Native Journalism Benefits Us All

Ray Cook

Writer’s block, oy, what a flu that is to have. Last year, I believe I did not write, and if I did it was of no consequence. However, there were a great many thinkers that did write and contributed to the ICTMN Op/Ed pages. Why? Because we have impact where it counts. Our readership crosses many lines, and many barriers.

Every one of our writers are either civilians or players in NDN politics and social issues. The Natives and the non-Natives that you read in the Opinion section are either civilians or players in NDN politics and social issues. But non-Native isn’t the right term; I consider the non-Natives who I work with daily as Indigenous Identified. Meaning these people share the same ideals and hopes as Native people do. I have no problems with turning to our Indigenous Identified allies for a point of view, or answers.

In the Op/Ed section we look for rational thoughts and verifiable observations on the issues that face us, from peoples and individuals that have lived or devoted some part of their life to them, no matter how small to the issue at hand.

As editor of the Opinion pages, I have a paradigm through which I view the world. Being raised by Mohawk Nationalist parents, and after cutting my teeth at Akwesasne Notes and a few other ground-breaking publications, this section’s goal is to promote, incubate and broadcast thoughts on how the world works and how we as a people can contribute to the battle of winning us a voice in the forums that affect our way of life. In the aggregate, what our contributors are promoting is Nation rebuilding.

The Op/Ed goal is to foster a productive message that leads to our break from the Colonial paradigm. Our record over the last five years has shown this new direction. As a result we have fostered and helped hone our best thinkers in conveying that message, be they Native or Indigenous Identified. New to journalism, or old crusty battle hardened fighters, like Suzan Harjo, Mike Myers, Peter d’Errico, Steve Newcomb and many, many more.

I am now calling out to the visionaries and doers in NDN country to invite you clear thinkers to help us change the paradigm through which our Peoples see the world, to feel best comfortable with sharing their thoughts and opinions and earnest debate.

Is the Op/Ed page the place for personal attacks and misdirected rants? No, never. Our editorial staff is predominantly Native. And why not? We are owned, after all, by a righteous Indigenous nation. The Nation and most of our paid reporters and columnists are nationalists at heart and so am I.

There are 3 levels of contributors to our Op/Ed page. There are the paid stable of thinkers, older pros who have been participating or following our many Native issues. There are contributors who have to sink a lot of research time into their Opinion, Editorial or Commentary. They get a fee if one is negotiated under conditions (one of those conditions is that they are respected in their field and have maintained good relationships within NDN Country). Finally, there are freelancers who from time to time I can call on to produce a thought or dialogue at a moments notice.

All of that is for the benefit of the issues NDN country or a Nation deems of national importance and/or local impact.

There is a place for vendettas and gutter rumors and slander. It’s called the Blogosphere, or Twitterverse and Facebook rants. Many, though not most, think those are legitimate worlds to practice journalism. A journalism where there are not rules of conduct or journalism law.

We are not that kind of place. We undertook this project called Indian Country Today Media Network because of the values, reality and hope of a better world for Natives expressed by the Clan Mothers and Men’s Council (sometimes mistakingly called a Chiefs council, no such thing exists in Iroquoia) of the Oneida Nation of New York. I have a 37-year history of Native media production and never have I seen this level of support from any tribe. I am proud, as a Mohawk, to be in the service of the Oneida Nation, a Nation that has crawled out of the muck of the colonial society around them that would rather see them extinct than alive and prospering.

Lucky for Native journalism that this nation, among others, thrives, with leaders who can wrap their head around the importance of our people to speak to a larger world. A world of influence that can and has benefitted us all at one time or another.

Ray Cook is ICTMN’s Opinions Editor.

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