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Bending the Arc

CHANDLER, AZ – Over 60 broadcasters serving Indian Country convened on the Gila River Indian Community for the 2018 Native Broadcast Summit. Many agree that celebrating the contributions of Native broadcasters and First Amendment protectors over the past 40 years means building on that foundation for the next forty years and amplifying the positive narratives of strong, proud, and resilient Native Americans.

"Stories connect, connection creates a sense of belonging, belonging motivates developing a sense of purpose, purpose builds meaning, and finding meaning is why we are here," was emphasized by Sally Kane, CEO of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in her keynote address. Kane added that together, broadcasters and media makers can bend the arc.

“Narratives must have the structural support to succeed,” states Loris Taylor, President & CEO of Native Public Media. “Media access, control, and ownership is made possible when we have policies in place that are supportive, when we have the training and education necessary to build strong and robust networks, when we build pipelines for our youth into the field of communications at a very early age, when we have streams of revenue to fund various media platforms, and when we continue to empower ourselves in the exercise of achieving our own media destiny using our own authentic voices.”

Collaborating on Solutions Journalism in Indian Country was one session that emphasized the need for stories from Indian Country to focus on uncovering solutions to systemic and community challenges on a positive note. One participant noted that “most stories focus only on the challenges of tribal communities, generalize problems like alcoholism across entire populations, and are overall a negative narrative of Native Americans that perpetuate existing myths and stereotypes.”

Native stations have instituted a variety of ways to engage their audiences, understanding that narratives require trust and a relationship with community members. Staff of KWLP, the voice of the Hualapai Nation located in Peach Spring Arizona, presented ways low-cost technology can help stations to be more present in their communities without breaking the budget. The “Let’s Stay Together” session provided information about on-line tools that could enhance communication internally at stations and externally with partners and collaborators that will improve station operations and community engagement.

In the past few years, the Federal Communications Commission’s Tribal Priority has given rise to a handful of commercial stations among Native Americans. Most stations in the Native broadcast network are non-commercial. The opportunity for non-commercial educational stations to learn from commercial stations and vice versa, was the focus of the session entitled “Tales from the Dark (Commercial) Side.” In Indian Country, audiences don’t see a great deal of difference between tribally licensed commercial or non-commercial stations. Native commercial stations have become hybrid stations, combining the financing aspects of a commercial enterprise with the mission and focus of non-com stations. All the stations agree, they exist to serve their people and communities.

Bringing it all together, the Summit ended with the comments of Stephen Roe Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community, regarding the critical role stations play in the exercise of tribal sovereignty, First Amendment rights, and in the preservation of tribes’ cultural heritage.

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