Follow TV Tropes


The Rez

Go To

Indian reservations. A stock setting used with indigenous characters. All Indians either live on the rez or have family on the rez. By the way, the /e/ is short.

The rez often comes in four varieties:

A subtrope of Injun Country. Not to be confused with a certain other "Rez".


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Chief Man-of-Bats, the Native American answer to Batman, patrols The Rez. On his first brief appearance in 1954, it was the magical rez as much as anything, but when the character was revived in the 21st century, his neighborhood had become the political rez.
  • The minor Marvel hero American Eagle lives on a political rez in Navajo country. During Fear Itself, he had to defend the reservation from white supremacists seeking to take advantage of the chaos unleashed by the Serpent to wipe out the natives so that they could finalize a deal to build a wind farm without having to share the profits with the natives living nearby.
  • Hawkman: Paran Katar found Katar Hol's mother in one of these.
  • The fictional Keewazi tribe of the Marvel Universe are a phlebotinum-hiding rez.
  • A People's History of the American Empire has a segment that takes place on the real life Pine Ridge Reservation, covering the events led to the Second Battle of Wounded Knee. Political rez in full force.
  • Scalped is set in a casino rez in South Dakota that brushes up against the political rez at times.
  • The first story arc of Shaman's Tears involves a case taking Joshua back to the Sioux reservation where he was born and raised, and eventually ran away from. He does not have fond memories of the place. Political rez, although Joshua experiences actual magic while there when he learns he is The Chosen One.
  • X-Men: Warpath's rez in Camp Verde, Arizona was the phlebotinum-hiding variety.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Crow: Wicked Prayer had a political rez.
  • Much of the action of Guns, Girls and Gambling takes place on the Apache reservation where The Chief runs the Native American Casino with the sole purpose of taking money off white people.
  • Hold the Dark takes place in the tiny Alaskan town of Keelut (named for a Native American creature of folklore) where the locals are predominantly poor Native Americans who are embittered at local white law enforcement.
  • Smoke Signals, also made entirely by Native people, follows the adventures of two Coeur d'Alene boys who leave their reservation to retrieve the ashes of one boy's father from Phoenix, Arizona. Given that the movie is based on a short story by Sherman Alexie, the Coeur d'Alene reservation is presented as a political rez, albeit a somewhat muted version.
  • Thunderheart is made of the political rez. Given that it's based on Pine Ridge in The '70s, yeah.
  • White Fawn's Devotion is an 11-minute short film from 1910 and the oldest surviving film made by Native Americans. It depicts a white man and a Sioux woman living on the Pine Ridge reservation, and what happens when the man receives word of a large inheritance.
  • Wind River takes place mostly in a political rez.



  • The "Native American Renaissance" in the late 20th century highlighted a variety of perspectives about reservation communities.
    • House Made of Dawn (N. Scott Momaday) and Ceremony (Leslie Silko) portrayed the Jemez and Laguna Pueblos, respectively, as places of spiritual rebirth. Although not "magical" in the typical sense for this trope, they contrasted strongly with rootless Native communities in urban areas, and allowed those books' protagonists to come to terms with what they had experienced.
    • Winter in the Blood (James Welch), set around the Fort Belknap reservation in Montana, took a more cynical view.
  • Sherman Alexie likes to use the political rez, but a lot of his Indians are urban.
  • Tony Hillerman's mystery novels are set in a combination political/magical rez on the Arizona-New Mexico border featuring Navajo Tribal Police.
  • Jodi Picoult's novels:
    • In Vanishing Acts, Delia goes with her friend Ruthann to the Hopi reservation where Ruthann used to live. This portrayal is a combination of political and magical.
    • Mentioned in Harvesting the Heart, when Nicholas volunteers medical services at a Hopi reservation. This time the reservation is solidly political, with Nicholas having to deal with the lack of other doctors.

Individual works

  • Alan Dean Foster's Cyber Way largely takes place on the Navajo (Dineh) reservation. Somewhat of a phlebotinum-hiding rez. The novel is set in the near future and the reservation has built a duty-free international airport, so is not particularly poor, but also has some hidden phlebotinum.
  • WP Kinsella's Dance Me Outside, made into a film of the same name and the television series The Rez. Subverted "political" type, in that most of the subject matter is semi-comedic.
  • Poul Anderson's novella "Peek! I See You!" (Analog, February 1968) has an independent pilot chasing a flying saucer that proves to be an artificially generated plasmoid masking a real alien spacecraft. The aliens have been using Indian reservations as rest stops and trading posts for many years, meaning that every reservation is hiding phlebotinum.
  • Twilight has a magical one. Complete with huge trees.

