If you haven’t watched FX’s incredible new show “Reservation Dogs” from Native American filmmaker Sterlin Harjo and Polynesian Jewish multi-hyphenate Taika Waititi, stop right here. Take some time to allow that joy into your life.
OK, ready to continue? Great!
In spite of our love for all things Taika (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C), we’re actually here today to discuss a different Indigenous and Jewish artist involved with “Reservation Dogs”: Sarah Podemski!
Here are 18 things to know about Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi actress Sarah Podemski.
1. Sarah Podemski was born in Toronto, Canada, to an Israeli Jewish father and a mother of Saulteaux heritage from Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan.
2. She has two sisters, Jennifer and Tamara, who are also actors. Here they are together!
What a gorgeous family.
3. Sarah’s Saba (grandfather) survived six (yes, six) concentration camps.
Before he passed away, Sarah traveled with him to Poland to learn about his experience in the Holocaust.
And here’s the touching Instagram post Sarah made about him when he passed away:
4. Sarah first got involved with acting when she was a child.
“I went to an audition with my sister when I was 11, my dad and I were waiting in the waiting room, and the casting agent came out and asked if I would audition,” she told Jejune Magazine. “They were casting the same role my sister was auditioning for, but 5 years younger, which was our age gap! We ended up both working on the show, and I fell in love with set life.”
5. One of Sarah’s first roles was in the ’90s TV show “Goosebumps,” based on the books by R.L. Stine. In 1996, she played Andy in the episode “Monster Blood.”
6. Younger millennial and Gen Z kids may recognize Sarah’s voice from Cartoon Network’s “Total Drama” and “Total Drama All Stars.”
7. Sarah advocates for Indigenous causes, like educating and raising awareness about the genocidal residential school system in Canada and the United States.
She has given a compelling example as to why Indigenous people in Canada should receive reparations for the violence they have experienced:
8. Sarah is also an artisan. Through her business, Totem Designs, she creates and sells dreamcatchers.
In an interview, Sarah described making dreamcatchers for The One of a Kind art show in Canada, her first time selling them:
“I decided to use this experience as a platform to educate people and talk about cultural appropriation, buying from Indigenous artists and just spreading awareness,” Sarah explained. “I almost sold all 400 dreamcatchers. People were coming to the booth with so many questions. I realized at the end of the show, these pieces are really affecting people. I didn’t really think that would happen. I just was trying to make really pretty stuff and educate people about our traditions and the story behind the dreamcatcher.”
9. Let’s just take a second to appreciate Sarah’s work!!
“I wanted to do a modern take on the dreamcatcher,” Sarah said, describing her design and intent behind the dreamcatchers. “It’s my take on the dreamcatcher because I’m an urban native. I grew up in Toronto. I’m also in love with design, so I wanted to make something that could fit into anybody’s home and have it be used as medicine. I wanted to incorporate all of the things that we knew to be true about using things from the land, having energy and healing properties.”
10. In addition to acting and art-making, Sarah and her sisters created The Shine Network.
Listen to Sarah’s sister Jennifer describe what this media platform is all about:
In Sarah’s words: “We [Indigenous women] represent less than 1% of the stories being told, and even less than that are told by our perspective. The goal is to provide a safe space to discuss our experiences, share our work, resources, and lift each other up, so we can move forward with strength and confidence.”
11. Sarah worked with Sterlin Harjo before “Reservation Dogs.” (Which we will get to, don’t worry!)
In 2015, she played Tafv in Harjo’s independent film “Mekko.” Check out the trailer here:
12. Sarah has an incredible suggestion for what Hanukkah should actually be called:
FYI, moving forward we will only be accepting “Festival of F*ck Your Oppressor” gifts.
13. In 2017, Sarah took on the role of Constable Denise Minahik in the show “Tin Star.”
Check out this behind-the-scenes look at the show, featuring Sarah:
Randy's Roadhouse is the best bar in Little Big Bear. Ian Puleston-Davies and Sarah Podemski give us a behind-the-scenes tour of the amazing sets built for #TinStar.
— Tin Star (@tinstartv) January 10, 2019
14. However, in spite of playing a cop on TV, Sarah hasn’t been afraid to voice her opinions on the police, like in this Instagram post:
15. Sarah has some thoughts on how writers can be more responsible with the stories they’re telling:
“Let [Indigenous people] tell our stories. Support us. Finance our projects. Trust us. Train us. Share resources. Too many non-Indigenous people think they are doing us a favour by telling our stories. But our narratives won’t change until they can be told authentically through our lens.”
16. In 2021 Sarah took on the role of Kayla in SYFY Channel’s “Resident Alien.”
Warning for some spoilers, but here is an emotional and dramatic scene featuring Sarah:
17. Sarah loves playing Rita, Bear’s mom, on FX’s “Reservation Dogs.”
“Seeing the authentic perspective and point of view, it was just so amazing to see it being brought to life,” Sarah told CBC Radio. “And really, it’s pretty historic — we had an all-Native writers’ room, all-Native directors and a mostly Native cast, which is something you don’t really see.”
18. Sarah thinks that Jewish humor and Indigenous humor have a lot in common.
Speaking about working on “Reservation Dogs,” she said:
“I’m mixed, so my mom is Ojibway and my dad is Israeli and we grew up essentially in a Jewish household. I think trauma brings out humour. If you can’t laugh about it, you’re not going to go very far. So I think there’s similarities with the same kind of Jewish humour that we’re all very familiar with.”
Mazels on your continued success, Sarah!