Sierra Teller Ornelas is a television writer and the co-creator and showrunner of “Rutherford Falls.” She is Edgewater clan, born for the Mexican people.

The first time a major newspaper asked me to share my thoughts on a famous White man saying something racist against Native Americans, I was pumped. Our then -president had made a Pocahontas joke to the Navajo code talkers, a group revered for its integral contribution to winning World War II. I’m a member of the Navajo Nation and was livid about the insult, so I gladly accepted. I found a coffee shop, made a playlist heavy on Jay-Z, Beyoncé and the Halluci Nation and got to work. The second time, my enthusiasm wavered. Well, this is my third time, and I must admit: I’m getting sick of doing this.

While it’s obviously an honor to write for The Post, I have a weird feeling that this is a waste of time. Maybe because it all started with Rick Santorum, America’s biggest waste of time. Or maybe because it feels as though national news outlets want to hear from a Native American only when something racist or dumb happens to us. Even with this incredible platform, we get to tell only one kind of story about ourselves. But if the “Fast and Furious” franchise has taught us anything, it’s that sequels can be awesome, so let’s give it a go.

Santorum, a former senator and twice-failed candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, told attendees at the Standing Up for Faith and Freedom Conference, “We came here and created a blank slate, we birthed a nation from nothing,” and “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.” He spouted a racist narrative about Indigenous people, who in the United States comprise more than 500 federally recognized tribal nations, with our own languages, history, government and religious traditions. How did CNN, where Santorum works, respond? Chris Cuomo gave him more airtime, without including a Native American pundit in the conversation.

When faced with Santorum’s unchecked ignorance, my first instinct is to dispel this hurtful narrative, and rattle off all the ways my people have shaped the foundation and survival of these United States. First of all: land. Having it stolen wasn’t our choice, but it’s at the top of my list. Then, I don’t know, a template for our democracy — something Santorum ignored twice — and women in leadership roles? Cotton, tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate and sports such as football and lacrosse? Art movements, astronomy, architecture, nautical navigation and technologies so advanced they were pretty much considered magic by the first non-Native Americans to see them?

But others have already done so eloquently, and honestly why must we pause to litigate our entire culture’s humanity every time some bargain basement Mitt Romney with a microphone tries to erase us? Santorum is not an outlier. Many Americans feel the way he does about the origins of this country. For some, that might be because that’s still what’s taught in schools. For others, facing the injustice of our collective past is just “too much” — even though a lot of us bear that historical burden every day.

Recently, I co-created and was the showrunner of a sitcom called “Rutherford Falls.” It deals with themes such as “What is American history?” and “Why do we cling to certain narratives? And in doing so, whose history do we lose?” It’s also really funny.

“Rutherford Falls” features a historic amount of Native American representation both in front of the camera and in the writers room. We did something that shouldn’t be monumental in 2021: We depicted Native Americans as human beings, with regular jobs, families, funny situations and romances. The response has been incredible, and the most overwhelming moments have been Native American audiences expressing their elation at seeing themselves on TV. It’s remarkable. The Native Joy we infused in every episode is coming back to us from Indian Country in waves.

I worked my way up as a TV writer for more than a decade, standing on the shoulders of Indigenous storytellers who came before me, before I was able to make five-ish hours of television featuring Native Americans. Santorum’s failures and lack of expertise have somehow earned him opportunities to opinionate on CNN, a news outlet that claimed it needed a conservative voice, and for some reason, chose his.

While making and promoting our show, one concept is often brought up: Representation matters. When you close your eyes and think of a Native American, what do you see? Do you see me: a Navajo mom, juggling writing, making her kid’s lunch and getting her upper half fancy for a Zoom meeting?

If representation matters, when do we hold accountable the folks who make it so hard to see who Native Americans actually are? Who offer us up as only extinct or victims? Because that dusty notion has been presented on a loop for centuries. It’s a noise I’m sick of shouting over. Santorum and I work in the same medium, but we tell very different stories. Which one do you want to hear?

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