Brothers Bring Indigenous Stories To The Stage
This story is part of a series by NPR’s Next Generation Radio program, which explored the theme: What Does It Mean To Be An American?
“We’re just trying to open people’s minds and make them see that you’re part of a community, so we should all take care of each other; we should all care about each other,” Dwight George said.
Dwight and his twin brother Everett, members of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, stood in front of Brüka Theatre, a small auditorium located in downtown Reno. The theater holds a special place in the brothers’ hearts.
At an early age, the brothers saw a clear line of wealth disparity between their Indigenous reservation in Winnemucca, Nevada, and the rich mining town they were raised in. This, along with health issues at a young age, made it so the brothers spent much of their time at home.
“Ever since we were young, we both had a big interest in films, and books, and things like that,” Dwight said.
However, in these stories, the brothers noticed a lack of Indigenous representation.
As the brothers grew up and left Winnemucca, they wanted to address this stigma in movies and performances by telling stories about Indigenous life and casting Native actors.
Everett George writes the stories they perform. Their first play was focused around sexual abuse on reservations, and it was performed by the twins and their friend Hannah. They performed this play at the Brüka Theatre. Later, Everett submitted the work to a playwright contest hosted by Yale University — and his play won. The brothers were asked to attend an event at the Ivy League school, where the play would be read by professional Indigenous actors.
“We were all really happy. We went out there,” Dwight said. “It was one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been. [Before that] we’ve never been farther than, I think, really, Arizona or anything like that.”
Since the success of their first performance, the brothers have created four more plays. Their troupe has grown from three to seven individuals who are also from Native tribes.
The next step for the brothers is to create a film. They want to have something which can be easily seen by children living on reservations across North America.
“Basically, we do a lot of it for kids like us. We want them to see us doing it. We want them to know that we can do it, and that means that they could do it as well,” Dwight said.
Outside the theater, the brothers do a lot of volunteer work throughout Washoe County.
They do everything from helping with river cleanups to working on community gardens and helping houseless individuals; however, Dwight said it’s uncomfortable when people praise him and Everett for all they do in the community. He does not like the stigma of a “Native kid taking care of the land.” The way he sees it, everyone within a community should care for the land, the people and the water.
Dwight said this service is necessary given the rapid gentrification of Reno, which has caused many of the city’s most vulnerable to be left behind.
“Everybody’s going to have to deal with colonialism in their own way, and gentrification in that type of mindset is the same exact thing. It’s pushing people out. It’s forcing people to go and find somewhere else to live,” Dwight said.
Dwight and Everett hope to see more people inspired to help their neighbors within the community. They said this is everyone’s responsibility and positive change can happen, but it will take work.
That story was produced by Isaac Hoops, a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism. Isaac participated in NPR’s Next Generation Radio program, which held a weeklong radio bootcamp this spring. Each reporter explored the theme: What Does It Mean To Be An American?