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Tribal News is Tribal Sovereignty

Although there may be some argument with regards to the ability of any journalist in embedding themselves in a community and telling a story appropriately, the truth is, the authentic voice of Native peoples in telling their own stories is an exhibition of sovereignty in itself.

There is power in words, power in stories and power in the ability to tell one’s own story.

Yet for many Native peoples, these stories are either untold throughout mainstream media or left up to the interpretation of Non-Native publishers, writers, and editors. Try as they may, this often leads to the proliferation of demeaning stereotypes and overall miseducation of Native peoples to the masses.

For many Native communities, eliciting the help of a Non-Native publisher or staff is often attributed to the proven success of that particular publisher, writer or editor, sans their cultural understanding, and is often a decision, not left to the community, but the leadership.

But does merely experience and success in journalism elicit the ability for Non-Natives to capture the authentic voice of a community heavily rooted in culture, history and continually recovering from generational trauma?

…does merely experience and success in journalism elicit the ability for Non-Natives to capture the authentic voice of a community heavily rooted in culture, history and continually recovering from generational trauma?

Although there may be some argument with regards to the ability of any journalist in embedding themselves in a community and telling a story appropriately, the truth is, the authentic voice of Native peoples in telling their own stories is an exhibition of sovereignty in itself. One long overdue.

But what do the current numbers tell us about the Native presence in the media field? Are we situating ourselves in a position to reclaim these stories and our voices?

According to LaPoe and LaPoe II in Indian Country: Telling a Story in a Digital Age, “In the mainstream media in 2000, there were only 292 American Indian newspaper journalists of 56,200 total, because of the “complex cultural, social, educational and linguistic barriers erected and welded into place by our history.”

To say this is a gross misrepresentation is an understatement.

Yet, there are those in the Native community who are continually working to change these numbers.

The Native American Journalist Association in one such force. In providing resources and opportunities such as journalism fellowships, writing guides, a legal hotline for journalists, journalism job board and opportunity for membership to the association, change is possible.

Is there potential for a well-meaning Non-Native journalist to approach Native communities and tell a decent story? Yes.

But it is far more probable that a Native American journalist from that community will offer you an experience.

Brandi Douglas is the managing editor for American Indian Republic and is an enrolled member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. She believes the truth does not associate itself with censorship. Having attained her Bachelor's Degree with a major in Global Studies, she holds a keen interest in cultural interactions.

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