Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 1, 2019

Real Journalism: When the words flow like water

Marcos with Zapatistas in Sonora; Bolivian President Evo Morales in his home village; Lakota Debra White Plume giving the Lewis and Clark re-enactors a symbolic blanket of smallpox in South Dakota.
Photos by Brenda Norrell
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Thinking of the real journalism tonight, the vanishing journalism, and hoping it will not be forgotten.

What a joy it was to rush out to Sacaton when the first Indian Country Today opened its doors in Scottsdale. How wonderful it was to be on the land with the people at Big Mountain. This was journalism, listening to the people, and telling their stories the best way we could, always digging a little deeper for truth. 

Journalism meant being present, being present with the people. What a gift it was to be with the Zapatistas and climb into the mountains of the jungle with such great souls. Journalism meant being present in the communities and listening. 

For the photographers, it meant capturing those stories, those truths, in that one photo, or that series of photos. It was about rushing out, rushing in and living. 

When Lakota Tim Giago created Indian Country Today, he made it possible for real journalism to happen, boundless, unrestricted and uncensored. We did not drown ourselves in the hopeless distractions of U.S. politicians.

Today on the Internet, we see the substitutes for journalism -- the stay-at-home plagiarizers and re-writers whose goal it is to steal others hard work and deceive their readers. Still, others opt out of writing, and pick up a video camera, because writing is really hard work. 

But as a journalist, it doesn't get any better than being out there somewhere, with the people, listening to their stories, and then letting those words flow into a stream of words, a stream of stories, that stand the test of time.

One of the highlights of news in our lifetimes: Debra White Plume gifting the Lewis and Clark re-enactors a symbolic blanket of smallpox in Chamberlain,  South Dakota. Demanding the re-enactors go home were: Russell Means, Alex White Plume, Carter Camp, Vic Camp, Alfred Bone Shirt, and many more. At the time, the censorship at Indian Country Today, under new owners, was so prevalent that I did not send this coverage to them. Instead, I gave it to the U.N. International News and World Report at the Hague. Editor Paul Rafferty published it.

Sounds to remember: When Buffy Sainte Marie and John Trudell performed at Dine' College. Backstage, Buffy described being blacklisted out of the music business in the U.S. by U.S. Presidents Johnson and Reagan. Indian Country Today, under new owners, censored the article in 1999. Read it at Censored News.

The highlights of news in our lifetimes includes when the Mohawks came to the southern border and Tohono O'odham Nation in 2006 and 2007. Later, Ofelia Rivas, O'odham, exposed the spy towers now targeting her homeland, on Censored News.

There is no substitute for being present. I'm hoping young journalists find inspiration here, and refuse to compromise.

It is the same for water, there is no substitute for water.

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