REVIEW: ‘Spirit Rangers’ celebrates nature, community and native storytelling

The celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday served as a powerful reminder that indigenous peoples are still here and that indigenous people should not feel invisible.

That is a powerful message for all indigenous peoples, but especially for the younger natives. It is also, not coincidentally, a core message of Netflix’s new animated series, spirit rangers.

The 10-episode preschool fantasy-adventure series celebrates nature, community, and the rich heritage of native storytelling. The premise follows the three Skycedar brothers and their family of park rangers who guard the Chumash territory.

The children have a secret. They can transform into “spirit rangers” to protect the park’s nooks, crannies, and bugs. With new perspectives like a grizzly bear cub, a red-tailed hawk, and a courageous turtle, the kids of Skycedar tackle every challenge, from helping a lost thunderbird to waking up a sleeping sun, with courage and compassion.

Each 22-minute episode is divided into two parts that introduce new stories and character arcs. The format of the episodes features problems at the park, family incidents, or events that interconnect with the characters’ histories in the spirit realm. The young park rangers must find solutions to save the park, help their friends or learn lessons to understand each other better. Some themes reflect specific native problems, while most episodes teach children how to be a good person.

It’s a refreshing take on a family-themed show with fantasy elements that focus on young indigenous heroes. Their family dynamic creates a positive environment where parents, voiced by Kimberly Guerrero (The Cherokee Word for Water) and John Timothy, show tremendous faith and trust in their children by giving them space to be themselves. Debut performances from Wačiŋyeya Iwáš’aka Yracheta (Kodi), Isis Celilo Rogers (Summer), and Talon Proc Alford (Eddy) really bring these characters to life.

Representation is important and prevails throughout the show. Indigenous designs are literally infused into surroundings and backgrounds with pops of vibrant color culminating in innovative presentations.

Inspired by her own childhood memories and adventures with her sister, the show’s creator, Karissa Valencia, is a member of the Santa Ynez Chumash tribe. Valencia recognizes her Chumash ancestors as caretakers of the land and uses the show as a reminder that the natives are still here and indigenous children should not feel invisible.

“I will always be grateful to Netflix Animation for trusting our team to tell our own stories and supporting us every step of the way. With your support, we have brought together Hollywood’s ‘Native Avengers’ with indigenous writers, actors, composers, artists, choreographers, consultants, sound designers and many more,” said Valencia.

Indigenous spirit voiceovers include industry legends Tantoo Cardinal (Smoke Signals, Stumptown) and Wes Studi (Reservation Dogs, Avatar), along with veteran voice actress Cree Summer (Rugrats, Atlantis: The Lost Empire). as Lizard/Dee-Dee and Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Hi-5) as Coyote. The catchy tracks were performed by award-winning singer-songwriter Raye Zaragoza and multimedia artist Ehren Kee Natay (Navajo Nation).

Spirit Rangers is a prime example of native creativity and indigeneity. From the production team to the cast to the overall aesthetic of the show, Netflix took steps in the right direction to showcase indigenous talent and elevate the perspectives and language of different tribal nations.

Viewers will enjoy the enchanting fantasy, laugh with these lovable rangers, and learn about the nation’s specific lore. Take a look at the trailer for Spirit Rangers here.

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About the Author

Monica Whitepigeon
Author: Monica WhitepigeonEmail: This e-mail address is protected against spambots. You need to enable JavaScript to view it.
Monica White Pigeon (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is a contributing writer for Native News Online. Her focus is on contemporary Native arts, Great Lakes tribes, and urban Native issues. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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