My newest piece for Fusion: Appropriating Native American Imagery Honors No One but the Prejudice

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Artwork courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz of Pocho.com

 

I was a sophomore in high school, about 15 years old, when a rather hostile group of cheerleaders and football players cornered me, yelling, as I sat on a bench in the quad between classes. “Don’t you have school pride?” a cheerleader shouted. “You should feel proud! We’re honoring your people!” one football player hollered.

I was the only Native American (as far as I knew) at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California. Irvine is a planned city in Southern California and one of the safest cities in the United States, but I didn’t feel safe that day.

I had met one-on-one with the principal, my guidance counsellor, a few teachers and several students to share my negative feelings toward our school’s mascot – an anonymous Native American “warrior” with long, flowing, jet-black hair, a large nose and huge muscles. I guess I thought if I made it known that I felt appropriating Native American imagery was offensive, they’d stop. I was outnumbered, though, and my personal feelings didn’t matter. But that’s the thing: As Native people, especially as urban Natives (what we Indigenous people living in urban centers call ourselves), we are almost always outnumbered. So, we go unnoticed and unheard. Our opinions never really matter.

Students wore goofy, cartoonish costumes of our mascot (and his equally tasteless “warrior princess” girlfriend) at pep rallies and games. The pair would dance and do occasional acrobatic moves, as they made their grand entrance to the deafening sounds of the school’s marching band, playing the quintessential Hollywood fight song that, for me at least, conjures up images of a scene from an old Western movie: “savage” Indians on horseback approaching a village of settlers…Uh-oh, there must be trouble.

…To read more, please visit: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/ABC_Univision/native-american-imagery-appropriation-redskins-disrespectful/story?id=20286034

Please follow Fusion @ThisisFusion & follow me @AmyStretten

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Aboriginal DJ Group “A Tribe Called Red” Drops Their Debut Album…and it’s FREE!

Photo courtesy of Exclaim.ca

Ottawa-based Aboriginal DJ group, A Tribe Called Red, released their debut alum for FREE today!  The best way I can describe their sound is a modern, electronic remix of traditional Native pow wow drumming and singing.  Whatever you want to call it, you can’t deny how incredibly awesome and talented these guys are.  Some of my favorite tracks include: “Native Puppy Love,” “Woodcarver,” “Red Skin Girl,” and “Look At This.”  All the tracks are good, though.  But, don’t take my word for it, go check it out for yourself!  Download the album here…and be sure to spread the word!

Here’s a piece I did about A Tribe Called Red’s music and their “Electric Pow Wow” while visiting Toronto last year for ImagineNative.  Enjoy!

-NativeJournalist

Wab Kinew’s “Surviving the Survivor” for CBC News

I just stumbled upon another great piece of journalistic work by Wab Kinew for CBC News. I’m a huge fan of Kinew’s work and I hope to collaborate with him one day (soon). I’m sure I could learn a great deal from him.

Take a look at this video. Though our experiences in the US aren’t identical to what Canadian Aboriginals faced, there still are many similarities. Can you or your family relate to anything you saw here? Please feel free to share your story.

-NativeJournalist

Good News and Updates!

The semester is finally drawing to a close, which means I am 2/3 of the way done with grad school!  This final week of classes will either make or break me, as I have a tremendous amount of work to complete before the Summer begins.

However, I have great news!  I recently found out that I am one of eight winners of the UNITY: Journalists of Color / United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2011 Global Reporting Fellowship!  Here is some information about this amazing opportunity:

UNITY: Journalists of Color is teaming up with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to offer unique international reporting opportunities to young journalists from its alliance partners.

The June 8-10 UN High-Level meeting on AIDS will be among the most important to take place in recent years around AIDS issues where world leaders will take stock of global response after 30 years and remember the human toll of the epidemic – the 25 million people who have died of AIDS. The leaders also will renew commitments and agree on innovative strategies to achieve a world free of HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths and stigma of discrimination.

The meeting will feature speeches by global leaders, including the Secretary General, presidents and royalty. There will also be performances by popular musicians.

The gathering presents an excellent opportunity for young journalists interested in honing their skills in international affairs, especially at a time when many news organizations in the United States are reducing international reporting.

UNITY will bring two young journalists from each partner organization to the United Nations from June 6 – 11 to report on the High Level meeting. They will be joined by four young journalists from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The journalists will work collaboratively to produce print, online and broadcast reports during the meeting under the guidance of professional journalists from alliance partners and the Inter Press Service, the developing world’s leading provider of information on global issues.

I am so excited to begin this amazing experience and can’t wait to meet the other participants, mentors, and diplomats!

In other news, I am also thrilled to announce that I will be interning at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in Winnipeg, Canada this summer!  I was fortunate to receive internship offers at two other U.S. news organizations that were incredibly hard to turn down.  (Seriously though, you have no idea!)  But, I am the “Native Journalist” and aside from choosing the international reporting concentration at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism (which means I am required to intern at a news organization outside of the U.S.), I also feel like this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see what life is like for our Indigenous brothers and sisters up north. I am really excited to be working beside seasoned professionals who have dedicated their careers to telling under-reported stories for and about Native people.

Another reason for choosing to spend the summer at APTN in Winnipeg is to begin working on my capstone project.  At CUNY we are required to complete a major print/multi-media/broadcast/etc. project (like a thesis) in our final semester (in addition to the work required for our four classes).  So, to lighten my load and allow for a possible Fall internship (at the anonymous “dream” news organization I turned down), I thought it would be a great idea to start shooting this summer!

The idea for this project came from an interview I conducted with Tonya Gonnella Frichner about her work with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  In the interview she mentioned the high number of Aboriginal women and girls who have been murdered and gone missing from all parts of Indian Country.  Specifically, how sex trafficking is hurting the Indigenous community in Canada.

Since this conversation, I have done a great deal of research into this issue and would like to make this my focus of my capstone.  The other day I came across the below video.  I would like to do something in a similar vein.  Check it out.  It’s hard to watch, but it is my hope that creating a piece like this will call attention to this important issue.

-NativeJournalist