Hawkins: Urging Native voices joy for mentor
The answers were the same each time that two students at this year’s Crazy Horse Journalism Workshop asked why I feel the workshop is important.
As potential future journalists, both students forgot to say which particular stories they were working on as part of their assignments for the Native Journal, the publication that students produce during the workshop.
For many of the students, the workshop, held annually at Crazy Horse Memorial, offers their first introduction to journalism. And learning to ask questions, get names and titles correct, take notes, organize information and perform the other fundamentals of journalism indeed can be overwhelming.
So, I just listened to the students as they practiced interviewing skills and figured that I’d find out which stories they were doing after the Journal was published.
After all, there was a prime opportunity to encourage a couple of students one-on-one while answering their questions.
So I mentioned the framed poster of Bob Maynard that hangs above my desk, and I told them that even as a little girl I wanted to become a journalist, but that I did not know of a single journalist in my community.
And I spoke of how, as a little girl, I was rather unsure of whether many black people ever became journalists. But that I would read, published in the Omaha World-Herald, the syndicated column written by Maynard, a black man who was editor and owner of the Oakland Tribune. And that Maynard’s column singlehandedly inspired me throughout my growing-up years. It inspired me to a point where I began believing that even if there were only a few black journalists in this country, I could be one of them.
And I said that having that experience helps me understand why the Crazy Horse workshop, which connects Native American high school students with Native American and other journalists, is important.
I told them it’s critical they, as Native American youth, at least be exposed to journalism as a career.
That’s because without them, the stories that the nation’s newsrooms tell are skewed. The conversations communities have about all sorts of issues – from politics and health care to education and religion – must include Native American perspectives; otherwise, those conversations far too often have holes.
And that’s because anyone could pick any of these issues, and Native American perspectives about those topics already go largely unspoken about them. And as that happens, entire communities lose.
It would be difficult to find a more poignant example of that than the presence of Crazy Horse Memorial and its juxtaposition with Mount Rushmore.
Incomplete stories lead to incomplete understanding of ourselves, our communities and the conclusions about the topics and events we face.
Journalism as an industry – along with the communities the industry serves – needs people who help fill in the blanks.
One student used an iPad to record her notes during the interview and seemed to keep pace – and understand. The other student used a traditional reporter’s notebook and said “cool” at the end.
Later, the Journal did publish – in print and online. In all, 37 high school students from around the country filled its pages and website with content that confirmed the staff’s suspicions: Native voices are powerful and deserve to be heard.
I hope that someday there are answers to other questions posed as the workshop began.
In an introductory address, South Dakota’s first secretary of tribal relations, J.R. LaPlante, looked at the students and asked them to consider how the story of the Battle of the Little Bighorn or the story of Wounded Knee or even the naming of historic locations would be different if Native voices would have told them.
Today, no one really knows.
But we should.
Reach Yvonne Hawkins, Senior Editor for Community Conversation, at 331-2326 or firstname.lastname@example.org.