Indian Country Today has a new legal structure and a new board of directors.
The non-profit news enterprise is now Indian Country Today, LLC., a single member company. The company operates independently. It is owned by the non-profit arm of the National Congress of American Indians. Indian Country Today will officially open its main newsroom at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on July 1.
“The structure of a company does two things. First: It sets us on course as an independent, non-profit media enterprise. And second it sets in place a governing structure to protect that independence,” said Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today. The editor is the chief executive of the news company. “As part of this new structure, I am pleased to announce the appointment of our first board of directors: Larry EchoHawk, Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, and Rhonda LeValdo."
The idea was to create a governance structure that would hold the news organization to the highest standards for both journalism and business. We wanted a mix of people who represent constituent groups that we serve. So one member of the board is appointed at-large; one as a representative of the ownership, NCAI; and a third member representing Native journalists (and appointed by the Native American Journalists Association).
Rebecca Crooks-Stratton is secretary/treasurer at Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and serves on the board of the National Congress of American Indians. Crooks-Stratton led creation of the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza at TCF Bank Stadium. She has worked as the program director for the Native Governance Center, and has served on a number of volunteer boards and committees. She recently completed her master’s degree in Tribal Administration and Governance at the University of Minnesota.
“We amplify the voice of Indian Country when we share stories about our people and explore issues that are important to us,” Crooks-Stratton said. “I’m honored to serve on the board and support this critical work.”
Larry EchoHawk, Pawnee, served as assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian affairs in the Obama administration. He has had an extraordinary career working as general counsel for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, attorney general of Idaho, and a general authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rhonda LeValdo, Acoma, is a faculty member at Haskell Indian Nations University in Media Communications in Lawrence, Kansas. She is an accomplished journalist and filmmaker. She hosts a weekly radio show, “Native Spirit" on KKFI in Kansas City. LeValdo is a former president of the Native American Journalists Association. LeValdo covered the campaign of Rep. Sharice Davids for Indian Country Today, including the historic election night broadcast.
“I am excited to be working with Indian Country Today on the board as it moves forward with this exciting partnership with Arizona State University,” said LeValdo. “Thanks to the Native American Journalists Association for selecting me as the representative, it is an extreme honor.”
Indian Country Today’s business model is public media. There will always be a mix of fundraising, seeking support from individuals, foundations, tribes, and corporations. There is also advertising on the digital platform and there will be underwriting on the television program. Indian Country Today’s weekly public television show is scheduled to begin this fall and it will be the first national news program serving Indian Country.