By Nancy Beauregard
Native American journalists from across the country spoke at the Institute of American Indian Arts over the months of September and October 2018. They talked about the roles and responsibilities of journalists and media professionals who cover Native American issues and tribal communities.
The first speakers on campus were Tristan Ahtone, Kiowa, and Christine Trudeau, Prairie Band Potawatomi. Ahtone and Trudeau’s event took place at IAIA on September 20, 2018. Both are IAIA alumni who started out as creative writing students and then went on to pursue careers in journalism.
The creative writing department at IAIA, chaired by Evelina Zuni Lucero, Isleta and Ohkay Ohwingeh Pueblos, along with Chee Brossy, Diné, the alumni and constituent relations manager for institutional advancement, have hosted the alumni talks for the past two years.
“It is to expose IAIA students to journalism as a career and to show the success that alumni have had in journalism,” said Lucero.
Ahtone is an award-winning journalist, associate editor for the tribal affairs desk at High Country News, and president of the Native American Journalists Association. Trudeau is a Reveal Investigative Fellow with the Center for Investigative Reporting. She reports for KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.
The presentations drew a variety of people from across campus from professors, students, and the Southern Ute Drum staff from Ignacio, Colorado.
Some of the issues Ahtone focused on were colonialism and the exploitation of Native American land by the U. S government in the form of land patents. As a reporter he sees his responsibility to point out unethical behavior and make those responsible accountable for their actions.
Trudeau is the sole Native American reporter in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. She spoke about her Reveal Investigative Fellowship reporting on Alaska Natives who do not return home after they are released from jail. Trudeau’s radio story on the Native Village of Quinhagak, and how they are incorporating community-based archeology at their Nunalleq Cultural and Archaeology Center, was well received by the audience.
James Thomas Stevens, Akwesasne Mohawk, is an associate professor with the IAIA creative writing program. He was impressed with Trudeau’s presentation.
“It is about Native people being in charge of their own artifacts,” he said.
Brossy felt that it was natural to bring both journalists Ahtone and Trudeau to speak on campus.
“They are recent graduates and very accomplished within the realm of journalism,” he said.
Other speakers who visited IAIA later in the fall were Jenni Monet, Pueblo of Laguna, and the Southern Ute Drum’s editor Jeremy Wade Shockley and layout designer Robert L. Ortiz, Taos Pueblo and Southern Ute.
In September, award winning journalist Jenni Monet arrived on campus. Her appearance was hosted by the IAIA community and the Santa Fe Council on International Relations. Monet spoke passionately to her audience about her experiences as an independent reporter.
Chloe Bragg, public services and cataloging librarian at IAIA was excited to hear Monet speak and researched her before attending the event
“Her work, specifically on missing and murdered Indigenous women, is important to me. So, I wanted to hear about it from an Indigenous woman’s perspective,” Bragg said.
Monet did not disappoint her listeners. She talked about gender violence among women, girls and transgender people in the United States and how she is presently investigating the growing numbers. Monet spoke too about the Dakota Access Pipeline where she was arrested as a protestor even though she was there as a reporter and held press credentials. Monet said she was strip searched after her arrest while white women protestors were not. Her reporting on the violence she witnessed has raised awareness with the public and earned her top awards for her work.
The Southern Ute Drum’s editor Jeremy Wade Shockley and layout designer Robert L. Ortiz returned to IAIA in mid-October to talk to the journalism class about the work required to publish a bi-weekly publication. The Southern Ute Drum newspaper is owned and operated by the Southern Ute Tribe in Ignacio, Colorado.
Shockley is an award-winning reporter and photojournalist whose work has appeared in numerous publications. Ortiz, an expert in design, stressed the importance of the publication’s layout of photographs and words on the page so that readers would have the whole story. Shockley and Ortiz spoke about the numerous photographs they must take in preparation for each issue.
Shockley explained that photographs are also stored for archival purposes.
“I feel the photos almost have more of a historical impact. We are documenting Ute culture,” he said.
Ortiz, an expert in graphic design, gave a presentation on how words and photographs on the page work together in sequences to tell stories. He spoke about graduating from high school with a scholarship to attend IAIA, but how his father wanted him to enlist in the service instead. Unable to follow his dream, Ortiz went to work to support a family and later graduated from another art institute. Coming back to IAIA was an emotional experience for Ortiz.
“Here I am driving to IAIA feeling like I had missed a chance to attend. But now I have the opportunity to come back and share my knowledge with students studying journalism. I have come full circle.”