Bringing Native American Stories to an American Audience: Neiman Reports

A recent article in the Neiman Reports critiques the current mass media coverage, or lack of coverage, of contemporary Native American stories. It was headlined: Bringing Native American Stories to a National Audience: Journalists must move past stereotypes to forge deeper connections with an underrepresented population, and includes an interview with Scott Gillespie, the Star Tribune’s Editorial Page Editor.

One reason Native issues get so little attention is that editors worry about retelling the same old story about poverty, alcohol, and drugs on reservations, [Gillespie says.] Many Native Americans, in turn, mistrust journalists, tired of the ‘poverty porn’ they say depicts the places in which they live as all but hopeless. The setting for these stories is often the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the nation’s poorest, where mortality, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, diabetes, and other problems are prevalent. “There’s the idea that you’re perpetuating that story line,” Gillespie says. “That isn’t helping anybody, and I think it might be one of the things keeping editors from saying, ‘Let’s go do it.’”

The story also chronicles police shootings of Native Americans, noting the following:

Police kill Native Americans at almost the same rate as African-Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 1999 and 2013, an average of .29 per 100,000 Native Americans were killed by police, compared to .3 per 100,000 for blacks and .11 per 100,000 for whites. “America should be aware of this,” argues Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer and a leader of the Lakota People’s Law Project, which runs a publicity campaign called Native Lives Matter. But for the most part, America is not aware of this.

The article goes on to list recent exceptions to the rule, highlighting important mass media reports on Indian Country, including a Star Tribune editorial series focusing on the poor conditions and underfunding of reservation schools. Click on the link above for the full article.

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