Tomás Karmelo Amaya joins Indian Country Today as the creative director. He is Yoeme, A:shiwi and Rarámuri. He will work in the newsroom at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University in Phoenix.
Amaya will be reinventing news: Indian Country Today will launch a 2 minute-plus weekday newscast beginning October 14. And the nonprofit news enterprise is also developing a half-hour news show.
Amaya is a photographer, filmmaker and writer. Through his new role, he hopes to bring an updated look to the video and social media presence of Indian Country Today. His work has been published in The New York Times, Buzzfeed and The Guardian.
"I am beyond thrilled,” says editor Mark Trahant. “Tomás Karmelo is a talented professional and an extraordinary filmmaker. It's so great that he is willing to join our team and re-invent the news for Native people."
Amaya, 33, remembers first documenting stories by taking photos of his family using disposable camera and writing poems about his late grandmother, Paula Juárez López. He grew up in West Phoenix.
Since then, Amaya has ventured many places to tell stories. He co-owns Kanion Productions, a full-service production company that recently won an award for their film, “Tekona.” Additionally, Amaya co-founded the Indigenous 20 Something Project, an organization whose mission is to provide tools to heal from intergenerational trauma.
This work has allowed Amaya to “move my camera as I would my pen.”
Most recently, Amaya worked as a contractor for Indian Country Today, editing and producing a half-hour pilot newscast.
"Tomás brings a great deal of production experience to our newsroom. His creativity will help launch this next phase of Indian Country Today as we start producing our newscasts,” says executive producer Patty Talahongva. “We value the work he has already done in Indian Country."
Amaya’s experience also took him to document stories at Standing Rock in 2016. He aimed to produce high-quality, striking images in a culturally sensitive way. His photos were republished by many news organizations worldwide. This was where Washington editor, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye first met Amaya.
“I'm excited to see the Indian Country Today team and talent grow with Tomás's talents and experience,” Bennett-Begaye said. “I've kept up with his work since Standing Rock in 2016 and look forward to how he will apply his creativity to this spacious channel of Indigenous thought and news.”
Amaya, an alumni of Arizona State University, says he is grateful to his family, loved ones and community members for sharing their wisdom with him. He says he will use their teachings in his new role.
“As creative director of ICT, I look forward to bringing the best of my skills to a team of individuals who place great value in Native people being protectors of our own narratives and blessings,” says Amaya.
You can follow Amaya on Twitter and Instagram: @TomasKarmelo or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover photo by Siera Begaye, Diné.