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Meet queer Indigenous actor and filmmaker Devery Jacobs

Jacobs is best known for her role as Elora on the FX series “Reservation Dogs.”
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In honor of Pride Month, NBC Out is highlighting and celebrating a new generation of LGBTQ trailblazers, creators and newsmakers. Visit our full #Pride30 list here.

Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, known professionally as Devery Jacobs, is an award-winning Indigenous actor and filmmaker, born and raised in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, a reservation in Quebec, Canada. 

Jacobs, 28, is best known for her starring role as Elora in the FX series “Reservation Dogs.” Her short film “Rae” was an official selection of the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, and it won best youth work at the 2017 imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival. 

Your role in the Amazon Prime series "American Gods" featured a Two Spirit Indigenous character. What was that experience like for you?  

I think the experience of playing Sam Black Crow was one that was really close to me. I have been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s novels for many years, and there was something about the character of Sam Black Crow — who in the book is bisexual — that resonated so deeply with me. When I was speaking with some of the creators behind “American Gods” and prepping for the role of Sam, I mentioned how in many Indigenous communities, Two Spirit people were actually considered closer to the creator. On a show about gods, faith and the proximity of people, I had brought up, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if Sam was Two Spirit?’ And they all loved it and decided to make that part of the character in her adaptation from book to screen. But that wasn’t something that I had carried lightly. I understood that it was a huge sense of responsibility to play one of the first Two Spirit characters on screen in a major series.

You recently announced you will be joining "Echo," the Marvel series for Disney+. Can you share a little about that project?

I don’t know how much I can share just because they have [me] sworn to secrecy, but I can say that I’m collaborating with Sydney Freeland again, who is trans and Navajo and who I had the opportunity to work with on both “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs.” We get to combine forces again on this series. I’m just really happy to be able to work with an awesome creative like Sydney again.

Did you ever think queer indigenous representation on screen was possible? What do you hope will come of it?

I didn’t think it was possible. I, on my own journey, hadn’t clued into my queerness until I had left my [reservation] and until I was in the city and was grown, and so because of that, I thought that they were mutually exclusive. I didn’t fully grasp at the time when I had first come out, how my queerness is inherently Indigenous, and both inform each other. Growing up on my [reservation], there hadn’t been many people who were like me who I knew to be out. I just hadn’t seen that representation in my own life, let alone on screen. More recently, being out and seeing the need and demand, understanding how thoroughly it could have benefited my life had I seen somebody like myself on-screen, just reinforced how important it was to be open about myself and to fight for queer Natives on-screen.

What message do you have for Native youth who also aspire to one day be where you are?

Tell your stories truthfully. Tell your stories for yourself, as opposed to for non-Indigenous cis or hetero audiences. And by staying true to your artistic voice, it’ll only benefit your work. I’m excited for you all to take over the world.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride means many things to me. A lot of people are sharing how the first Pride was a riot, and it’s true. Great changes haven’t been made through sticking to the status quo, being complacent, or being quiet. And so for me, Pride is a time to challenge cisgender heterosexual norms and find the time to disrupt and dismantle the colonial systems that are in power. It’s also a time to celebrate a community.

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