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Disinformation is a Threat to Tribal Sovereignty

By Kyler Edsitty

Tim Kendell, former director of Facebook’s monetization, said during his interview for “The Social Dilemma,” a movie about polarizing algorithms, that disinformation could lead to unabated civil unrest. In an interview for the Verified News Network, Jason Salsman, Muscogee Nation press secretary, said misinformation and disinformation “can be very dangerous if the wrong things are getting out there.” False information, he said, “is a threat to tribal sovereignty.”

“The effects of disinformation, misinformation, mal-information, and no information can have drastic consequences. We see racialized violence against Asians due to false information surrounding COVID-19, and Standing Rock is a case study of what can go wrong when misinformation and disinformation are at play,” states Native Public Media President and CEO Loris Taylor.

From disinformation, climate change, to COVID-19, the Native American Journalism Association (NAJA) covered many topics concerning Indigenous journalism during the 2022 National Native Media Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona.

Taylor joined Axios Race and Justice Reporter Russel Contreras and Center for Public Integrity CEO Paul Cheung to describe how Indigenous communities are susceptible to disinformation concerning issues like COVID -19, vaccines, and elections on social media. The panel presented the problems of disinformation, misinformation, and tactics to combat them.

“A healthy information ecosystem is essential to community vitality. Informed communities can effectively coordinate activities, achieve public accountability, solve problems, and create connections,” Taylor said. “Local systems support widespread participation in our information ecology within Tribal communities. Citizens and journalists, who seek truth and accountability, play a vital role in our information ecology and need to be supported by Indian Country’s leadership.”

“I think every tribe has issues that they must deal with. These tribes may be rural with small radio stations and newspapers. It is easy to get overwhelmed,” said Darren Brown, NPM’s Station Advisory Committee Secretary, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Television (CATV) Senior Producer. Located in Concho, Oklahoma, CATV is the first Native American TV station in Oklahoma. They aim to preserve the Cheyenne and Arapaho culture and language by providing Indigenous television programming and community and tribal news.

“Sadly, disinformation has been ingrained into Tribal history for centuries. We can combat this information disease by having a strong moral compass, endorsing a free press, and supporting local institutions that uphold integrity and public accountability. We must invest in the education of our youth that emphasizes respect, truthfulness, inclusion, diversity, and other local values so that our information ecology is strong and vibrant,” concludes Taylor.


Founded in 1983, NAJA is the first Native press organization created to address issues affecting Indigenous journalists and media. Held in Phoenix, Arizona, the 2022 conference sessions addressed many issues within Indian Country and how to report on them, including Covid-19 and climate change.


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