Photo courtesy First Nations Development Institute.
Reclaiming Native Truth, a Native-led two-year research project, aims to improve mainstream perceptions of Native Americans.

Project Launched to Change Public Opinion of Natives

Sheena Louise Roetman

A $2.5 million Native-led research project, announced this morning, will spend two years studying mainstream perception of Native Americans and developing long-term strategic campaigns to address the public’s misperceptions.

Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions is a joint project between the First Nations Development Institute and Echo Hawk Consulting, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“Native Americans and their communities are blocked from reaching their full potential by harmful stereotypes, misperceptions, and lack of awareness,” said Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), president and CEO of the First Nations Development Institute and co-director of Reclaiming Native Truth, in a press release Tuesday morning.

Leading the project will be a 20-person committee of some of Indian country’s most well-known and well-respected experts. More than half of the committee spots have been confirmed, including:

Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), president, American Indian College Fund

Ray Halbritter (Oneida), Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises

Jacqueline Pata (Tlingit), executive director, National Congress of American Indians

Sara Kastelic (Alutiiq), executive director, National Indian Child Welfare Association

Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee), scholar, writer, blogger, and activist

Judith LeBlanc (Caddo), director, Native Organizers Alliance

Denisa Livingston (Navajo), community health advocate, Diné Community Advocacy Alliance

Nichole Maher (Tlingit), board vice-chair, National Urban Indian Family Coalition, and president, Northwest Health Foundation

Erik Stegman (Assiniboine), executive director, Center for Native American Youth

Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock), editor of TrahantReports

Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), executive director, Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation

“Over the next two years, this project is focused on understanding the true extent of society’s negative and inaccurate perceptions of Native Americans and finding the best means of overcoming them,” said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), president and CEO of Echo Hawk Consulting and co-director of Reclaiming Native Truth.

Specific goals of the project include improving portrayal of Natives in media, ensuring Native participation in government, addressing grant-funding inequalities and including accurate Native history in public school history courses.

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