Native Twitter and allies are applauding the efforts of USA Today and the journalists related to a story in which Native congress-elect members were at first not included -- but adjustments were made -- after a simple inquiry by a Native medical student Alec Calac.
Last week Alec Calac, Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians -- a medical student at UC San Diego School of Medicine. and a former Health Policy Fellow at the National Indian Health Board -- was reading a USA Today article and saw no Native members of Congress included in the graphic.
Considering the historic election wins of Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids in the 2018 midterms, Calac says he knew they should have been included.
"I immediately knew something was wrong when there was no mention of the historic campaigns run by now Representative-elect Deb Haaland (NM-01) and Representative-elect Sharice Davids (KS-03)," Calac wrote to ICT in an email.
"I suspected that Native Americans were not represented on USA Today’s data visualization when there was only 1 person listed under Asian/other Republicans, which is incorrect due to Representatives Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation) and Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation), who will both be in the 116th Congress."
Calac also says that Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids were not even grouped into Asian/other Democrats. "They were left out entirely," he wrote.
"I reached out to USA Today, and they worked with me to update their data visualizations. Within a day, this seemingly minor mistake was corrected, but in my eyes, this was a glaring error in how Indian Country is reported on by the mainstream media, highlighting the need to consult organizations like the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)," wrote Calac.
Calac says that though the names were initially left out, he appreciated the response by USA Today journalist Deborah Berry who also arranged with her colleague James Sergent -- who created the graphic -- to make the adjustment and include Native representation accurately.
Calac stated the prompt response was sincerely appreciated.
"It was very encouraging! I was not just heard, I was listened to. Working with Deborah Berry, I felt that I had helped recenter the conversation not just around historic Indigenous representation, but around historic BIPOC representation in the House."
After the change in the graphic, many accounts on social media came forward to thank USA Today.
Calac says the media needs to continue to be mindful.
"It is important now, more than ever to accurately report on the historic gains that have been made for Indian Country at the local, state, and federal level. We have strong advocates in Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, and I look forward to hearing their voices echo throughout the halls of the Capitol."
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter -@VinceSchilling
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