Native forum means Indian 101 for non-Native media #YDL

Native journalists are often tasked with educating non-Native journalists #YDL

Our newsroom heard that there will be more than 30 media outlets attending the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, this upcoming Monday and Tuesday. Historic because it’s the largest (not the first) with nine presidential candidates.

During the daily news huddle, or budget meeting, last week, my editor said something along the lines of “We might have to do Indian 101 more than we’d like to here.”

He is right.

As much as many of us don’t like to admit, we don’t like educating mainstream. Sometimes I think it’s necessary because who else will teach them. We rely on them to educate themselves using the internet, and let’s face it the internet isn’t reliable either.

But when Native media educates mainstream media, especially at large events like this forum, It takes away from our jobs as journalists. Our job is to educate our communities -- Native communities.

I wanted to spare many of us Native journalists some education for mainstream media. So here are four things to keep in mind when reporting during this forum.

Number one: Sources

One Twitter user, who is Mvskoke and Black, pointed it out. She said “maybe” CNN should “bring actual Natives on to discuss Warren’s policy plans?”

“Instead of focusing on the policies y’all sat there and played breakfast club clips bc y’all know nothing about us beyond Warren’s heritage flop. #insidepolitics,” she wrote.

Talk to tribal citizens, tribal leaders, and Native youth when you talk about each candidates policies. There will be plenty of Native attendees in the theater, in the city, and they exist on social media.

While this forum does have a national lens, therefore this is about national politics and state politics. But it’s also about tribal politics. Tribal politics are about tribal nations with their own government systems.

Talk to the stakeholders. Native people. Ask us about the issues we know and live each day.

Talk to Native experts. That means not a non-Native who studies Native American studies or communities. An actual person.

Number two: Sovereignty.

Tribal nations are sovereign nations.

Native Americans are political entities. Not a race.

What is sovereignty? Don’t make the same mistake George W. Bush made when Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant asked that question.

Number three: Blood quantum

Ashoodi', do not ask someone their blood quantum if they are Native. If you want to do a story right, ask what tribal nation they come from. That is the tribal nation they are connected to and most likely enrolled in.

When you write your story, do not refer to blood quantum such as “part” or “half” of a tribe.

I like to say they are “citizens” rather than enrolled. Why?

During graduate school, I interviewed Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs.

I asked him what tribe he was a member of.

“You can be a member of the Boy Scouts, but not of a nation,” he said over the phone. “You are a citizen of a nation.”

That stuck with me. Whenever mainstream refers to non-Natives in immigration stories of patriotism-related stories, they say “U.S. citizen” or “citizen of America.”

Using “citizen” or “tribal citizen” acknowledges us as people, political entities, sovereign nations, and tribal sovereignty.

You can also use our Indian Country Today Style Guide for more questions about enrollment, if to use Native, Native American, Indigenous, the Washington team, and more.

Number four: Bingo or nah?

The Native American Journalism Association made this great bingo card for mainstream media to use. This is a bingo you don’t want to play.

The rules are to avoid a bingo. If you have mentions of mascots, poverty,

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 8.03.24 AM

The organization also has many resources to refer to. You can also look up Native journalists and Native media organizations on Twitter

But please, again, don’t make us (or Navajos) say, “Yaadilah!” if you score a bingo on your stories or social media posts. 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

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