experiences, so that they will eventually be leading the way in whatever paths they choose to take in life and work. 

The Capriccioso team at SXSW, Loretto and Bella Capriccioso, Indigenous Wire supporters and Sault Tribe citizens representing at SXSW 2022! (Photo credit Rob Capriccioso)

My kids are inspired that “Auntie Deb,” as SXSW is billing Secretary Deb Haaland, will be speaking. I would be honored to do an interview with the first Native Cabinet secretary while here, but her Interior Department handlers know my questions will be nuanced — beyond the fluff — so I’m not sure if they’re going to grant me access to her. It sucks when non-Native gatekeepers control access to our own people, but I do understand that they want to present her in the most flattering light. I wish they understood that ‘flattering’ does not always mean having her answer light, softball questions. She is a strong Native woman and could easily handle anything Indigenous Wire would throw her way. 

Vincent Schilling: Can you offer a few thoughts on Indigenous Wire? How can people support your efforts?

Rob Capriccioso: Indigenous WIre is growing fast, and I honestly have too much to do all of the time, which is better than the alternative, I suppose. I’d like people to understand that it’s a Native-owned, new-tech journalism venture, and they should subscribe to get the full experience. I’m honored to be the first Native journalist to receive a Substack Pro deal, but I’d like to continue the progress to be able to hire more Native journalists to do the kinds of Indian Country reporting and analysis that just isn’t happening at established outlets, both Native and non-Native ones. Many popular non-Indian writers on Substack are at the point where they have staff reporters, and I’d like to get there one day. 

Bella, Loretto and I send our love to Native Viewpoint from Austin!

Thanks to Rob, Bella and Loretto!

Support Indigenous Wire: Indigenous Wire is published by Native American journalist Rob Capriccioso. 100% Native owned, the publication focuses on Indigenous policy, politics, media, economics and sovereignty news and analysis from Indian Country, Washington, D.C. and beyond. Subscribe now.

Musical performances at SXSW

First, an interview with Adam Sturgeon of Status/Non-Status

I was also excited to hear that there are a few musical performances this year with some great Indigenous artists. Namely Adam Sturgeon of Status/Non-Status and Snotty Nose Rez Kids. I have interviewed SNRK in the past and was fortunate this week to talk with Anishinaabe community worker Adam Sturgeon (Nme’) who is a member of the band Status/Non-Status.

Sturgeon is performing at SXSW as part of the Side Door Access musical performances. When venturing over to the webpage discussing his band at, it is interesting to note that Adam is considered non-status as defined by the Canadian government. Why? Because his grandfather joined the armed services to support his family. The penalty for serving your country as a Native man? Turn in your Indian status card. 

But Adam is undeterred in embracing his heritage. He maintains his Indigenous identity.

I spoke to Sturgeon as he was just arriving in Brooklyn to do a performance on Friday, as he is also on his way to SXSW later this week. Two years ago, almost exactly on the same date, his band had to cancel their tour, losing the revenue to approximately 45-50 shows.

“Almost exactly two years to the date, March 2020. We were in New York City, and they were shutting down the border. So we had to turn around, go home. And we cancelled a six week tour. It was 45-50 shows and we already had another Canadian Tour in the bag,” said Sturgeon.

Sturgeon says the big takeaway from the pandemic was that it “allowed him an opportunity to reevaluate what he was doing.” 

“It’s not easy to be this type of artist. Indigenous artists have quite a bit more weight on their shoulders and we have so many responsibilities, so many protocols and so much over representation in every facet of what we do, it’s really hard to navigate, I find and the thing that I found strengthens me is my family. I’m a dad now too. My son is the first member in our family for a long time to have an Indigenous name.”

Sturgeon admits his non-status title can be a challenge as he sometimes struggles to find funding or can also be excluded from Indigenous-based music awards. But he says he takes it in stride due to his love for music and performing on the road. He is looking forward to SXSW and continuing to perform after the vast constrictions of the pandemic.

“We’re totally stoked to get on the road again and see some new things. We’ve been having amazing drives. Everyone’s been really, really nice and receptive. Like I think everyone’s just moving forward … It’s very positive right now, so we’re having a really good time.”

Status/Non-Status will be performing at the official Side Door to SXSW showcase on March 18th, 2022 at the Drafting Room in Austin, Texas.

I am also thrilled to see Snotty Nose Rez Kids will be at SXSW. More info below, but here is one of my and my wife Delores’ favorite videos. Go Boujee Natives!


But thus far, I am here to tell you that I am still glad to see there is quite a bit more Native flavor in 2022, than last year. 

Thank you SXSW, as a Native journalist, holding my veritable sling and rock facing off against a media Goliath, I feel as though my inquiries have been heeded. 

Here is what I know that will be appearing at SXSW so far.  I am literally scouring SXSW right now as well as reaching out to the organizers to find more content. I would be comfortable in asserting there is more. 

