‘Indigenizing research institutions’: Two journalists honored by The American Academy

(Photo by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Indigenous journalists Candis Callison and Patty Loew were inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is the oldest honor society in the nation. Some of its members include Indian Country’s finest: Oglala journalist Tim Giago, Turtle Mountain author Louise Eldridge, Cheyenne-Arapaho educator Henrietta Mann, and Indian Country Today’s very own editor, Mark Trahant.

Candis Callison, Tahltan, and Patty Loew, Bad River, officially became members of the same ranks at their Academy induction ceremony this past weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Of the six individuals inducted from the journalism and media category, the two are both members of the Native American Journalists Association. More than 200 individuals working in education, business, government and public affairs were inducted. The Academy released their list in April where it also included former First Lady Michelle Obama.

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At the ceremony, Callison and Loew dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s in the “Book of Members,” a tradition tying back to the beginning of the organization in 1780. Other notable members of the organization include Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.

Patty Loew

Patty Loew is a professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is dedicated to her students, traveling between conferences and meetings in the last month, from Pennsylvania to Minnesota to Boston to Wisconsin, and back to campus every Tuesday and Thursday to make sure she’s available to teach her 17 students.

“When you really love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work,” she said during a phone interview from an airport.

Documenting stories is Loew’s passion. In her career as a journalist, she has produced award-winning documentaries and was a broadcast reporter for more than 20 years. Loew decided she wanted to teach during her mid-career and was prompted to go back to school from her mentor, Ada Deer, who is a Menominee scholar and policymaker.

Attending college after many years was difficult because she felt that people didn’t take her seriously. They thought she was “just a TV anchor.” But onward she kept. She continued to earn both her masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Since then, Loew has authored four books, including Native People of Wisconsin, a social studies book used by 18,000 school children in Wisconsin. Most recently she worked with her students on the “Indigenous Tour of Northwestern,” an interactive online tour of the university that explores the history of the shores along Ininwewi-gichigami, or Lake Michigan.

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<em>Patty Loew, Bad River, signs her name into the Academy's 'Book of Members,' a tradition tying back to the beginning of the Academy in 1780.</em>(Photo by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences)

The professor stumbled upon something “unexpected and beautiful” when researching for this project. Years ago, Loew interviewed Nelson Shepo, a Potawatami tribal citizen, who told her the story of the tribe’s removal from their lands after the Treaty of Chicago. He spoke in Potawatomi and then translated the story in English.

A few weeks ago, the old tape made its way into Loew’s hands. It was in good condition. She gave it to the Wisconsin Historical Society and learned that the video was a saving grace because the tribe was down to six fluent speakers. They welcomed the tape with open arms.

“I love it when teachings, outreach and research somehow harmonically converge,” she said.

This storytelling has spurred Loew’s passion, which ultimately led her to getting inducted into the Academy. She was surprised, but grateful because she always wanted to do research that makes a difference for Indigenous people. Moving forward, she hopes this means adding value to Indigenous research.

“My selection could open the door for research that matters to our people,” Loew said.

Candis Callison

Growing up, Callison says she didn’t know anyone who was a journalist but she was always interested in television news. After beginning her undergraduate degree when she was 16, she was a reporter for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, also known as CBC, a publicly-owned news organization. Her reporting covered various disciplines through both television and radio.

After a career in reporting, she went on to become an academic. This meant she became both a teacher and a researcher for various universities.

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Candis Callison, Tahltan, smiles before signing her name into the Academy's 'Book of Members' at a ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts.(Photo by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences)

“I’ve had a hybrid career,” Callison says laughing. She describes herself as a “first-generation academic” because she didn’t know any academics growing up, either.

Callison is now an associate professor at the University of British Columbia School of Journalism. She studies how to change media practices, journalism ethics, the role of social movements in the public, and how issues related to science are meaningful. This year, she is also a visiting professor at Princeton University.

She says she had intended on going back to the news but “fell in love with thinking for a living.” And she has done so with many accolades.

Callison received a PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has authored a 328-page book, How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts. She is a regular contributor on the Media Indigena podcast and was on the 2018 list of Indigenous Twitterati. She was also selected to give a speech to MIT doctoral graduates last spring.

This work led to her induction to the Academy. After finding out, Callison says she was “totally shocked” -- learning the news on a trip from Peru. She says it was unexpected, all she did was get an email out of the blue.

Since then, Callison has taken a few moments to realize the significance of this event. One highlight came from Anna Deavere Smith, an actress and playwright, who tweeted her. 

“This is a great moment because we have been talking about Indigenizing research institutions,” she says. “It is a good moment in life to realize the contribution you make adds up. And that it deeply matters.”

Callison hopes to devote more of her time to exploring Arctic journalism. She specifically hopes to answer the questions: How is journalism done when talking about the Arctic? How do these stories get told? Additionally, she is currently writing her second book set to publish by the end of the year.

Indian Country Today congratulates the new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Candis Callison and Patty Loew. 

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com

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