The Wamapoke


Jonathan Joss as Ken Hotate. Bonus: the man in the photo in the background is the Hidatsa chief Crow-Flies-High, leader of the Hushgah band of Hidatsa and Mandan. My grandpa wrote about this in his MA thesis. 

I've been thinking through how the fictional "Wamapoke" tribe is represented and written into the television show Parks and Rec. Specifically the character "Ken Hotate," played by indigenous actor Jonathan Joss (also known for voicing "John Redcorn" in the animated show King of the Hill), actually utilizes and plays with the expectations and stereotypes of the people of Pawnee. Hotate "plays" at being Indian insofar as he performs the stereotypical indigenous identity for the townspeople, but this is usually after a much more typical conversation between Hotate as a political and business leader and the government of Pawnee. His use of stereotype as a method of suasion and influence to get what he wants from his negotiations is an interesting study in undermining stereotype though awareness and active agency.  

I want to look a bit into Joss's thoughts on the show. From what I've read, he was quite happy with how the character was written. He made specific choices about Hotate's costume design, leaning towards a more "modern" suit and general appearance in the show. I'm also going to see if there is any discussion with the writers and the choices being made around Hotate's character/representation with the show.

I'll dig into it a bit in the coming days. Hopefully more on this topic soon.