“It is no secret that Washington faces a serious debt problem, but last time I checked, it was not because we are spending too much on Indian housing, healthcare or education. It is not because we are spending too much on addressing the scourge of diabetes in Native communities, improving crumbling infrastructure or creating jobs in Indian Country. It is not because we are spending too much supporting Native American veterans who put their lives on the line to defend our nation, or creating economic opportunities for Indian youth. It is profoundly hypocritical that the United States, year-after-year, decade-after-decade, does so little to honor its trust responsibilities to Native peoples. It’s time for real change.” – Bernie Sanders READ MORE
By Lara Trace (Independent Voter)
The above quote is from Bernie Sander’s website on his stance on our government’s trust responsibilities to tribes. Bad thing is: most people don’t even know or care that tribes exist in 2016.
I’ve mentioned on this blog I worked at News From Indian Country (1996-1999). When I started working as a journalist, there were just two Native American-owned-operated national print newspapers. TWO! (There are still two and more online news outlets now*.) At that time, in the mid 90s, I was one of 350+ Native journalists and a member of Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). Very few of my friends worked at a mainstream newspaper like USA TODAY or the New York Times. I knew two Native men (John and Charlie) who held those prestigious jobs and neither are writing for those newspapers in 2016.
I recall when my Assiniboine Sioux friend Minnie Two Shoes did a brief stint as a journalist at the Duluth News Tribune. We worked together at News From Indian Country (NFIC). Minnie helped found the Native American Press Association in 1984, which became the Native American Journalists Association in 1990. She edited two magazines: Native Peoples and Aboriginal Voices when I knew her. I drove Minnie to the hospital in Hayward when it was first discovered she had breast cancer.Minnie Two Shoes died in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 9, 2010 after battling cancer.
Minnie was among the leaders and founders of the American Indian Movement. Yep, those warriors like John Trudell!
Minnie, John Trudell and Paul DeMain, founder of NFIC, made an indelible impact on me. I credit them for teaching me crucial things I could never learn from books or in a classroom. I met many fantastic Native journalists when I belonged to NAJA over the years. (NAJA AWARDS 2002) And I admit it was their influence that I am a publisher now at Blue Hand Books because the majority of journalists I know (and knew) are also great writers writing great books, not just news articles for tribal newspapers.
Now imagine this: The population of Indian Country in 2010 was 2,553,566. That number is growing. It’s not a huge population but it is noteworthy in the respect that state by state, very little is taught about Native people, or our history, or our ancestral territory or treaty rights, which can breed contempt among non-Indians, and even worse, breed racism. When I traveled to Pine Ridge in the early 90s, I was told South Dakota citizens were known and feared for their racism toward tribes—to me that was appalling, unreasonable and actually very dangerous. At one time it was said that Canada was more racist but that depends on who you’re talking to… This kind of hate is like a virus that spreads from one generation to another. The American Indian Movement was instrumental is bringing awareness of hate crimes and many unsolved murders happening in the 1970s involving Indians being killed by non-Indians across the USA.
If more non-Indian people understood history, it would definitely transform and diminish these hateful attitudes. With good consistent writing about tribes in mainstream newspapers, then perspective could shift attitudes and create unity and respect, which is sadly and sorely lacking today.
I posted here about my time in Pine Ridge and interviewing Leonard Peltier and John Trudell. And I mentioned how I found out that my relative’s nephew Allen Locke was murdered by police.
*FMI: NativeWeb Resources: Newspapers – Native & Indigenous
National Native News daily podcast: HERE
The following story is KEY to any discussion about Native Americans in news rooms and across Indian County. We need good stories and websites and newspapers who give accurate reporting and reflect the truth.
Police kill Native Americans at almost the same rate as African-Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 1999 and 2013, an average of .29 per 100,000 Native Americans were killed by police, compared to .3 per 100,000 for blacks and .11 per 100,000 for whites. “America should be aware of this,” argues Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer and a leader of the Lakota People’s Law Project, which runs a publicity campaign called Native Lives Matter. But for the most part, America is not aware of this.
That may be changing, albeit slowly, as both mainstream media and Native American-run digital outlets begin to cover American Indian issues more robustly.
“We’re not necessarily focusing on the shadows and the sadness,” says Jason Begay, a Navajo who grew up on a reservation and runs the Native News Project, “but on how people are persevering.”
Tristan Ahtone, a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma who often reported for Al Jazeera America, won a following among Native Americans and others for writing about new topics, such as how one tribe is invoking treaty rights to stop another oil pipeline, the rethinking of the militant American Indian Movement that grew up alongside the Black Panthers in the 1960s, and an international indigenous basketball tournament. His approach: “Stop looking at Indian Country as a foreign place with foreign people doing foreign things. It keeps us apart from each other, and reinforces the idea that these people are different, that they’re victims, that they’re helpless. They get covered when there’s doom, gloom, or there’s blood. The cumulative effect is that you’ve got communities that are isolated from the rest of the country and generally distrustful of journalists, and that just creates a continuing cycle.”
Ahtone is one of only a handful of Native American journalists. There are 118 self-identified Indian journalists working at U.S. daily newspapers, according to 2015 data from the American Society of News Editors. That’s .36 percent of all U.S. newsroom employees. Native American activists say there need to be more newsroom internships and training programs for aspiring Native American journalists.
And I’ll leave you with this quote about diversity in writing and publishing:
“You will be tokenized. Even when you get to write about your own experience of being a minority in America—you know, even that can be turned against you. Are you going to be used later on as leverage against an accusation of racism? Will you then be seen as a collaborator? In most cases the answer is yes….
“Hiring is a crucial step, but it is reformist. It’s not going to really fix anything, just sand off the rough edges, right? Because there is far more concern about appearing racist rather than not doing racist things. It’s not just a publishing thing. What else can I say but dismantle capitalism? And I don’t know that anything radical enough to do that wouldn’t hurt a lot of the people that we are trying to save. Barring world historical change, I don’t see really anything happening but a new paint job. It is systemic racism for a reason, it’s so essentially wound up with the system upon which everything is built. You can ameliorate it. You can palliate it. But you can’t cure it. This is what I sound like when I’m optimistic.” —Tony Tulathimutte, novelist, Private Citizens
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My writing on this blog (and publishing new books here) is my humble attempt to broaden perspectives about Indigenous People/American Indians/First Nations… Thank you all for reading and following this blog! You matter to me! xoxoxo