So if you are a Indigenous creator, filmmaker, artist, speaker or a person that knows of additional events or content, send it my way at @VinceSchilling on Twitter or to my email at

SXSW events with Indigneous flavor


Filmmakers: Rayka Zehtabchi & Shaandiin Tome

Long Line of Ladies – Credit Sam Davis, DoP

Synopsis: Long Line of Ladies is a stigma-breaking, female-directed short documentary that gives viewers a glimpse into the story of Ahty and the Karuk ceremony of Northern California. The documentary takes a significant step forward to normalize period conversations across genders by highlighting a culture that celebrates and uplifts its young women when they come of age. “Long Line of Ladies” opens the door for more young girls and women to feel seen, respected, and included. The short film also amplifies the voices of supportive fathers, uncles, and grandfathers, who aren’t often seen speaking openly about menstruation in society, further breaking stigma across generations. Imagine if all cultures rallied around their young women to feel proud and empowered at this critical juncture in their development – we’d all be unstoppable! ​


Rollins Theater at The Long Center: March 13, 2022 11:30 am

Online: Mar 14, 2022 9:00 am 

Alamo Lamar, Alamo Lamar D: March 17, 2022 6:45 pm


Filmmaker: Sophie Harris

Cherilyn and her husband Mike run their own business, Coffee Pot Farms, on the Navajo Nation where they grow much needed produce for their community. This summer, they’re embarking on their biggest crop to date but nothing seems to go as planned. (Credit: Anthony Georgis)

Synopsis: Big Water Summer follows Navajo farmer, Cherilyn Yazzie, who returned to her ancestral land to grow fresh produce for her community – one that is struggling to stay healthy due to the pandemic and a lack of access to grocery stores and healthy food options. In the film, Cherilyn and her husband embark on their biggest crop ever over a summer where nothing goes as planned. Cherilyn’s resilience and determination shine as unforeseen challenges of drought and devastating family loss from COVID threaten to derail everything she and her family have built. 



Filmmaker, Director and Writer: Morrisa Maltz

Story by: Lily Gladstone, Morrisa Maltz, Vanara Taing, Lainey Bearkiller Shangreaux

Lily Gladstone stars as Tana, a grieving young woman on an unexpected cross-country road trip through the American Midwest. | Credit: Morrisa Maltz (c)2022 Morrisa Maltz, LLC
Lily Gladstone stars as Tana, a grieving young woman on an unexpected cross-country road trip through the American Midwest. (Credit: Morrisa Maltz (c)2022 Morrisa Maltz, LLC)

Synopsis: An invitation to reunite with her estranged Oglala Lakota family launches a grieving young woman (Lily Gladstone) on an unexpected road trip from the Midwest toward the Texas-Mexico border. In this largely solitary journey with an unknown destination, Tana navigates the complex, post-2016 election social climate, and a natural landscape that is increasingly surreal. Along the way, she bonds with unexpected people that are as much a part of the landscape as the mountains and roads. At times at ease, at times on edge as a woman traveling alone, familiar faces and strangers shape her journey as she grapples with the pain of her recent loss and seeks to understand her place in the world.


Stateside Theatre: Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 3:00pm CT 

Online Screening: Monday, March 14, 2022 at 9:00am CT

Alamo Lamar : Tuesday, March 15, 2022 at 8:45pm CT

AFS Cinema: Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 9:00pm CT 

Other films:

FILM: Angakuksajaujuq, The Shaman’s Apprentice – Director: Zacharias Kunuk

FILM: The Choice – Director Joanne Popinska

XR Experience: CHOCTAW CODE TALKERS 1918 (Launch competition winner)

Launch competition winner “Choctaw Code Talkers 1918” (Screen capture SXSW 2022)

Synopsis: The cryptological use of Native American languages as a U.S. military strategy began in France, 1918. Its use helped end two World Wars. Filmed where the battles took place, Our Worlds tells the incredible story of America’s original Code Talkers. Stationed in France in 1918, soldiers from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma communicated tactical messages in their native language across battlefield phone lines, helping to turn the tides of the war. The piece immerses viewers in the presence of Choctaw soldiers fighting in France, presented in XR360º. Note: the use of the Choctaw Language was outlawed in the United States at the time of the war.

Awards: According to a press release that hit my email just as I was publishing this article, The 2022 SXSW EDU Conference & Festival has just announced Our Worlds, Inc. as the winner of this year’s Launch competition, which is described in the release as “an opportunity for companies seeking market exposure, investment, and strategic partnerships to showcase their innovative products. This year, six early-stage startups were selected to compete as finalists.”

Info about Our World’s Inc. on the Pala Indian Reservation in California

Our Worlds, Inc. has been announced as the winner of the fast-paced live pitch event at SXSW EDU, Launch, presented by Schmidt Futures and the Walton Family Foundation. Our Worlds, Inc. provides place-based, primary source, educational content about Native Americans in Extended Reality 360º throughout the world. The experiences are unique, immersive, and available to anyone with a smartphone. Our Worlds, Inc. provides a portal to the indigenous stories that surround you.

