Where the Rez Dogs Roam. Inside Reservation Dogs’ Stunning 2023 Filming Locations

Introduction

Reservation Dogs is an indigenous coming-of-age comedy-drama television series created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi that premiered in August 2021 on FX on Hulu. The show follows four indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma who commit petty crimes to raise money to get to the exotic, mysterious, and faraway land of California. After a first season that garnered critical acclaim, Reservation Dogs was renewed for a second and third season, with the third and final season set to premiere on August 3, 2022 (Citation).

image of the cast of reservation dogs walking down a street

With its focus on indigenous stories and themes told through a lens of humor and heart, Reservation Dogs stood out for its originality and authenticity. Heading into its third and final season, the show will continue to explore the lives of these friends as they navigate their relationships and identities. The lead actors are all indigenous themselves, adding to the show’s cultural specificity. While bittersweet for fans, the third season promises a satisfying and poignant conclusion to this uniquely powerful and entertaining series.

Where Reservation Dogs is Filmed

The primary filming location for Reservation Dogs is in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. According to sources, the show films extensively in and around the city, which serves as the main backdrop and setting. Okmulgee is located in the heart of Muscogee (Creek) Nation tribal land and provides an authentic environment for the show’s setting (Mens Health, 2023).

aerial view of okmulgee, oklahoma

Many of the exterior shots and street scenes are filmed on location in Okmulgee. Local sites like the Okmulgee Historical Museums, Okmulgee Indian Community Center, and downtown Okmulgee storefronts can be spotted throughout the show. The rural lands and wooded areas surrounding Okmulgee are also used for outdoor sequences (OtakuKart, 2023).

In an interview, series creator Sterlin Harjo explained choosing Okmulgee as the primary backdrop due to its significance and natural beauty: “It’s a special place being the capital of the Muscogee Nation. It’s also really beautiful, it has these rolling hills and rural landscape that I wanted to capture” (People Also Ask, 2023).

Tour Filming Locations

The small town of Okmulgee in eastern Oklahoma plays a starring role in Reservation Dogs. Fans of the show can tour locations featured on screen when visiting the area. Some key spots include:

The abandoned First Baptist Church serves as a clubhouse for the main friend group. In real life, the deteriorating building was once a prominent church, but now stands vacant with boarded windows. It’s located on Grand Ave in the heart of downtown.

The main characters are often shown walking along the historic streets of Okmulgee’s downtown area. Key streets to explore are Grand Ave, Morton Ave, and Muskogee Ave which feature vintage early 20th century architecture.

The water tower bearing the town’s name in large painted letters offers scenic views over Okmulgee. It can be spotted in aerial shots of the landscape. Visit the tower on 17th Street to see it up close.

The neon lights of the Okmulgee Theater first opened in 1942. It appears in episodes when the gang visits the movies. The theater still operates today at 316 E 6th Street in Okmulgee.

Other landmarks that make brief appearances include the Okmulgee County Courthouse on Grand Ave which backs up to the church, and the historic Post Office on Seminole Ave.

the neon sign for the historic okmulgee theater at night

Other Oklahoma Locations

In addition to Okmulgee, the FX series Reservation Dogs filmed scenes across Oklahoma. According to the KJRH article, the show filmed at Rogers State University in Claremore during season 3. The crew used the RSU campus to film a college fair and other scenes. Additionally, the RSU article notes they filmed tracking shots outside Loshbaugh Hall.

The show has also filmed in small Oklahoma towns like Oktaha and Shawnee. According to the Muscogee Media article, scenes were shot at the Meadowlake Ranch event venue in Oktaha. This ranch contains an old Muscogee family cemetery and served as an important filming location.

Expanded Locations in Season 3

According to an article from the Tulsa World, the third season of Reservation Dogs expanded filming locations beyond just Oklahoma. While the show continued filming primarily in Oklahoma, season three also filmed in New Mexico. Specifically, the production filmed in places like Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Expanding the range of filming locations allowed the show to capture a greater diversity of settings and landscapes. Since the third season involves more travel outside the reservation, the inclusion of New Mexico sites helped portray this shift. Overall, the expanded filming geography reflects the widening scope of the show in its final season.

Importance of Setting

The rural Oklahoma backdrop is crucial to Reservation Dogs’ identity and storytelling. As described in an article on Vulture, the fictional town of Okern was specifically modeled after the real city of Okmulgee, Oklahoma where series co-creator Sterlin Harjo grew up (https://www.vulture.com/article/how-reservation-dogs-built-okern-in-okmulgee-oklahoma.html). Harjo wanted to portray an authentic contemporary Indigenous community that felt lived in and real. The rural setting allows the show to capture the beauty of the land while also examining systemic issues like lack of opportunity and resources on reservations.

