As a Native woman who does a lot of work in media and art, November can be a very busy month for me. Besides it being a traditionally active time in my Native cultures for gathering, this is the month non-Native people tend to request a lot from us as far as education and visibility. While I encourage any authentic visibility for Native people, too often I find myself repeating the same information year after year to the same questions, and an enormous burden is placed on people who are already under-resourced.
This year (and any) I would challenge both those who don’t know much about Alaska Native and American Indian people and groups, all the way through those who know quite a bit, to challenge themselves to learn more through means that are already available. My hope is that the growth people find in this leads them to be true allies for Native people – but it has to start with educating yourself.
There’s one “starter” challenge for each day, as well as a “next step” if you already do that initial challenge. This is for everybody – non-Native and Native alike – who would like to know more and do more on Native issues, culture, and advocacy.
The first week is to set yourself up on a foundation to be more consistently intaking more information from the source – from Native people themselves.
Look up/research whose Indigenous lands you are on and see if the group has an online presence managed themselves (not managed by someone from outside that Indigenous group.) If they do, start getting to know whose land you are on from them. If you don’t see an online presence (including social media accounts) from that group, try to find books written by people from within that Indigenous group and check them out or purchase them.
Native Land is one useful tool in starting to discover whose land you occupy in North America. Tools like these are still fallible, however, and you should always double check.
NEXT STEPS: If you were already familiar with the larger group whose land you occupy, see if you can get more specific – what clan lives or lived here? What family group? Tribe? Get familiar with the language that group uses for themselves (some prefer tribe, some don’t use it for themselves, for instance.)
Find an Indigenous-run media outlet and start subscribing or following them. Whatever your preferred kind of media consumption – newspapers, magazines, television, podcasts, social media – there are Indigenous-run (and owned!) outlets.
A few I like:
Indian Country Today – Online digital news platform, including a social media presence, video
Native Voice One – Native radio network, including a great app you can listen to shows on demand
First Alaskans Magazine – A quarterly magazine on Alaska Native people, culture, and issues. (My #noshame disclaimer – I edit this magazine. And check back for a new link – we’re releasing our first online issue later this month!)
NEXT STEPS: If you already follow Native media outlets, find individual reporters and contributors to follow on social media and/or read their work. Try to find some Native reporters from different regions so you are getting a fuller picture of the expansiveness of Native news.
Look up ONE Native policy or political issue that Native people in your community or region are talking about. Read up on what they are saying, including differing sides within the Indigenous communities. Try to get a better understanding of what the issue is, and why Native communities care about it.
If the individual group and media sites you’re now following don’t spark an issue for you, here are a few groups that specialize in Native law:
If you already are familiar with various Native issues, take the next step of advocating for an issue to elected representatives, or to other voters. An email, a phone call, a tagged social media post – these can all be ways to capture the attention of elected officials and voters.
Find some Native-made visual art you like! There are thousands of accounts online, highlights, photos. Simply find an artist or art you like and start following their social media channels, subscribe to their page, and read up more about them/the art. Make sure it is made by a Native person and not appropriated.
And then SHARE AWAY! Letting people know about a Native artist or art you like is a great way to support the Native community.
NEXT STEPS: Buy it. Support Native artists by purchasing their work. Some sell stickers for as low as $2, so buy what your budget can allow, and what you will enjoy. With the holiday season upon us, Native art make for great gifts.
Find an online event being thrown this week led by Native people or organizations. I guarantee there are dozens of them. Start with something close to your community or region, but there may also be events that touch a topic you’re interested in (I know there are Native theatre events, movie talks, dance group sharing, book talks, policy talks – so much! – this month.)
NEXT STEPS: If you were already planning on attending an online event you know about, dig a little deeper into who is holding that event. Research that organization, start following the social media channels of some of the participants, dig into whatever topic they will be covering.
Find a book by a Native author. This may be a detailed textbook, this may be a graphic novel or comic, a sci-fi novel or a horror story. There are so many brilliant Native authors! Start becoming familiar with them and purchasing or borrowing their work. You don’t need to finish the book this month – go at your own pace. Just start getting familiar with a new perspective of a world hosted by Native people.
NEXT STEPS: If you already have quite a few Native-authored books, challenge yourself in a genre you don’t usually go to, or an author you haven’t heard of. Pick up that behemoth of a Native history book or find out why people like graphic novels!
Watch a movie or TV show written, directed, and/or produced by Native people. This can seem hard to find, as we are inundated with movies and shows that portray Native people, but Native people leading their own narrative is unfortunately more rare. But there are plenty of amazing movies and shows out there!
Here are a few lists to get you started:
NEXT STEPS: If you already have a library of Native-made films and shows, start taking a look at the media that’s out there about Native people and examine it. Watch Reel Injun, a great documentary about how Native people have been portrayed through film (available on Amazon at the time of this posting.) Re-watch some non-Native-made movies about Native people and examine it through a different lens. Ask what this movie or show says to people about Native people.
I’ll be posting weeks two through four here as the weeks happen!
Design in photo is a piece by Tlingit artist Don Starbard.