Mary Annette Pember: ‘Always a storyteller’

Kolby KickingWoman

UPDATED: Indian Country Today’s team continues to grow with new national correspondent

Mary Annette Pember always knew she wanted to grow up to be a storyteller.

The art of storytelling is something she says she got from her mother.

“She had a marvelous ability to paint a picture for me and utilize this marvelous rhythm as a language,” Pember said. “So the storytelling, you know, it's in my bones and my blood from her, I feel like.”

As a young girl, Pember remembers being taught by her brothers to write her name and she would sit under the family’s kitchen table, writing it all over the place with a black crayon.

“I would write just little symbols for stuff that was happening,” Pember recalls. “I remember being really mad when they, cause people were obviously, there was a lot going on, I didn't know about. Like, they were spelling stuff in front of me and I remember really hating that.”

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Pember would eventually make that dream come true. Although she first started as a photographer and from the first time she picked up a camera, Pember says she was hooked.

“Oh my God, I was hooked. It was like concentrated words, concentrated storytelling,” Pember said. “To me it's just all the same. It's all storytelling, but this is a different tool.”

Pember is Red Cliff Ojibwe. Early in her career she was often the only woman at the places where she worked and the only Native person. She said at times it was hard but she learned how to navigate that world and the experience really helped.

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After working at a number of papers across the country including The Oakland Press, The Oregonian and Arizona Republic (just to name a few) Pember will be joining Indian Country Today as a national correspondent based out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, editor of Indian Country Today, said Pember is a great example of a multimedia journalist and that she’s been at it since before the word “multimedia journalist” existed.

“She started her career as a photojournalist. Then a writer. Then a videographer. And always a storyteller,” Trahant said. “She has an eye for detail and a passion for fairness. We are lucky to work with her.”

Over the course of her career, Pember has covered a number of issues in Indian Country. From missing and murdered Indigenous women to diabetes in Indian Country to the Indian Child Welfare Act; she has enjoyed digging into “heavy, long-term things.”

Yet, she also likes to write what she calls “palate cleansers,” stories that are more feature-ey and fun.

“I love to notice when I travel out to Indian country, I like to see what kind of fashions the young folks are wearing,” she said. “You know, what's the latest, latest, newest, newest. That's always really fun.”

Having covered such a plethora of stories, Patty Talahongva, Hopi, executive producer at Indian Country Today, said Pember is going to make the Indian Country Today team even stronger.

“She’s a fabulous addition to our team and she has a wealth of experience,” Talahongva said.

Outside of reporting, Pember enjoys film, reading and cooking. One of the meals she likes to cook is Dal Bhat, a lentils and rice dish that is considered to be one of the national foods of Nepal.

At the end of the day, Pember is looking forward to this next chapter of her career.

“I'm just glad to be a part of this really exciting new experiment at Indian Country Today,” Pember said. “I can't wait to see what happens.”

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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