“We believe every square mile has a story. Our Worlds, Inc. provides place-based, primary source, educational content about Native Americans in Extended Reality 360º throughout the world. The experiences are unique, immersive, and available to anyone with a smartphone. Our Worlds, Inc. provides a portal to the indigenous stories that surround you.”


Speakers and Panels



Charlene Corley – Nielsen

Bird Runningwater – Amazon

Leah Salgado – IllumiNative

Sierra Teller Ornelas – Peacock

Forget Mascots at SXSW – screen capture


Despite a largely untold history of erasure and violence against their community, Native Americans are still here — leading and contributing to our society every day. And while gains continue to be made in representation from Capitol Hill to Hollywood, expanding the narrative for Native Americans in media has a long way to go. TV is still one of our most powerful mediums and Native creators are breaking through with the untold and diverse perspectives of their community to create programming with the power to influence audiences from all walks of life.

SXSW page:



Roni Jo Draper – Good Fire LLC


Indigenous peoples have engaged in art making, storytelling, and design since time immemorial. Much of those traditions have been lost due to colonization and genocide. Moreover, because each Indigenous culture is steeped in its own traditions, material cultural, and arts practices, no singular or universal approach to art making or storytelling exists across all Indigenous cultures. Nevertheless, Indigenous cultures hold many values and practices in common related to design and storytelling, which will be explored during this session as a way to inform our work as artists and filmmakers. During this session, Roni Jo Draper (she|her), a Yurok basket maker and storyteller, will share her basket making processes and how she uses those processes in her filmmaking.

SXSW page:  



Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) Secretary of the Interior

A photo I took of then Congresswoman Deb Haaland at the National Congress of American Indians 2019 State of Indian Nations address. Haaland was later appointed to President Biden’s Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)


History has done everything it could to stop her, and yet here she is. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland brings her whole self to the job: her Indigenous and immigrant ancestry, her triumphs and her struggles. She’s an anomaly in the leadership structure, but she argues that voices like hers should be the norm. During Auntie Deb’s Guide to Equity & Inclusion discussion, Secretary Haaland will spotlight her philosophy about why representation matters, how to take it to the next level, and what can be possible when we recognize America’s full history and provide space for all voices to have a seat at the table.  

SXSW page: 



Tanya Depass – I Need Diverse Games

Erik Loyer – Independent

Latoya Peterson – Glow Up Games

Paisley Smith – Unity Technologies


While the pandemic severely hurt most industries, the gaming sector was one of the few to actually experience a boom, with people stuck at home hungry for entertainment, connection and community online. To say this multi-billion dollar industry with tons of reach and influence still feels relatively untapped and is behind on diversity would be an understatement. Even though Black and Latinx gamers make up the majority of video game players, stats show that people of color are both underrepresented in senior management roles and underpaid, contributing to a lack of diverse representation in video games themselves. What can we learn about this moment to make substantial steps in diversifying the industry in a way that’s intersectional and impactful?

SXSW page: 



Profile: Snotty Nose Rez Kids is a Canadian Hip-Hop duo of Haisla (Indigenous) descent from Kitimat, BC. Rappers Yung Trybez and Young D formed the duo in 2016, releasing 2 albums in 2017 with their second, The Average Savage, winning multiple awards and nominated for a Juno. Their breakout album, TRAPLINE, released in 2019, kicked off their considerable touring career, clocking 100 shows in 6 countries. That album landed them multiple awards and Complex named them in their ‘Ones to Watch for 2020.’ After announcing their first 23 city US headline tour, COVID hit. They released their debut EP, Born Deadly, and spent 2021 working on new album, LIFE AFTER. They promoted the album with a 13 city US tour in 2021. Standout single, Uncle Rico, landed in rotation at BET and MTV. SNRK are kicking off a 25 city North American tour beginning in March, 2022.

Artist page: 


Profile: Status/Non-Status is the new name for the ongoing musical work of Anishinaabe community worker Adam Sturgeon (Nme’) and his longtime collaborators (fka Whoop-Szo). The band spent a decade carving a path through Canada’s DIY scene before leveling up thanks to 2019’s acclaimed long player Warrior Down (You’ve Changed Records). This album confronted Sturgeon’s complex family history and identity and was nominated for the Polaris Prize among numerous other accolades. Today, the band emerges renewed, with more stories to share …

Adam is ‘non-status’ as defined by the Canadian government. Adam’s grandfather Ralph made the difficult decision to enfranchise in order to support himself and his family by joining the Armed Forces. Enfranchisement was the government’s term for the legal process of turning in one’s Status Card, terminating one’s Indian Status, and becoming instead a Canadian citizen. It was a pillar of the government’s assimilation policy and a requirement for any Indigenous person who wished to enlist.

In the name of providing a better life for himself and his family, Ralph was required to forsake his Anishinaabe roots, an all-too-common experience for Indigenous peoples.