For the first time in five years, comedy group 1491s came back to Oregon State University for a Native American comedy night, to perform a set on the realities Indigenous people face living in today’s America.
The Native American sketch comedy group, the 1491s, use humor and satire to depict what life as a Native American is like in the United States today. The Friday event was sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, as part of the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws powwow weekend.
The 1491s’ appearance at OSU feature comedians, Bobby RedCorn, Migizi Pensoneau and Bobby Wilson.
Their name, “The 1491s,” references the last year before Christopher Columbus’ arrival, who brought European colonization into Native American communities. They explore the issues of colonization, as well as stereotypes and racism, politics, social media activism and tradition versus modernism.
“They bring humor into conversations that help people understand complexities around stereotypes towards Indigenous people. I appreciate the way they frame laughter as being healing as well,” said Luhui Whitebear, assistant director of the NAL Eena Haws, via email. “My favorite part is that they can bring up topics like stereotyping, racial profiling, and oppression while using humor and positivity as well.”
Starting in 2009 as a small group of Indigenous friends making YouTube videos, the group’s work has since gone viral. Their first video, the Twilight parody “New Moon Wolf Pack Auditions!!!!” as well as many of their other 150 YouTube videos have followed suit.
“I thought their banter back and forth with each other and the interactions with the audience were incredible,” said Heather Rapp, late night & program council coordinator, said via email. “We also had a green room available for them, but they chose to hang out in the coliseum with everyone else and were very approachable.”
The three comedians said they don’t pay much attention to the size of the crowd, but to their reactions. Throughout the night, the 1491s interacted with the crowd, including them in some sketches.
RedCorn, part of the Osage Nation, said, “We want the audience to laugh. My favorite thing is when I make the audience say ‘ohh, that one hurt.’”
One of the sketches of the night told the story of a prayer circle. The members of the circle prayed up to their creator, while the prayers were actually directed toward eachother. Wilson, member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, took a stab at social media activism during the sketch while keeping it lightheated. His character called out the other member of the prayer circle, played by RedCorn, for being an activist on social media, but not in the real world.
The 1491s is widely recognized, with sold-out performances and appearances on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “TEDx Talks.”
Rapp said events like this are important in building and supporting community and she was grateful to have helped the NAL put it on.
“Hopefully we come back in the future, this place is great. The crowd has always been really good. The last time we were here, we had a lot of events around us. We were right in the middle of the powwow,” said Wilson.“Go Beavs.”