National Night Out in Rochester
This week on Minnesota Native News, reporter Melissa Townsend tells us about the 35th Annual Native American Journalists Association Conference hosted at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community the week of September 15th
INTRO/HEADLINE: This week on Minnesota Native News, reporter Melissa Townsend reports on the 35th Annual Native American Journalists Association Conference hosted at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
The Native American Journalism Association conference was 4 days of workshops, speeches, eating and visiting.
One of the workshops at the conference featured Native artists.
[Dyani introduces herself in Dakota] (:13)
Dyani is a painter usually using acrylics and oils.
She was one of the artists who spoke to a group of reporters - including me. She wants us to know we’ve let her down. The other artists in the room agreed. She shared a story to explain what she meant.
DYANI: So I got asked to be a panelist for an upcoming conference here in Minneapolis - thousand of people - it’s a really big deal apparently.
She’s been chosen as a featured speaker to address the National Arts Education Conference.
DYANI: And then they told me who some of the past guests have been. And they were people like Jeff Koons and Amy Sherald.
Koons and Sherald are two very famous non-Native artists.
DYANI: I got really intimidated and I was like Oh My God. I can’t meet that level of notoriety .These were the biggest, they are everywhere. Everybody knows them who is in the field. I can’t give you that.
And then she realized that’s partly because of the news media.
DYANI: I can’t give it to you because you aren’t giving us the coverage that’s equal to these other folks. We aren’t being reported on with that same respect and value placed on what we have to contribute.
Being ignored in the media contributes to a cycle of feeling invisible and being undervalued.
There is a serious need for better reporting in Indian country.
And that’s hard to do when non-Native reporters and audiences may not even understand the basics.
DYANI: To see and understand the value and the worth of what we make - we have to first fill them in with the entire history of our country. For them to even be able to look at a work and be able to unpack what’s in that work… often times they miss it because they don’t know the history, they aren’t taught the history, they don’t know our communities.
This is where the Native American Journalism Association can play a role.
The association represents nearly 600 journalists - many who are Native - from tribal media, Native outlets and mainstream newsrooms.
NAJA President Tristan Ahtone says the mission is to support indigenous journalists and promote better media coverage of Indian country.
AHTONE: I’ve been working professionally for a decade now. There is a lot more recognition that newsrooms should be doing this type of reporting.
At this year’s conference, NAJA honored the elders among us who have helped build the industry.
Mark Trahant received the “NAJA - Medill Milestone Achievement Award”.
It was recognition of his decades of incredible work, most recently in his role at the helm at Indian Country Today.
TRAHANT: Indian Country today is around because just so many people over the years have invested their time and energy to a simple idea and that is serving Indian readers.
The NAJA conference also offered tools and insight for new generations of reporters.
Hunter Hotulke [hole TOLL kee] is from the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
He is one of the Native American Journalism Fellows at the conference - receiving specific support from more veteran journalists.
HOTULKE: We all have Native ancestry and we all want to report the news for the betterment of our people so just to get everyone in that environment and foster that creativity is really good.
Mindee Duffell was also there. She works with the Citizen Potawatome Nation. She is non-Native.
DUFFELL: And I think that’s important for people like me who are non-Native to be able to submerge themselves in what being Native actually is.
In addition to honoring the work of Native journalists, correcting history and contradicting stereotypes - as if that’s not all enough - NAJA leaders are also lifting up the importance of a free press.
Another conference discussion focused on a recent NAJA survey.
It showed many are subject to censorship by tribal governments.
So the Native American Journalism Association has plenty of work to do.
All with intention of growing the volume of well-reported stories about Native America - and supporting Native reporters.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Melissa Townsend