Tribal Affiliation and/or any personal cultural notes you’d like to share
What do you feel brought you to your cause and was there a personal connection or cultural teaching that sparked your initial interest?
I was raised in a village that didn’t have radio or television. I learned later that media matters. Underrepresented populations who don’t have access, control, or ownership over their own media or broadcast facilities, suffer the most from wrong portrayals, misrepresentation, invisibility, perpetuation of myths, having someone else tell their stories, and in general letting the power of their own voice left to chance or someone else.
What is a key take-away you feel most people do not understand/are not educated on regarding your cause?
The power to speak and to be heard is an exercise of our sovereignty and fundamental to our democracy. It is tied directly to our identity and the freedom to be who we are. Owning our own broadcast facilities empowers entire Tribal nations because it places in our hands the power to access, control, and own our media destiny.
How do you communicate your views to those who may disagree with them?
Through one-on-one conversations, education, outreach, and alliance building.
What is your personal philosophy (that helps drive your work)?
I believe that Native people have the intellectual capacity to change the wind.
How has your approach to your work evolved since you first started? Where do you see it going/growing?
Broadcast ownership across Indian Country has grown to 60 radio stations and 4 television stations and Native media is proliferating across multi-platforms. Communications policy, which is also a hallmark of Native Public Media, has resulted in the first broadband recommendations from Indian Country to the U.S. National Broadband Plan, the establishment of the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, and the FCC Tribal Priority. NPM also has a strong training and education program and has published curriculum in Digital Literacy, Emergency Preparedness Communication, Underwriting, Race in the Newsroom, Copyright Policy, and the First Amendment. Our Andy Harvey media bootcamp for high school students is in its 6th year cultivating the next generation of Native communications experts and building capacity for Indian Country. Our Global Internet Fellowship is in its second year and next year, we hope to develop more opportunities around the world. We see nothing but growth in Native broadcasting, media, and journalism which I see as one of the most important sectors critical to the survival of the First Amendment in this country.
What has surprised you most about working within your cause?
The incredible growth of media across Indian Country and the richness of Native stories across a diverse Native population. It is better than what I imagined it would be. On the downside, I think many people, not just Natives, take media and its power to transform the world, for granted. It’s the same for the Internet and technological platforms. At this moment, we are experiencing the highest levels of First Amendment suppression, efforts for the Internet to be controlled by conglomerates, and the closure of media platforms to vulnerable populations. There is a great deal of work ahead and nothing is guaranteed anymore. We must fight to protect our First Amendment rights.
What motivates you to stay involved?
I love what I do. We do work that touches the lives of people and when I hear or see Native stories on Native broadcast stations and on mainstream media, it notes one more notch in our belt. It’s the ring of freedom for me.
What moment has resonated the most since you began your work?
Watching young people light up when they connect the dots to why media matters and when they hear their own production on-air for the very first time. I never get tire of these moments. I also like chats outside the grocery store or at the gas pump about what stories on radio or television community members enjoyed, disliked, or want more of. And on those quiet days, I serf the broadcast world to hear stories in the languages of our people, and even if I can’t understand Tlingit, Dakota, Cheyenne, or Tohono, I revel in the sounds of the stories and celebrate.
What’s your advice to those who want to learn more about your cause but aren’t sure how to get involved?
Check out our website which is being updated right now, tune into one of our 60 stations when you are in the vicinity or listen via the web.
Become a member of Native Americans in Philanthropy here.