Published January 24, 2019
NORMAN, Okla. — The Native American Journalists Association has partnered with the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources to improve the accuracy, depth and perspective of natural resources reporting across Indian Country. The partnership will facilitate the inclusion of Indigenous voices and viewpoints in IJNR reporting institutes.
IJNR helps improve coverage of natural resource issues by taking professional journalists on multi-day, expenses-paid, immersive field trips to locations throughout North America. The institute employs an experiential learning model that gives journalists an opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of the environment, economic and cultural landscapes underlying sometimes contentious natural resource issues.
Dave Spratt, the CEO of IJNR, has been instrumental in developing the partnership and sees a benefit to both organizations.
“Too often, coverage of natural resource and environment issues has overlooked stakeholders hiding in plain view, especially Indigenous communities,” he said. “It is critically important to include these voices if we as a society want to fully understand our diverse and complex relationships with natural resources. This partnership will offer Native journalists additional tools and resources for reporting on the environment and bring important perspective to that coverage.”
Indian Country is replete with natural resources and environmental issues that profoundly affect Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and First Nations communities. These issues are often compounded by complex jurisdictional, cultural and industrial factors that can inhibit clear and informative reporting necessary for Indigenous communities to understand and engage with these critical stories. IJNR is dedicated to unraveling and deciphering these complexities to improve reporting, and the inclusion of an Indigenous perspective is essential.
“Our partnership with the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources will lead to more opportunities for NAJA members, better coverage of Indigenous communities, and provide a blueprint for future collaborations with organizations that actively support inclusive, accurate journalism,” NAJA President Tristan Ahtone said. “Context matters, as do Indigenous worldviews, and we are excited to be working with IJNR.”
The first product of the partnership will occur on April 24 when IJNR hosts the Lower Mississippi River Institute. IJNR will lead a group of journalists from across the country on a weeklong expedition down the Lower Mississippi to get a first-hand look at some of the stories along its shores. The institute will travel from St. Louis to New Orleans and explore several topics including a new plan to divert some of the river’s flow so it can help rebuild the Louisiana coastline. Learn more and apply for the Lower Mississippi River Institute here.
The Chitimacha Tribe will participate in the institute and contribute their perspective as a community still inhabiting a portion of their ancestral lands, and their efforts to restore the marsh that has sustained their people and culture for centuries. The tribe’s lands once encompassed the entire Atchafalaya Basin, lands west to Lafayette, La., south to the Gulf of Mexico and east to New Orleans. The Chitimacha currently maintain a reservation near the town of Charenton, La.
Later this year, NAJA and IJNR will collaborate for a one-day, intensive natural resources workshop and training session as part of the co-located National Native Media Conference and Native American Nutrition Conference , hosted by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Communityin Prior Lake, Minnesota. This workshop will take conference attendees on a regional tour of sites for a deep dive into natural resources and environmental reporting best practices. Participation in this workshop will be limited, and registration information will be posted soon on najanewsroom.com.
UPDATED: This story was updated on Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. – EST.