The debut issue of Indian Country Magazine came out earlier this year. Image: Indian Country Today Media Network

Mary Annette Pember: Embracing a new role after death of Indian news source

Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember is among the many without a home following the demise of Indian Country Media Network (#RIP). As she reflects on the publication's impact, she's embracing a new role as mindimooyenh, an Ojibwe term for women who hold things together:
We reported like Indians, from the ground up. We spoke to the aunties, cousins, grandparents and kids who do the business of living in Indian communities. Jacqui Banaszynski, former Knight Chair in editing at the Missouri School of Journalism and fellow at the Poynter Institute, once described great journalists as wing walkers, those air-show barnstormers who wandered the edges of airplanes mid-flight. ICTMN editors urged us to walk way the hell out.

Although the outside world may define us by our social problems, topics such as sex trafficking, violence against women and suicide are off limits within many Indian communities. Openly discussing these problems is often seen as a form of community betrayal and can have painful repercussions for reporters and their families. As Amanda Takes War Bonnett, communications director for the Great Plains Women’s Society, has said, “The silence from Indian Country regarding sexual violence and other problems is deafening.” We took these difficult topics head on and, in the end, helped create a public space that emboldened Indian people to come forward from the shadow of fear and shame.

We challenged the mainstream press’s coverage of sexual violence epidemics and high rates of murdered and missing Native women. At ICTMN, we explained that these “epidemics” are sudden only in their acknowledgement by white folks. Violence—including instances of murder, sex trafficking, and domestic abuse against Native women—are ongoing issues that have been hundreds of years in the making. Suzette Brewer of the Cherokee Nation tirelessly reported on challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act for ICTMN. She shined a light on common state, county and federal social welfare practices that have historically stripped children away from Native communities with impunity and undermined tribal sovereignty in the process. ICTMN supported Jenni Monet of the Pueblo of Laguna as she reported tirelessly from the Water Protector camps near Standing Rock, and received the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award for her coverage.

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Country Today hiatus is a blow to nuanced coverage of indigenous peoples (Columbia Journalism Review September 6, 2017)

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