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Sidelined by COVID, UO alum Jana Schmieding still delivers to campus crowd

Photo used with permission by the University of Oregon.
Jana Schmieding teleconferences in to a full venue at the UO ballroom Tuesday night. She had planned to attend in person, but tested positive after arriving in Eugene. She joined from her parent's home instead.

Native American comedienne, writer, and Duck Jana Schmieding switched gears ahead of her planned visit to the University of Oregon Tuesday, given she’s no longer a “super dodger.”

Schmieding had planned to do a day full of activities at her alma mater, but tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Eugene.

Tyler Golden
In a scene from season 2 of "Rutherford Falls" Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding, right) and new boyfriend Nelson Renville (Dallas Goldtooth, left), find their romance tested at a Halloween party.

“I got it at a Smashing Pumpkins concert at the Hollywood Bowl,” Schmieding told KLCC. “So we’ll blame the Smashing Pumpkins fans.”

Instead, Schmieding did visits and her “BE Indigenous Joy” campus presentation via Zoom to keep people safe.

Of Miniconjou and Sicangu Lakota heritage, Schmieding grew up in Canby. She later studied theater arts at the UO, graduating in 2005.

Following several years of teaching and stand-up comedy, she moved to Los Angeles and got involved in writing and acting for two Native-themed series, “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs.” She said while it’s disappointing “Rutherford Falls” wasn’t picked up for a third season, Indigenous representation in popular media is still strong.

“There tend to be elimination of newer shows, shows that don’t have as many viewers,” said Schmieding. “And I think “Rutherford Falls” is possibly sort of a victim of some larger shifts that are happening in the industry. And that we’re seeing with other shows as well.”

Schmieding added many writers and performers formerly with “Rutherford Falls” are already involved with other productions. And while the ongoing storylines of “Rutherford Falls” characters like newly-elected mayor Bobbie Yang and Schmieding’s own Reagan Wells (who was caught in a love triangle at the end of season 2) is now probably up to fan fiction writers, she’s continuing work with “Reservation Dogs”, which has been renewed for a third season.

Kevin Scanlon
Jana Schmieding.

Then there’s that movie script in progress, which Schmieding says involves the theme of aunties (real and honorary) in Native communities, and the enduring popularity of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. She added that she'll continue to highlight authentic Native art, beadwork, and other aspects of her culture that goes beyond dated Hollywood depictions.

“Part of my mission as an artist in all aspects of my life is making sure that I’m bringing visibility to Native people in all aspects of how we live,” said Schmieding. “And we live in diverse communities. So I’m very hopeful that I will be cast in roles that don’t rely on my Indigenity to push the story forward as well as roles that do. That’s the hope. And anything that I write for myself and others will definitely be for Native people.”

In the meantime, Schmieding assures fans that her COVID case is mild, she’s up on her vaccinations, and she’s simply resting at her parent’s place in Eugene.

“I’m not suffering at all. And I’m well-taken care of. My mom and my dad are really showing up for me.”

Schmieding’s relatives -including her brother Brian and her grandmother Twila Souers (who got her Ph.D in Native American Women in Early Childhood Education from the UO in 1992), appeared at Tuesday’s event on her behalf.

©2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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