Clara Caufield: A Cheyenne Voice celebrates another milestone

The following is the opinion of Clara Caufield. All content © Native Sun News.

Clara Caufield. Photo from Native News Project / University of Montana School of Journalism

A Cheyenne Voice makes it to its 4th birthday
By Clara Caufield
A Cheyenne Voice

On August 10th, A Cheyenne Voice celebrated a birthday—beginning its 4th year. Parents are always amazed at how fast the years fly with children and that is no exception with my “baby.”

I remember the birthdate: August 10th, 2010 very clearly—filled with excitement and a little dread about launching a local newspaper to serve the Reservation, our non-Indian neighbors and friends and off-reservation Cheyenne (many tribal members are forced to live off reservation for economic opportunity). As readers might recall, the first issue showed on the streets of Lame Deer, a double sided copy, folded and free offering. I won’t forget wrestling with the copy machine to produce the first issue: “How do you make double sided copies?”

I started a newspaper knowing nothing about newspapers or journalism. If I had known what it would entail, I would not have done it. Bone-headed me- just following a life-time philosophy “How hard can that be?” Yet, our people deserved more than rumor and gossip and to be uplifted. It is so easy on the Rez to get caught up in the negative.

Since then, it has been a sharp and ongoing learning curve. We progressed to a professionally printed “half-tab” paper produced by the Miles City Star, then selling the paper to cover those costs- at first .50 cents; then .75 cents and now one buck, though the elders still get it at a reduced rate.

For the first three years, the paper was weekly but weary of that grind, then every two weeks. Now, it has nearly outgrown a half-size paper and in the near future will graduate to full-size paper. Gadzooks! Who would have thunk it?

The first front page story announced “It’s time for a little good news.” Overall, that has been our theme, though from time to time we’ve been drug into politics. “Didn’t start it, but went there for self- preservation.”

Still, A Cheyenne Voice continues to celebrate and acknowledge the positive aspects of Cheyenne Country and the Cheyenne People. Lord knows, when we want to focus on bad things about our Reservation and People we can read other area newspapers which normally focus on the negative and sensational. Dr. Begay, a Native professor at the U of M calls it the “Four D’s” method of covering Native issues: Drugs, Drunk, Dead peppered by an occasional Dancing (pow wow) story. Excuse me, but there is much more to write about in Indian Country.

There are seven Reservations in Montana, the Landless Little Shell and several major urban communities. Five of the seven Federal recognized Tribes financially support tribal newspapers, pretty fancy at that. In Montana there are only two independent newspapers owned by tribal members: A Cheyenne Voice and the Fort Peck Journal, operated by a tougher than nails lady, Bonnie Red Elk who over the years has been tortured by her Tribe. Because of their tribal constitution she regularly reports on Tribal Council and staff travel, including the amount of money they get to the penny. Of course they don’t like that and much of the other information she prints. Don’t stop her though. Us old “Indun” gals can be that way.

So far, A Cheyenne Voice hasn’t been able to get ahold of that kind of information, which I suspect our readers would gobble up. But, we keep plugging along, trying to share goings on of Tribal government. We are now under the third Tribal administration and President. President Leroy Spang, whom I worked for before resigning to start the paper, was extremely supportive. He started the fine tradition of the Tribal President’s Voice, a regular column reporting to the Tribal members although President Eugene Little Coyote, a “Young Wolf” President first started that in his tribally subsidized newspaper.

A Cheyenne Voice then outlasted short-lived Tribal President John Robinson who started up an equally short-lived newspaper, almost doing in A Cheyenne Voice in the process. Finally, our current Tribal President Llevando “Cowboy” Fisher has been a great supporter, resurrecting the Tribal President’s Voice, including Council resolutions, job and bid opportunities in the paper. He is a strong supporter of small tribal member owned business.

Our 4th birthday is possible because of broad-based support including advertisers, sponsors, subscribers and many fine folk, Indian and non-Indian alike (too many to list) who have stepped up with a gift just when things looked darkest. I’m tempted to name them, but won’t for fear of forgetting someone. However, if you are one of these folks who support independent journalism and the right of free speech on Indian Reservations, specifically Northern Cheyenne, know that you are deeply appreciated and needed. Some people advise going “non-profit”. “Heck we already are” I respond. “Jest not on purpose.”

We, the large family of contributors and myself, look forward to the next year. Can’t predict how long A Cheyenne Voice might last. After all, I, the publisher just celebrated my 61st birthday, a time when most reasonable folks are retiring or getting close to it. Yet, I am encouraged by the example of Tim Giago, Native Sun News founder and editor still going strong at the age of 80.

Thank you Tim for providing an opportunity to share news from Cheyenne country with a wider audience in the Native Sun News, much broader reach than my little Rez rag, including Indianz.com. Still, it continues to be a financial struggle. Sometimes, I consider quitting for a job cooking, wrangling dudes, throwing a leg over some colts again, and once more writing proposals (yuck!) etc. Then, I could make more money and do less work. As one journalist quipped “We don’t have newspapers to make money, we make money to have newspapers.”

But, then some regular Joe will encourage me, likely sent by Maheo’o the Creator. Consider the following note from tribal member Brandon Spotted Wolf, one of too many young Indian men currently incarcerated: “I was wondering if you could send me The Cheyenne Voice paper. We have some Cheyenne brothers up here that would like to know the happenings down on the Rez. Right now, I don’t have any money. I would greatly appreciate it if you could send me one. Some of us can’t even contact anyone back home to even know what’s going on. Thank you. God Bless and keep up the good work.”

When all is said and done, I guess that is why A Cheyenne Voice will be around for a while. Yes, Brandon, we’ll send you a free subscription. Tell the “brothers’ hello and to stay strong hearted. We will do the same.

(Clara Caufield can be reached at acheyennevoice@gmailcom)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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