When I was contacted about the Indigenous affairs reporter position at Crosscut, I knew right away that this role was meant for me and that my grandfather and our ancestors had played a role in sending this opportunity my way. My grandfather was a Little Shell Chippewa tribal member and so is my mom. I have witnessed and understand the impact that stereotypes, one-dimensional reporting and dangerous biases can have on the spirit. I saw how it weighed on my own grandfather’s self-image.
As a young person, he would tell people he was Italian in an attempt to sidestep the discrimination he dealt with in Montana. He was the most beautiful Ojibwe man, so passing for Italian didn’t work too well. He was a man torn between two worlds. Colonization and white supremacist systems of power and oppression have impacted me, my community and my relations so reporting from the perspective of those who have been systematically excluded has always been incredibly important to me. Receiving and accepting wisdom from those most impacted, amplifying their voices while standing alongside and, when fitting, behind them, are fundamental to this work.
Little Shell history is my history, literally or spiritually. Boarding schools, child removal by Child Protective Services, survival techniques by elders who kept our traditions from being passed down — all have impacted my life and whom I have become.
As a journalist, Ojibwe descendent and first language learner, I can appreciate the privilege of sharing Indigenous stories. Our stories are how many traditions were preserved, and how we continue to connect with our culture, language, families and ancestors.
There are similarities among some tribes, in language and through kinship, but tribal cultures are dynamic and diverse. Indigneous customs, traditions and tribal identities are complex and unique. As a journalist, I have always strived to identify, support and uplift the voices of the systematically excluded. Adequately reporting on the varying intersections of Indigeneity and uplifting Indigenous voices are important and powerful tools against white supremacy culture.
In this role, I will continue this work by centering the experiences, voices and work of Indigenous people with cultural sensitivity and respect. I will strive to shift past narratives through watchdog journalism that exposes injustices against tribes and within them and holds oppressive people and systems accountable.
This won’t be an easy task. Many communities have an understandable distrust of journalists because of historically exploitative reporting of Indigenous peoples and others. My hope is that in building trusting, supportive relationships, I can be of service to our local Indigenous communities through reporting that challenges dangerous narratives like ones that made my grandfather feel like he had to hide who he was for safety and survival.
I want to hear from you — both urban and rural Indigenous people, from both federally recognized and unrecognized tribes all over Washington state. Is there anything you would like to share or would like to see coverage about? Please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come say hello on Twitter at @LunaBReyna.