Native American and Indigenous representation on television continues to be a rarity but The Casagrandes on Nickelodeon has taken a step to change that. The Casagrandes is an animated series about 11-year-old Ronnie Anne Santiago and her multi-generational Mexican-American family that premiered in 2019. Last week they debuted Charles Little Bull, a grad student in his twenties who is one of Tio Carlos’s best students. Charles loves to learn and when he’s not tutoring at the library, he’s actually hanging out at the library at his own reserved table, according to a Nickelodeon official statement. He’s one of the first Lakota characters to appear in a major American animated-TV production so his development as a role model is that much more significant.
Some of the most well-known depictions of Native Americans include the stereotypical characterization in the 1953 Disney film, Peter Pan. Looney Tunes previously featured racist portrayals in rarely seen shorts including A Feather in His Hare (1948), Horse Hare (1960), and Hocus Pocus Powwow (1968). Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, consulting producer and cultural consultant for the show, posted about Charles Little Bull with the hashtag #representationmatters. Charles Little Bull premiered in the episode entitled “Undivided Attention” and is voiced by Native American actor Robbie Daymond.
The series, a spinoff of The Loud House, features a Latinx cast that includes actress Izabella Alvarez (Westworld) as Ronnie Anne, Sonia Manzano (Sesame Street) as Abuela Rosa, and Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez (Instructions Not Included) as the voice of Ronnie Anne’s father, Dr. Santiago.
“My joke title is ‘professional Mexican,’ making sure that the show is genuinely authentic so that anyone, especially Latinos, watching the show, say, ‘Wow, that was just like my family,'” Alcaraz told NBC News when the show premiered.
The Casagrandes family is made up of college professors, nurses, entrepreneurs, and the creators were adamant about avoiding Latinx stereotypes. They also incorporate Spanish terms and cultural references including Dia de Los Muertos and “la chancla.”
“I want kids to have what I didn’t have, which is to be able to see myself on TV or somebody who looked like me and my family,” Alcaraz told NBC News. “There’s nothing more affirming than thinking that you’re normal and as valued as everyone else, so if you don’t see yourself on TV, that’s a problem.”
The Emmy-award winning show has been renewed for a second and third season. It airs Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on Nickelodeon.