    Live Action TV 
  • Backstrom has the eponymous detective clash with tribal police, with the Jurisdiction Friction becoming so tense the two sides draw weapons on each other.
  • Banshee uses the political variety, but plays with it: the reservation is, in practice, just another small town right next to Banshee.
  • The F.B.I.: "A Mouthful of Dust" is set an Apache reservation in New Mexico. When the suspect goes on the run, Erskine and the local enforcement have to chase him across the Thirsty Desert.
  • The Hekawi reservation on F Troop was a variation of the casino type, in that the Indians are always conniving to turn a profit through the sale of souvenirs and participation in Sergeant O'Rourke's illegal schemes. Subverted in that the scripts tended to Lampshade and deconstruct many of the stereotypes of Native Americans at the time.
  • Longmire takes place right next to a Cheyenne reservation, and a big chunk of the series involves exploring the political version. The fact that a casino is built partway through the series, as well as a few forays into native spirituality, introduce elements of both the casino and magical variants.
  • On My Name Is Earl, it's stated that Patty the Daytime Hooker spent her childhood here with her father "Chasing Squirrel" after her parents divorced.
  • The Our America With Lisa Ling episode 'Life On The Rez' shows up at Pine Ridge, so we're pretty safe calling this one political.
  • Power Rangers Zeo went with the phlebotinum-hiding variety: An arrowhead which contains a monster.
  • Skye from The Puzzle Place lives with his family on an Apache reservation in Arizona. His seems to be a Magical Rez, as he periodically teaches his friends about his culture and comforts them with insight from his people's beliefs and traditions. There are indications that his reservation is located in a desert, though.
  • The Canadian series The Rez, fairly obviously.
  • Star Trek has a variant where there are entire planets of Magical Native Americans.
  • Stargate SG-1 also had at least one Magical Rez planet. The most prominent was inhabited by apparently transplanted Salishan peoples (the whole gimmick of the series being that most "aliens" are actually Transplanted Humans), conveniently fitting with the Pacific Northwest filming location (the series was shot in and around Vancouver). This particular planet fit into both the "magical" and "phlebotinum" subtypes; "magical" because the spirits they worshiped turned out to be real (real aliens, that is—and not the same evil ones the rest of the transplanted people were stuck worshiping), "phlebotinum" because their planet was the first one where the modern Earth humans found the metal trinium (which is like titanium on steroids).
  • Stumptown (2019) has the Confederate Tribes of the Wind Coast doing quite well with their casino. Also some traces of political rez, with multiple plot points depending on the US city and county authorities having no jurisdiction on the rez.
  • The X-Files has Mulder and Scully traveling to reservations a number of times, ranging from political, such as the season 1 episode of "Shadows", to phlebotinum hiding, like in the episode "Anasazi", the finale of season 2.
  • Yellowstone: The local Crow Indian Reservation is shown to be quite poor, in spite of the local casino. The proud residents maintain their cultural traditions while struggling to make ends meet. The tribe is respectful to Casey, the white husband of a local Crow woman, Monica, but they make it plain that they are not "his people." The reservation also has to worry about brain drain, as shown when Monica resists taking a lucrative teaching position off the reservation, since it would leave the reservation school with one less teacher.

  • The Canadian mix-tape 'Brocket 99' is a mock radio station satirizing many common Aboriginal Canadian stereotypes.
  • Buffy Ste. Marie is fond of the political rez as is the late John Trudell.

    Video Games 
  • Choro Q HG 3 has the Native American reservations in the M and L courses of Sunset Volcano.
  • The village of Soo in Dragon Quest III is the magical variety.
  • Cosmo Canyon in Final Fantasy VII is a variation on the phlebotinum-hiding variety. It starts out as the magical rez (the locals live in harmony with the Planet and study the secrets of The Lifestream). Late in the game, it's the player-party who asks if they can stash the phlebotinum there for safe-keeping.
  • Apparently the Rez in Prey (2006) is of the political variety.
  • In The Secret World, the Wabanaki reservation on Solomon Island, Maine is a mixture of all of the above. They were building a casino (shaped like a tipi that they themselves knew was inaccurate, but that was what the tourists expected) before the Fog arrived, they have an "authentic Wabanaki village" that serves as a tacky tourist trap, most of them actually live in a trailer park, and they were the only ones who knew about the Eldritch Abomination that was buried under Blue Mountain, leading to strife between them and the owners of the Blue Ridge Mine out of a fear that they would dig too deep.

    Western Animation 
  • If there is a rez on Captain Planet, it will be magical.
  • The Family Guy episode where Peter had a vision quest was an interesting subversion: They used to be the magical rez, and now they're the casino rez.
  • Futurama has the indigenous Martians living on a reservation inside the planet after the surface was purchased by an ancestor of the Wongs. It's kinda political (the Martians want their "sacred land" back because their ancestors traded it for one bead) and kinda mystical (the Martians can summon sandstorms and fly "buggalo"). Turns out in the end to be a kind of inadvertent phlebotinum-hiding type: the "bead" is actually a gigantic diamond; the Martians just assumed it was worthless and that their ancestors were cheated. They decide that since Mars is kind of a dump anyway, they'll buy some other planet and pretend it's holy.
    Chief Singing Wind: With cash like this, who's gonna argue? Nobody.
  • King of the Hill offers a mild subversion based on Real Life: just because John Redcorn is a Native American doesn't mean he's just allowed to build a casino.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo had an episode with the magical rez. Of course there was a mystery involving a monster who turned out to be a guy in a costume.
  • The Simpsons have used casino reservations. One of them was also a magical rez, with the casino manager giving Bart a vision of the future in his office.
  • The South Park episode "Red Man's Greed" is the casino variety.
  • Tye Longshadow of Young Justice lived on one prior to running away.