NAJA releases tips for covering Indian Country during holiday season
In 2014, the NAJA Committee for Responsible Journalism released a tip sheet for reporting on Indian Country during the holiday season. This year, the quick guide still aims to educate and inform coverage during Native American Heritage Month and beyond.
1) Cover the tribes in their respective areas by asking them how they celebrate the holiday, or if they choose not to celebrate it at all.
2) Write about indigenous food sources for Native Americans in your respective coverage areas. The Indigenous population helped the English settlers at Plymouth Rock survive and avoid famine, in part, by offering guidance and aid in the newcomers’ first harvest. While not a Thanksgiving story, a piece from Al Jazeera America offers a comprehensive look at traditional diets of Native peoples and issues surrounding health and food in Indian Country that journalists should read: http://alj.am/165Qcsf.
3) With so many Thanksgiving pageants and other activities taking place at schools this time of year, run a story on how educators should take caution when passing out fake headdresses and war paint to students. A strong story could include input from a tribal scholar or cultural leader in the region. The holiday also brings an opportunity for news outlets to discuss the beauty of traditional Native American clothing and art as well as Native contributions to the history of the United States.
4) When referencing Native Americans in Thanksgiving coverage, do not refer to them as figures from the past. One unfortunate case of this happening came in 2013 when The Reporter newspaper in Landsdale, Pa., published this headline: “Walton farms fifth graders bring Native American tribes to life.” (http://bit.ly/1aCyRrP). Tribes have living cultures that are vibrant and evolving today.
5) Remember that November is Native American Heritage Month and the day after Thanksgiving (this year Friday, Nov. 28) is national Native American Heritage Day. Both provide opportunities for coverage of the many achievements and contributions of Native Americans. Click here to read more about how tribes across the country are recognizing and celebrating in their communities: http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/.
6) Produce stories that avoid the mistruths that have formed and flourished over the years in stories about the “first Thanksgiving.” Oyate, a California-based educational and cultural organization, outlines some of the myths in this article: http://bit.ly/1cHXyT8.
7) Football season is in full swing this time of year and NAJA advises all media outlets to end the use of Native mascots and team names that are dictionary-defined racial slurs, as these terms are harmful to Native people. Read more about outlets who have chosen to provide coverage of teams with limited or no use of the offensive terms on NAJA’s Mascots and Media page: http://bit.ly/1vsVyvG.
As part of its mission, NAJA always encourages responsible, informed coverage of Native Americans. For more information about covering tribal communities, including questions of sovereignty, reservations and a tribal directory, NAJA’s resource guide, “100 Questions, 500 Nations,” is available for purchase for $10 at the online store: http://bit.ly/1ytP7WJ.