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Dustin Tahmahkera

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Dustin Tahmahkera


Wick Cary Endowed Chair in
Native American Cultural Studies

Copeland Hall 237


PhD (2007): American Culture Studies, Bowling Green State University
MA (2002: English, Midwestern State University
BA (1999): English, Midwestern State University

Personal Statement

Born in the Comanche Nation capital of Lawton, Oklahoma, Dr. Dustin Tahmahkera is a parent of four, playwright and performer of Comanche-centric theatre, and professor of Indigenous media and sound at the University of Oklahoma, where he serves as the Wick Cary Chair of Native American Cultural Studies. A dual citizen of the Comanche Nation and the United States with the Tahmahkera and Lacefield families from southwestern Oklahoma, he engages the history and futurity of creative Natives’ images, sounds, and performances through onscreen, onstage, and on-mic oral and aural storytellers, performers, and cultural critics. In all, he uses his art and writing to strengthen relational accountability, well-being, and bridgebuilding in the spirit of his creative and intelligent ancestors.

Currently, Tahmahkera is a Generation Now Playwriting Fellow through the Mellon Foundation. He is jointly commissioned by Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles and the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis to write the full-length play Comanche Girl on the Moon. Honoring the art and animal stories of his late auntie Juanita Pahdopony, the play stars a spunky but grieving Comanche girl named Petu and her twin rabbits Tabu and Kina who discover Petu’s late grandmother Kaku’s secret rocket ship on their family allotment in Oklahoma. In her journey to the Comanche moon, or full moon, to reclaim intergalactic relationships and fulfill her Kaku’s kinship-fueled wish to visit outer space, Petu seeks solace from loss and encounters quite the Comanche-inspired cast of comedic creatures. Comanche Girl on the Moon explores themes of home, identity, and futurity by asking, “How can one reimagine and enact an individual and tribal future of healing through ancestral aspirations of the past?”

Another playwriting project-in-progress is tentatively titled Comanche versus The World. Featuring a recurring Comanche character’s comedic and tense encounters in Comanchería homelands in Oklahoma and Texas, the manuscript’s series of short plays includes Tahmahkera’s recent 9-1-1 Comanchería, which honors the late Oneida comic and TV writer Charlie Hill during a Comanche man’s creative conversation with a 9-1-1 operator about her west Texas town’s centennial “celebration” in the 1970s. The play debuted at Native Voices at the Autry’s play festival in Los Angeles, where it received the judges’ best play prize and the audience favorite award.

As a film and media scholar, Tahmahkera has written two books: Tribal Television: Viewing Native Peoples in Sitcoms (University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 244pg) and Cinematic Comanches: The Lone Ranger in the Media Borderlands (University of Nebraska Press, 2022, 263pg). For more on this research, see Tahmahkera’s articles “Custer’s Last Sitcom: Decolonized Viewing of the Sitcom’s Indian” in American Indian Quarterly (University of Nebraska Press), “‘We’re Gonna Capture Johnny Depp!’: Making Kin with Cinematic Comanches” in American Indian Culture and Research Journal (UCLA Press) and “Hakaru Maruumatu Kiwtaka? [Who is Shi*ting Whom]: Seeking Representational Jurisdiction in Comanchería Cinema” in Native American and Indigenous Studies (University of Minnesota Press). Podcast interviews about Cinematic Comanches are available at New Books Network and, from OU’s Arts & Humanities Forum, Staying with the Question.

Tahmahkera's current book project in Indigenous sound studies is tentatively titled “Becoming Sound: Sonic Quests of Healing in Indian Country.” Situated in acoustic ecological, health, cinematic, and musical contexts, "Becoming Sound" is an Indigenous cultural history of soundscapes and aural approaches to cultural well-being. Tahmahkera’s work in sound also includes his new multimedia project Ancestral Acoustics: Listening to History and Futurity in La Comanchería, which incorporates and remixes archival research and sonic recordings in essays and original plays featuring soundscapes from the migration routes of Comanches. Previous publications in Indigenous sound studies include “Becoming Sound: Tubitsinakukuru (Listening Closely) from Mt. Scott to Standing Rock” (Sounding Out site on Indigenous Peoples Day 2017) and “‘An Indian in a White Man’s Camp’: Johnny Cash’s Indian Country Music” (special Sound issue of American Quarterly 2011).

Tahmahkera also works as a film consultant, voiceover artist, on-camera interviewee, and educational curriculum writer. Recent productions include serving with his late auntie as the first Comanche consultants on the feature film Prey (2022), Hulu’s #1 release of all time. He honors her work in his new article Prey: Behind the Scenes with Cinematic Comanches” in World Literature Today. He also co-wrote and narrated the TED-Ed animation film on Comanche chief Quanah Parker and discusses Quanah and Comanchería cinema and history in the podcast White Hats by Texas Monthly and forthcoming film projects by Ken Burns and Florentine Films on PBS and Sarah Burns and Rollercoaster Road Productions on Curiosity Stream. Educational documentary film guides include Comanche filmmaker Julianna Brannum’s LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 and Sam Wainwright’s Through the Repellent Fence.

Tahmahkera may be contacted at

Areas of Interest and Expertise

Numunuu/Comanche studies
Indigenous soundscapes
Cultural history and representation

Selected Research and Creative Activity

Tahmahkera, D. (Accepted/In press). Cinematic Comanches: The Lone Ranger in the Media Borderlands. (Indigenous Films Series). University of Nebraska Press.

Tahmahkera, D. (2018). Hakarʉ Marʉʉmatʉ Kwitaka? Seeking Representational Jurisdiction in Comanchería Cinema. Native American and Indigenous Studies5(1), 100.

Tahmahkera, D. (2017). "We're Gonna Capture Johnny Depp": Making Kin with Cinematic Comanches. American Indian Culture and Research Journal41(2), 23-42.

Tahmahkera, D. (2016). Tubitsinakukuru: Listen closely. Biography - An Interdisciplinary Quarterly39(3), 309-313.

Tahmahkera, D. (2014). Tribal television: Viewing native people in Sitcoms. University of North Carolina Press.

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