As critic Inkoo Kang wrote in The Washington Post, “The Oklahoma landscape — all red dirt, scraggly brush, straight roads and wide open skies — externalizes both the freedom and isolation the teens yearn for and chafe against” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/reservation-dogs-review/2021/08/05/e4844af8-f324-11eb-a879-a9b5c60f8557_story.html). The setting reflects the dual nature of reservation life.

By immersing viewers in the locales where the Native cast and crew grew up, Reservation Dogs offers an intimate window into Indigenous experiences in America’s heartland. From the health clinic to the watering hole to the road trip stops, the backdrop shapes the show’s unique character and makes the representation deeply personal.

view of the rural landscape around okmulgee

Behind the Scenes

The cast and crew of Reservation Dogs have shared some fun facts about what it’s like filming the show. According to an article on 405 Magazine, filming takes place across various locations in Oklahoma, which adds authenticity but can also present challenges.

The young actors have discussed how filming on location can be tough at times, with long days and Oklahoma’s extreme weather fluctuations. However, they also say the on-location shoots help them bond as a cast. Devery Jacobs, who plays Elora Danan, said, “Being on location definitely brings us together because we’re all staying in the same hotels together, we’re all hanging out after work together.”

The cast also enjoys incorporating personal touches into scenes, like having characters wear clothes from their own closets. According to 405 Magazine, the stars are given freedom to ad lib some dialogue as well. This contributes to the natural, realistic feel of the show.

Overall, the cast and crew seem to appreciate the unique filming experience Reservation Dogs provides. They get to work on location amidst the landscape that inspired the show, all while developing close bonds during the process.

Impact on Local Community

The show has had a significant impact on the local community of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where much of the filming takes place. According to the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, “Reservation Dogs” has yielded “tremendous economic and workforce opportunities” for the state (source).

In particular, the show has provided jobs for many local Native crew members and extras. Sterlin Harjo, the show’s co-creator, has emphasized the importance of hiring Indigenous crew whenever possible. The production also utilizes many local Native-owned businesses for catering, construction, and other services.

Beyond the economic impact, the show has also celebrated and spotlighted Indigenous cultures, languages, and communities in a way rarely seen on television. For many local citizens, especially youth, seeing their home and peoples represented on screen has been hugely impactful. The show has helped shine a light on the vibrancy of contemporary Native life.

Additionally, “Reservation Dogs” has attracted tourism to Okmulgee. Fans have flocked to locations featured on the show, like the Mvskoke Dome, the Okmulgee water tower, and downtown buildings. This has provided increased visitors and revenue for local businesses. The show has put Okmulgee on the map in a positive way.

Planning a Visit

Fans of Reservation Dogs who want to tour the show’s filming locations in Oklahoma in person have several great options. The show was primarily filmed in and around the small town of Okmulgee, about an hour south of Tulsa. According to Vulture, “the production transformed Okmulgee’s main drag into the show’s fictional town of Okern” (source).

Some key spots fans may want to visit in Okmulgee include the Okern Town sign, the Okern Gas n Go, and street scenes along Grand Avenue. The production helped spruce up buildings with new paint jobs and signage to give the downtown area the look and feel of the show’s fictional town (source).

Fans should be respectful when visiting these locations and avoid trespassing on private property or disrupting local businesses. It’s best to appreciate the filming spots from public areas like sidewalks and parks. Beyond Okmulgee, some other worthwhile stops are the Kaw Lake, Green Leaf Lake, and Skiatook Lake areas.

When planning your visit, keep in mind that specific filming locations can change each season. It’s a good idea to search for the latest news and updates before your trip. With an adventurous spirit and appreciation for the community, Reservation Dogs fans are sure to enjoy exploring the show’s beautiful Oklahoma settings.

Conclusion

Reservation Dogs has brought attention to the landscapes and culture of Indigenous communities in Oklahoma through its immersive filming locations. Viewers have been transported into the world of the fictional town of Okmulgee and the day-to-day lives of its youth. While the show’s setting remains crucial, its storylines and characters are relatable for all audiences.

As the show continues into further seasons, fans can expect to see more of the region as the story expands beyond the reservation. However, the show’s grounded sense of place in the rural towns and parks of Oklahoma will likely remain an integral part of its identity. For those looking to visit the sites themselves, Oklahoma offers beautiful scenery alongside an opportunity to support local Indigenous communities and businesses.

With its masterful storytelling and powerful setting, Reservation Dogs promises to keep engaging viewers while sharing the voices of Indigenous peoples in new ways. The show’s authentic production and filming locations add layers of meaning for audiences seeking an immersive viewing experience.

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