IllumiNative president and CEO Crystal Echo Hawk was a technical advisor for the Prime Video Western.
Long before filming began for The English, the absorbing Western drama now available on Prime Video, the producers went above and beyond to verify their fiction was supported by fact.
The limited-run series, written and directed by Hugo Blick, pivots on the improvised partnership forged between an Englishwoman (Emily Blunt) seeking revenge and a Pawnee ex-Cavalry scout (Chaske Spencer) seeking justice in the 1890s American West.
That’s why the call went out to Crystal Echo Hawk, the president and CEO of IllumiNative, a racial and social justice organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of, and challenging preconceived ideas about, Native peoples.
Echo Hawk and IllumiNative were involved with The English from initial script readings to on-location production. And as an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, she was uniquely qualified to provide guidance on Pawnee tribal costumes, dialect, song and props, and to share her authentic lived experiences with cast and crew.
“My great-great-grandfather, from where our name Hawk came from, was a Pawnee scout,” she told Sandra Hale Schulman of ICT. “On so many levels, it was deeply personal. It just was very emotional to help ensure that this story was told in a really authentic way.
“We've oftentimes dealt with production companies and writers or directors who just don't want script notes. They want you just to come in and rubber stamp the production,” Echo Hawk added.
That definitely was not the case with The English.
“I think it's changing times,” Echo Hawk told ICT. “That was so important, that through IllumiNative’s advocacy, research, the work we've done in the industry, that we were able to create space within this production to have our Pawnee people have agency and partnership with the writer-director and the production team and Amazon.”
Crystal Echo Hawk recently visited the C&I Studio to talk about The English, and the ongoing work of IllumiNative.