This article contains spoilers for Reservation Dogs season 3 episode 10.
With the premiere of its final episode, FX’s Reservation Dogs has officially been sent off that good way. The season 3 finale, titled “Dig,” is filled with indelible moments that neatly wrap up three superb seasons and prepare the titular Rez Dogs for a glorious future to come.
Amid all that excitement, however, is one little in-joke that the less attentive viewer may have missed. As the town of Okern, Oklahoma gathers in the local church to pay their respects to departed Old Man Fixico (Richard Ray Whitman), several well-wishers assemble around the medicine man’s casket. One of those mourners is local constable/lighthorseman Big (Zahn McClarnon).
“Thank you for changing my life, brother,” a tearful Big says to Fixico before placing a hardcover book in his coffin.
Upon a closer inspection, the book is titled Man Moon. It also appears to be a hot commodity because Willie Jack’s dad Leon (Jon Proudstar) snags it for himself when it’s his turn to in front of the coffin. If “man moon” sounds familiar, that’s because it should. The concept has been a delightful world-building Easter egg in Reservation Dogs dating all the way back to the premiere of season 2. Allow us to remind you why.
In Reservation Dogs season 2 episode 1, “The Curse,” Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Cheese (Lane Factor), and Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) seek out the assistance of their elders to first enact a curse on their rival Jackie (Elva Guerra) and then remove it when it almost immediately backfires. Their search for help takes them to Elora’s Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer) who is in the middle of a very important interaction with his (and Bear’s) spirit guide William Knifeman (Dallas Goldtooth).
While the presumably very high Brownie meets with the spirit, he asks him if he knew Crazy Horse. William, ever the name-dropper, is delighted to tell Brownie all about the man he claims to have known well. And that’s where we first learn of the concept of the man moon.
“Being a warrior means being in touch with your feminine side. Crazy Horse, he did that,” William says. “He was a true warrior in touch with his man moon. Most people don’t remember that we used to have a man moon. Bleed once a month. Happened every sacred time for us. Crazy Horse was the last one of us to have a man moon. And then the white man took it from us.”
Yes, as you may have guessed on its name alone, a “man moon” is a masculine menstrual cycle – with the blood and everything! William Knifeman says it was a crucial part of native life before the white man came along and ruined it. Like most things William talks about, man moon is probably not a real Indian tradition or concept. A cursory Google search reveals nothing on the topic but you should absolutely defer to any actual native elders or scholars who say otherwise. After all, many Native American cultures have what would popularly be considered progressive views on gender identity.
Regardless of its veracity, man moon becomes a fun running joke for Reservation Dogs from that moment on. Later on in that same episode, the Rez Dogs ditch Brownie’s unhelpful ass for Bucky (Wes Studi) who ultimately proves to be just as unhelpful. He does, however, pay off William Knifeman’s man moon set up marvelously when he tells Fixico about his girl trouble and Fixico gives him a copy of the book Man Moon, so he can learn how he is the problem.
Again, much like the concept of man moon itself, the book Man Moon is not a real thing. In the show’s universe, it is written by a “Beau Harrison,” which just happens to be the same name as the prop master for the series. Still, the term continues to pop up throughout the series and even gets a place on prominence in the eventual finale.
In fact, the Man Moon book is ultimately an important symbol of what makes Okern a strong community. It’s not Bucky who placed the book in Fixico’s coffin but Big, which suggests that Bucky read the book, enjoyed it, then passed it on to his friend. Now Big has unwittingly passed it on to Leon who will undoubtedly share it with someone else when he’s done. The cycle of community continues on and on just like Fixico’s spirit lives on with his friends.
All three seasons of Reservation Dogs are available to stream on Hulu now.