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Protecting #NetNeutrality for the Advancement of Indian Country Justice Movements

GRESHAM, WI – Community mobilizers from across Indian Country were welcomed to the homelands of the Menominee Nation for the seventh Native Community Organizing training hosted by Native Organizers Alliance and Menikanaehkem on September 10 to 15, 2018.

Native Public Media’s Elyse Dempsey joined over 30 Tribal changemakers representing more than 15 non-profit and grassroots organizations for a week-long dialogue focused on organizing using traditional Tribal knowledge to build capacity for transformative change.

The history of Tribal organizing, mindfulness, and traditional organizing practices were presented as tools to create empowered and revitalizing spaces for Native social movements and organizing, or as Judith LeBlanc, Director of Native Organizers Alliance would say, placing “all the moccasins on the ground.”

Native Public Media, serving terrestrial radio and television broadcasting stations throughout Indian Country, highlighted the role that media and policy plays in community organizing, like the current movement to save Net Neutrality, or a movement to protect free expression and equal access to the Internet. Broadcast spectrum reserved for broadcasting has made it possible for Tribes, nonprofits, grassroots and religious organizations to have a voice on radio, television, and the Internet.

“Movements in Indian Country are unique because of the inter- and intra-Tribal relationships and kinship that can unite Nations across issues. The training offered space for changemakers from different movements to analyze and strategize using ancestral knowledge that can advance health and wellness for Tribal communities and our sovereignty,” explains Dempsey, Native Public Media’s Program staff.

One of Native Public Media’s Policy initiatives concerns Net Neutrality. According to Dempsey, Internet protections are critical to the inherent right of Tribal citizens to exercise free speech. Without Net Neutrality, commercial interests control the Internet and consumers are entitled only to as much free speech as they can afford.

“Media and the freedom to access media is critical to local movements as it has the power to connect Tribal Nations and grow awareness around a variety of issues impacting communities. Resources like broadcasting stations combined with a free and open Internet, allows all citizens equal access to the sharing of important information crucial to digitally supported movements,” concludes Dempsey.

The training was graced by the honored presence and teachings of Menominee elder and activist Ada Deer, and Native Hawaiian Zen teacher and strategy practitioner Norma Wong, who both shared valuable examples from their own life’s work in Native social justice movements for sovereignty.

Native Organizers Alliance is a training and organizing network dedicated to building the capacity of Native tribes, traditional societies and community groups to make transformational change.

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