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Native journalist shares challenges and rewards of telling indigenous stories

Native journalist shares challenges and rewards of telling indigenous stories

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"You can't tell the American story without the indigenous story," says Jenni Monet. But as a Native journalist, she also knows just how hard that task can be.

Monet (English, '11) shared some of her insights and experiences with students and staff when she visited campus in September. Monet is a member of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo, and is an award-winning investigative reporter for news outlets including the Center for Investigative Reporting, PBS NewsHour, and Al Jazeera. She also earned her master's in International Politics with a concentration in Indigenous Human Rights Policy from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

"The 'Four Ds' have poisoned the indigenous narrative: drumming, dancing, drunk, or dead Indians," she told her audience in the Student Union. "But we are not a monolith. We come from different nations, and from all over the world."

"Too often news from Indian Country is told as romanticized culture, events, or even romanticized cyclical poverty," Monet added. "That's why bringing an indigenous perspective to traditional Western journalism is especially important today."

Monet saw this first hand when she was covering the protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. "The story at the beginning was images of tipis over the prairie and the uniqueness of the camp kitchen," she said.

The real primary issue, though, was whether the government and corporations consulted appropriately with the tribes, as they're legally obligated to do. "But this very important, central concept was being trivialized," she said. "Standing Rock was more than a century in the making. It is about centuries of historical trauma and collective healing for people who have faced a lot of violence."

Monet credits her experiences while at FLC with giving her practice at learning "how to braid those narratives together." A combination of learning about the colonial American timeline and indigenous studies classes, as well as an internship with Albuquerque-based KREZ-TV that was her entry point into mainstream journalism, "became the pillars of my work," she said.

"I learned that it's hard to explain stories from Indian Country. But that was some of the best education I could've had for what I'm doing today," she concluded. "Today I do my journalism with a very Indigenous sense of place and time, but I still want it accepted as journalism. I want to elevate people's understanding of what's going on."

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