Brandon Ecoffey: Native Sun News is a forum for Native writers

The following editorial by Brandon Ecoffey appears in the latest issue of the Native Sun News. All content © Native Sun News.

Native Sun News is a forum for Native American writers
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

Throughout history Native people have been forced to endure the misappropriation of essentially every aspect of our culture and life by mainstream America.

Each day we are denied a basic human right granted to every other group of people in the country, the right to dictate our own image in the media. Professional sports teams like the Washington “R-words” and the Cleveland Indians have for years promoted imagery of Native people that portray us as extinct beings ripe for ridicule, mockery, and unworthy of much needed federal funding.

Our religions are dimed out at weekend retreats hosted by spiritual gurus and Native American cultural “experts,” who if asked couldn’t define what a CDIB number is, much less produce one of their own. In pop culture we have artists like Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani employing their own pet Natives to help justify the objectification of our women and their own self-proclaimed right to continue the socially accepted practice of misappropriating Native American culture.

When I stepped in to the position of Managing Editor of Native Sun News, I promised myself that I would do my best to allow for tribal members from across the country to be the ones telling our stories. For those of us who have grown up on reservations, we know that our peoples have both the know-how and intelligence necessary to articulate a truly authentic Indigenous perspective.

During my short time at NSN, I have made it a point to tap into my own personal network of professionals in an attempt to both promote the voices of some of the foremost emerging minds in Indian country, and to show the naïve mainstream population the level of intellectual sophistication possessed by Native people. Tim Giago gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams as I saw fit and promoting the talents of our homegrown voices was one of many that I have.

As often as possible I reach out to people like Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation and founder of the fashion blog and online boutique Beyond Buckskin; Chase Iron Eyes, a Dakota and founder of the social media site Last Real Indians; Joe Brings Plenty, a Lakota and former president of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; and Ryan Wilson, an Oglala Lakota educator who is in my opinion one of the smartest people in all of Indian country.

There are countless others and the above list is but a small sampling of what exists in Native America. These members of our Indigenous nations are best fit to show the world who we are. We are living cultural, intellectual, and spiritual beings.

Promoting these voices, however, is pointless when non-Native owned news outlets like the Rapid City Journal, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, USA Today, and The New York Times prey off of the work done by Native scholars, writers, and journalists without giving them credit. At one point in time, it was considered a common practice to cite the original source of a story, but when it comes to the work done by Native people, the old adage of, “Who cares? They’re only Indians,” comes in to play. This practice is at its core covertly racist and in the case of some papers like those in the northern plains overtly racist.

Most recently, the story on the sale of Wounded Knee has gone global and has been run by news networks from around the world. Not a single domestic newspaper has given credit to Native Sun News for discovering, breaking, and providing continued coverage on the latest developments on the sale.

Not surprisingly, I have seen the intellectual property and stories produced on Last Real Indians stolen by newspapers in North Dakota as well. Now I am sure if you asked Mr. Iron Eyes, he would tell you that he doesn’t care who gets the credit as long as the story gets out; however, when these media outlets are essentially taking meals off of our community members’ tables and dollars out of their pockets, they must be chastised by those of us with access to a speaker box.

The further irony is that papers like the Rapid City Journal have a history of and continue to promote imagery of Native people that depicts us as inarticulate, crime committing castoffs, and maybe some of us are. But they cannot have it both ways. If you are going to blast us on the front page for our transgressions, then at least have the courtesy to give us the credit we are due for the good work we have and will continue to produce.

Brandon is a lifelong resident of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux tribe. He earned his education at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH where he studied Native American Studies and Government. Brandon is currently the Managing Editor of Native Sun News weekly and a contributor to LastRealIndians.com and can be reached at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com

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